I’ve been writing professionally for almost a decade now. I don’t have much to show for it, aside from clips and credits. To date, I haven’t earned a penny for my work. I’ve written nonfiction articles and poetry for free not because I don’t feel my work garners payment, but rather because I’m never too good for a published credit. I want to build a writing resumé and earn more than a simple byline by putting in the work.
My debut novel—my first published work of fiction to boot—will drop in May of this year, and I’m not disillusioned. I know it may not fare well, especially with a plethora of literature (good and bad) accessible to the general public these days. It’s also a book featuring vampires, which have become a laughingstock in the horror genre due to paranormal romance over-saturation (see previous blog post, Reviving the Undead).
Point-blank: This could get lost in the crowd, but I’m willing to test that water.
Please don’t mistake this realistic take on things-to-come as a lack of confidence or pessimism.
It’s just that I prefer to be humble.
With that being said, I’ve met many authors and editors throughout the years, mostly via the Internet. Of those, many exuded confidence without crossing into the realm of egotism.
However, those individuals are rarely the center of attention.
The ones who stand out are the pompous ones, the ones who leave a bitter taste in the mouth; the ones who brag and ask rhetorical questions about how they’ve become so successful just to stroke their own egos; those who rarely thank the fans and others who’ve helped get them to the pinnacle of their career; the ones who cry out for boycotts against certain publishers without caring about how that’ll impact their fellow authors; the ones who think they’re God’s gift to the world, lyrical geniuses who’ll degrade those around them because they feel entitled to do so.
Arrogant pricks shouldn’t stand out more than the down-to-Earth Anne Rice’s of the world.
So whatever happened to being humble?
Money, Fame, Misfortune
Unfortunately, the days of languishing over any form of art simply to enlighten or comment on society are gone. Commercialism chewed art up and spit it out long ago. No branch of the arts is immune, either. Music, illustration, movies—All art forms are susceptible to this disease.
The publishing industry, for example, is a business first and foremost. Aggressive marketing and competition are part of the package. Authors are expected to promote their own work, create social media presences on umpteen-hundred fucking sites, maintain a blog, make appearances at conventions, contribute guest blog posts—The list goes on and on.
Thus, artists have been corrupted by the corporate-mindedness of our business-oriented society.
There’s nothing wrong with making money from your art. We all have mouths to feed and bills to pay. However, a multitude of artists taste that fame and fortune and self-absorbed lifestyle, and soon become victims of their own egos.
Even literary works and poetry are inundated with ego-driven bullshit these days.
This egotism spreads into forums and groups quicker than chlamydia. Humble folk ask serious questions and get denigrated in public. Forums meant to help struggling artists are inundated with spammers bragging about their own work. A sense of community is diminished, and the egomaniacs steal the spotlight.
That shit needs to stop.
Where Did You Come From?
I grew up on a farm. Most of my clothes were hand-me-downs, Goodwill rejects, or Dollar Store exclusives. I tasted cow pies, swam in pig shit, and mutilated munching maggots with household chemicals for fun.
I often reeked of pig shit, and my glasses weren’t blemish-free. My clothes and shoes weren’t ‘hip.’ I was verbally bullied by strangers and friends alike. I was a studious nerd who maintained more than a 4.0 GPA in high school. I worked in fast food for many years afterward. I’ve had to move back into my mother’s house a handful of times since graduating high school due to financial troubles and relationship woes.
Thankfully, I’m much better off these days. I have a beautiful, supportive wife, an awesome son, a 40-hour-per-week job, a gorgeous home, great longtime friends, a trilogy on contract, a car that just keeps going (though I’ve been trying to run it into the ground for several years now).
Though I could swing it if I wanted to, I still take a cheap lunch to work every day rather than eating out. I’ll even consume that lunch with dirt all over my hands if necessary. I still reuse water bottles rather than buying a new one each time I empty it. I might wrinkle my nose when the scent of shit invades my comfort zone, but I don’t degrade people who smell like farms. I’ll sip water from the end of a hose if I’m thirsty enough. I tip delivery drivers and waiters/waitresses well over the acceptable norm. I help edit and polish manuscripts when asked, and without compensation. I don’t care if the interior of your car is laden with empty soda cans and receipts and dust. I couldn’t give a shit less about the state of the exterior of your car, either.
I’ll never forget where I came from.
The Art of Being Humble
Artists—of all people—should always remember where we came from. We are one face in a crowd, a voice for the soft-spoken, an outlet for those who struggle with expressing themselves because the egotistical pricks make them feel worthless and dumb. Artists should be the first to step down off their pedestals and help the underdogs become champions because many of us have been in their shoes before.
We must remain humble or we will alienate our peers and fans, and drive art to an early death.
How can we do that?
- Exude confidence, but don’t let it bleed into egotism.
- Don’t shun people who are in the same situation you were once in.
- Build others up, but don’t let their heads explode.
- Offer constructive criticism so people can learn.
- Share your secrets to success rather than bashing those who struggle to sell one piece of artwork each week.
- Be blunt, honest, and opinionated without letting opposing viewpoints bruise your ego.
And, most importantly, never forget where you came from.
Me, Me, Me!
When it comes to writing, I don’t think I’m the best. I do think I’m good, though, and I truly hope my books are anticipated and adored by a fan-base. I want to sign copies and make people’s hearts twitter whilst in my presence. I want to earn enough from my writing to be able to live comfortably without being a slave to the corporate world.
That doesn’t mean, if I’m successful, I’ll move into a mansion and buy the hottest new $100,000 car and laugh at people who own 30-year-old rust buckets. That doesn’t mean I’ll quit my job immediately and forsake my soiled lunchbox for $20-a-pop meals and sip Courvoisier in the VIP rooms. That doesn’t mean I’ll drag my fellow authors down so I can proclaim a spot at the top of the ladder.
And if there’s no monetary gain from a more traditional route in publishing my work, I’ll keep marching along with everyone else.
The Good News?
I’m anti-social and prefer to lurk in the background, observing others.
Luckily, there are many like-minded artists out there just waiting to stomp the overpowering egotistical mouthpieces into the ground. (A vast majority of the authors in my publisher’s stable, for example, are quite humble folks indeed.)
Thus, I can tell you with certainty: Humble artists do exist.
Sometimes, you just have to wade through the arrogant piles of shit before you find the good ones.
Stay tuned. There’s more randomosity coming soon.