Monday, February 27, 2017

The Artist's Way In a Changing Landscape

My son told me about his recent trip to Barnes and Noble. He wanted to support a local bookseller, he said, get one of the Vampire Lestat books by Anne Rice and Faust by Goethe. The vampire book was there, but not Faust, so he shopped online and found it―and the vampire novel cheaper than Barnes and Noble.

Later that day, I drove past empty storefronts in my neighborhood. We’re transitioning from malls and shopping centers to an isolating e-retail world. The death of the brick and mortar retail store seems a foregone conclusion.

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I wandered through the small town of Mt. Airy in Philadelphia in 75-degree weather this past Friday. I passed books displayed on a makeshift stand along the side of a store. They were marked $1 ... no one around; there for the taking. One caught my eye, a novel by Margaret Atwood. (I own it.)

I began writing when I was six or seven. Little entries in a pink plastic diary with a girl in saddle shoes and poodle skirt on the front and a tiny gold lock and key to keep my innermost longings secret from the world. By the time I was thirteen or fourteen, I filled numerous spiral-bound notebooks with poems and short stories. As I wrote, I started to trust in my own voice, my own intuition, my own take on the world.

It was the changing publishing landscape that spurred me on to independently publish after I left journalism. Now, in some ways, the lack of gatekeepers―ironically―contributes to my lassitude.

Did you know most Americans don’t read even one book a year?
I'm lucky. My parents exposed me to books at an early age. As for bookstores, the one I visited in Mt. Airy was empty except for three women upstairs sitting around a battered coffee table talking about running for local office.

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I hear aficionados of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (I bought the 25th anniversary edition this week), groaning. You’re blocking your creativity with negative thinking! Everyone is an artist! As a writer, I always took long walks, those little side trips Cameron recommends; like Mt. Airy―to spur my creativity. It came naturally, instinctively knowing that if I didn't recharge, renew, I opened myself to trouble ... not taking the time to consider what I wanted from life. That day in Mt. Airy, I saw a decorative half moon hanging from a tree branch. I've always been a romantic. What writer isn't?
An author came to a writers’ group meeting I attended last week. She spent over a decade researching and writing her novel, landed an important publisher. After asking us how she could get the word out about her novel, she feverishly scribbled in a little notebook, jotted down suggestions, ideas to get out there and do the selling herself.

Each year it gets harder and harder―marketing a book, social media, another talk. Finding the vanishing bookstore.

I have this blog. Almost 7,000 views a month. Who knows how many are scammers, trolls, 'false' stats? Not many―if any―book sales result from writing these posts. That said, a writer never retires.

She can’t. I can't.

Your thoughts and comments are welcomed.
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