How to Be an Artist for Money

The other day I took my kids to a trendy toy store. While browsing the girly section, I came across a pack of four tiny journals, all in complementary oriental floral schemes.

Big deal. I have tons of pretty journals at home already, stacked in drawers in date order. I use them to record the more depressing moments of my life — the stuff that’s too grind-down-y to report here in cyberville.

But these were pretty, so I picked them up, and saw that, lo and behold, they were not journals at all. They were… [drumroll] make-your-own books! For only $6! “These little books of blank pages,” they said, “are all ready for you to write whatever stories you like.” On the back of each one, it said “This Book Belongs to ________.

I got so excited, at that point. A myriad of thoughts ran through my head. These thoughts, in rapid order:

  1. OMG, I can make my own books!!
  2. They can be about whatever I want!
  3. I don’t have to show them to my agent or any editors!
  4. I don’t even have to show them to anybody!!!
  5. They’re already bound and stuff! All I have to do is write them! Oh my god, I have so many ideas! I’m going to buy these right now! This is going to be so effing awesome! I’m so happy! Yay!!!!

I bought them, along with all the stuff my kids put up on the counter for me to buy. (Gyroscope, hackey sack, primordial ooze. They know that anything over $6.99 is pushing it.)

In the mini van, as my boyfriend chauffered us around, I told him about my little books and all the plans I’d made for them. “That’s great, baby,” he said, in the same way you say it when your child brings home a Mothers’ Day card made of finger-painted coffee filters.

But, already, more thoughts about these little books were flooding my head. Different thoughts than before. See:

  1. When am I going to have time to write these little books?
  2. Maybe, instead of writing little books, I should be writing big books that I can actually sell. Or, at the very least, looking into applying for a second job, so my kids can eventually go to college.
  3. What if… what if I write the little books — still about whatever I want — and then, if they’re good, I rewrite them on a Word manuscript and submit them to my agent?
  4. What if I do that and my agent hates them?
  5. Maybe I should just quit trying to write. Really, what could I possibly write that would be more marketable than all the books already at Barnes & Noble? Plus, it’s not like print publishing is even that profitable anymore. I already know this. What am I doing? Why am I wasting my time? I should go back to school and get a Masters in something that’ll pay more. How am I going to pay for college for three kids? How am I going to retire with anything to eat more than cat food? I need to quit wasting time. I need to make some money. Or, at least, buy some lottery tickets…

Late that night, I told my boyfriend, with a tremulous chuckle, that the purchase of the little books had somehow turned into an existential drama, in my mind.

He said, “Baby, you have to express yourself creatively in order to be happy. You know that. Just write in your little books. Try to relax and be happy for a couple of hours.”

While he snored, I thought more thoughts:

  1. He’s right. Screw it — screw the whole effing world. I’m gonna do it. This week, I’m gonna write a little book. If people call while I’m working on it, I just won’t answer my phone. I’ll turn off my phone! I’ll… I’ll call in sick to work!
  2. Then, I’ll proudly put my books up on my bookshelf. “These are the latest books I’ve written!” I’ll tell people when they visit. “I published them myself!”
  3. No. No. No. I have to hide them under my bed. I don’t want my kids to look back, years from now, and know that I was goofing off, making little books for no reason, instead of working a second job to buy them Nintendo Wii.
  4. I think I might be going crazy, because that was, like, a record-time swing from manic to depressive. Maybe I should see a therapist.
  5. No. Remember last time, how that therapist hated your guts? And she said, “You might want to be careful with all that sex you’re having. You could get a yeast infection”?
  6. Remember the one before that… how you liked her so much, and then she liked you, and then y’all spent every session talking shit about her other patients? That was wrong. That was not productive.
  7. Okay, so this time I will look harder for a better therapist. What time is it? Does this hotel room have a phone book? I wonder how much you can glean about a therapist from their yellow page listing.
  8. I knew I shouldn’t have bought those little books. I knew they were too good to be true — just a siren call for failed writers and bad mothers. Nice waste of $6, Gwen. That could have bought Josh half a used textbook.
  9. Ooh… I know. My first little book can be about used textbooks, and how it makes them sad when college kids write uninspired notes in them.
  10. Hey. What if the little books come out good, and my agent wants to sell them?

What is the point, then?

The point is: Do not date a not-bestselling author, and do not have a not-bestselling author for a parent. And don’t have kids until you have college funds already matured for each of them. And don’t get married, either, unless he’s rich and about to die. And get a better career path, now, before you have to wonder if you need one. And you can’t win the lottery if you never, ever play.

No. The point is, actually: Sometimes you think you need fancy little journals, when, really, all you need is anti-anxiety medication.

No, just kidding. Seriously, seriously, just kidding.

This is not a cry for help. This is just a note to self.
Self: Take some time to relax. Please.

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Posted in parenting, venting, writing on 08/01/2007 11:33 pm

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