The Commercial vs Creative Conundrum

“Look, no one’s gonna buy it — no one.”

“No one in Middle America, anyway. That’s for sure.”

Sweetheart, it’s just not commercial!”

These are some of my favorite lines from the song “Putting it Together” on Barbara Streisand’s Broadway Album. I played the song yesterday while I was driving and sang along as loudly as I could. I felt that song and needed to belt it out because right now I’m caught in the same conundrum as the painter George Seurat that it was written about and Barbara Streisand–balancing being creative with being commercial. It seems the state of art has changed little since Seurat was around.

One of my goals in becoming an author was to push some boundaries and expand the scope of the romance genre. I had reached my limit of bad boys and good girls, slut shaming, and billionaires desperately looking for poor, clumsy dates. I wanted to read about smart, funny, edgy females and intelligent, kind, multi-dimensional men, so that’s what I wrote. That part was actually easy, it was once I published it that things got complicated.

Genres, tropes and archetypes exist for a reason. They give everyone involved in fiction shorthand to help authors find readers and readers find authors. It’s easy to find a new vampire, BDSM novel to read when you and the author use the same language (keywords) to define the story. But what happens when a writer goes against the grain, on purpose? There isn’t a category for good guys and the smart, sexual girls who love them. I truly believe that I’m not the only one who wants to read a story about them but finding the others has been…well…daunting.

It’s part of being indie. Whether you are a painter, writer, musician, screenwriter or designer–indie is supposed to be independent of commercial influence. Indie is innovative but indie can also be broke. So I’m now pushing my indie boundaries by trying to find my more commercial side.

This past week I started to work with a designer on the covers for my Vivienne Series. I had pictures in my mind that looked like cutting-edge advertising, very arty. I showed a creative friend who also happens to work as a web designer (commercial). Through her eyes I was able to see where my “cool” image could easily been read the wrong way. We discussed the plot of each book and she fed me ideas for much more literal images. Part of me mourned the death of edgy but I could see how her ideas clearly let readers know what kind of book each is and a little of what to expect. They will still be cool, but not at the expense of being clear. I love my books and I want to give them a fighting chance to find their audience.

In the next couple weeks I will be rolling out new, more commercial covers for my first two books then the first book in the Vivienne series. I can’t wait to share all of it and my journey to get there. If you’d like to join me behind the scenes and get a FREE copy of Fearless Flying – The Vivienne Series book 1, click here.

And let’s talk. Are you ready for good guys and smart, sexy women? What new story lines are you looking for? Comment below.

 

Advertisements

Make Yourself The CiC (Chick in Charge) of Your Life–Part 1

When I worked in an office I always thought job titles were kind of a joke. I can’t say I stressed out too much over what mine was as long as I was doing work I liked and it came with a paycheck, you could call me whatever you wanted. When I became a stay-at-home mom I decided to give myself the title Chick in Charge. I wanted to have business cards made so I could put them in the fish bowls on deli counters and win a free sandwich.  It started as a joke, but the more I thought about it the less silly it became. If I wanted to be taken seriously in all the work I do I needed to take myself seriously.

This past week two writers had me thinking again about the work I do, all my jobs, and how I see myself in those roles. First the wonderful and wise Kristen Lamb posted an article “Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers—Channeling Your Inner “Bad Girl” to Reach Your Dreams.” In it she encouraged female writers to take on some male traits and take their writing careers more seriously. She made some fantastic points and reminded me that this is a process I am working through right now. I’m proud to say I’ve definitely made some of the moves she suggests in the post. The second post was by the writer February Grace. Her post “The Worth In All Our Words” addresses the question of when we should call ourselves writers and how this can be debated even within the writing community. Both posts brought up my own ideas about what constitutes “work” and how that work is valued by myself and others. This is such a huge and important topic that I want to address it over two weeks (possibly more).

This week I’ll look at ways we diminish our work as women and how we can give it more power in our lives and in the world. Next week I’ll talk about specific ways you can be more in charge of all areas of work in your life.

So, let’s start with my jobs. I’m a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), a writer and an adjunct instructor for a university. All are equally important jobs even though only one has a paycheck. There have been times in the past sixteen years when mom was my only job. Those were important times for me because I felt like I was making a huge contribution to our family and society but that wasn’t the message I was getting. Unpaid hours spent doing repetitious work can feel as if it has no value and mothering is a job that only becomes obvious if it isn’t done. To make matters worse, it is definitely diminished and written off as women’s work, something uninteresting to the menfolk and not worth discussing in mixed company. This is when my idea for my title Chick in Charge was born. Sure I wanted free food but I also wanted the acknowledgement that I worked. It helped, having a title, but I still wanted the world to give me something that I wasn’t giving myself–credit, worth, value.

Skip forward to today. I truly do have three jobs and I know I am not unique among women. Millions of us take on jobs to add to our family income. I write but I have friends who sell different product lines or make items that they sell online through Etsy or Ebay. Most of us are not making huge sums of money but that’s just one of the reasons we don’t take our work seriously enough. Just like mothering our work is often written off as trivial or unimportant by both ourselves and others. We buy into the erroneous idea that you have to be on the level of Beyonce or Oprah before your work can take priority and be valued. But here’s the catch, Beyonce and Oprah started out like everyone else. They were very small potatoes at one point in time but what they didn’t do was believe that what they had to offer the world was of little value. They believed in the value of their work.

It’s taken me a long time, but that’s where I am (or at least that’s the direction I am heading) and the first thing that had to happen is I had to decide I truly was the Chick in Charge of my life. I needed to run my life with all the seriousness and intention and passion of any CEO. I needed to set some goals and then put things in place to reach for those goals. I also needed to create my own employee rewards program where I celebrated each milestone and goal reached in a way that was meaningful to me.

Key to this whole process was to trust myself, my instincts, when it came to what I wanted to achieve. The world wants to tell you what goals you should set–junior should be reading by age X, your first book should sell X number of copies in the first month, you’re only a successful writer when the NY Times or USA Today says you are. The problem is these goals are set by people who do not know your kid or your business. Maybe your kid is a wiz at music but reading just isn’t coming as quickly. If you follow your knowledge as CiC you will know when he or she is ready to read or potty train or whatever. You will also know when you have succeeded in your business because you sold X number more than last month or you finished writing a particularly hard piece.

The other thing you have to have is a view of the big picture. You need to know where you are heading (in general) so you, and sometimes only you, will know that you are making progress. I guarantee that Beyonce and Oprah and all super successful women saw themselves in a big picture long before they were actually there. I have my big picture. I know my kids will survive high school (and I will too) and go on to live happy lives doing things they love. I know I will write more books and continue to gain more readers who tell me how much they enjoy reading my work. I also know I will be taking some fantastic vacations and doing things that recharge my batteries and keep me excited about my goals. Self-care is definitely part of being a CiC.

Which is what I will address next week. I’ve put some systems in place and changed a few things in my world. None of it was earth-shattering or huge to others, but it was all important to me. It was all to acknowledge my worth and value as the chick in charge of my own life.

Are you a CiC? When and how did you take charge of valuing all your work? Share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.