How Do You Like THEM Apples?!
Oops . . . did I accidentally forget to write, again???
(Don't worry. Parts 3 through 5 of "5 Ways To Support The Artist In Your Life" will return after this brief blog interlude!)
I love apples.
Seriously. My kids call me boring because the mere common fruit is my very favorite. I did do mission work in Ecuador once and they had the sweetest, most refreshing and delicious fruit I’d ever had in my entire life. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. I tried to get it when I returned to the States, though, even picking it up at specialized international markets and organic greenhouses; but I live in Wisconsin, not the tropics – and it just was not the same. (Don’t you diss my state, though – in my opinion, I live in fucking paradise and no; I’m not being sarcastic.)
So, my favorite fruit remains apples.
I like the sweet ones: golden delicious, red delicious, honeycrisp, occasionally a gala, and others that I always forget the names of, even after my family goes picking them every year at Elegant Farmer, the local orchard. Sometimes I pick up a single apple at the grocery store or a farmer’s market, one that makes me turn into a child just by looking at it, and I eat it the second it’s paid for, like a kid bringing home a piece of candy from the convenience mart.
The thing about apples is that every single time I choose to throw one into my work bag or lunch sack to eat later in the day, always an intentional and health-conscious choice, I’m happy with it. I enjoy it and think, ‘That is just so damned good!’ But, just as often, when sitting around boredom-eating or grabbing a snack, I SO want to go to the grainy bar, the sweet cookie, the salty cracker, the fatty cheese, and so on. And, my hand to God, I just don’t enjoy those things nearly as much as I enjoy the apple!
And so is the story of my life – picking the bland, refined, processed, packaged, preservative-packed snack in place of the thing I desire, I indulge in, I hunger for, and I know I will finish with full satisfaction.
And it happened again with my writing!
I’ve had a successful career as a writer, and I don’t take that for granted. Many people dream to have been paid a living a wage for creating words, for being traditionally published, for having bestsellers. But, when you build a career with what was your art, you have to make the decision over and over again for it to be used as, not a creative expression, but a professional skill set for a salary. And when your art becomes your livelihood, its value changes. The tangible paycheck replaces the intangible purpose and drive. You get exhausted by your art just as any job can exhaust and burn you out. And it’s a double hit because you also lose the rejuvenation of spirit that your art used to provide.
My daughter shocked me recently when finishing a sentence of mine without invitation. She’s a beautiful singer. I was telling a shared friend that, “She watched me make a career in my art and she got to see….” I began, before my daughter completed the statement with, “….you learn to hate what you once loved.”
But she wasn’t entirely wrong. I was proud of most of what I created, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were times I felt like a prostitute, used up for a skill that my heart was no longer in.
Over the pandemic when everybody and their grandmother was finally writing that novel that had been on their bucket lists, I put my pen down. And I picked up books again. . . for nothing but joy. You see, throughout my career, I had to read hundreds and hundreds of books and articles as I created the work that would become each individual novel, biography, or project I developed as a co-writer . . . the writing that paid the bills. After a while, much of it began to be the written equivalent of white noise.
So, the books I chose to pick back up during the pandemic were chosen for entertainment, strong human characters, imaginative scenarios, and thought provocation – I’m talking about Science Fiction. And, when I was newly inspired by words, I chose to make the transition to fiction again, the thing that initially began my endeavors into words long before the dream came true in having them as a career.
I discovered quite early in my fiction-writing process this year that I would not have been able to create much of the work that I’m currently developing without the many years of using my art as a profession. In that—in addition to many other things such as watching other writers or publishers I helped to build flourish, first-time authors develop entire dream careers, former clients grow as storytellers, and valued organizations profit from books—I see great purpose in the career I had. It makes me feel at least a little less like a literary hooker. I am finally, in this new chapter, marrying skill to art in order to create a passion project. These are the apples! My lips drip with the nectar of creativity and I yearn for more nibbles, more bites! Every single time I work to create At Fault and The Fault Lines Series, I am satiated. It’s the feeling I hope my readers will get when the first book comes out next March.
The paycheck called . . . the bland, crumbly bar perceived as satisfying only through its immediacy. While tending to Jeri Shepherd Books, my orchard—a slower process than I’m used to working in—I began not one, not two, but THREE jobs in the same month. A little extra money to help fund the ultimate work of Jeri Shepherd Books – the marketing and travel to help my publisher ensure success. Each was “just a little thing,” or “just a one-off project,” or “just temporary.” But each JUST thing I did was JUSTification for, once again, back-burnering the work to which I had finally returned. And now? I JUST want another bite of a golden delicious, sweet, crispy, mouthwatering apple. I want to get back to At Fault (and I need to, quite frankly, because it comes out in less than ten months)!
I need your help with this! The one-off projects will actually be off again in about a week and a half and I need to stay strong with my “NOs” for the other projects that have been offered. May was going to be my launch into so many great Jeri Shepherd Books offerings while I stayed passionate (and routine) in creating the At Fault book which I am honored will be brought to you by the new Genre Fiction Publishing Imprint FlipFic (more to come on them, soon). Now, it will be June for these endeavors to be regular, but I want you to hold me accountable! Tell me when you want those podcasts, those conversations we get to have to grow together as a community of writers, those shares and connections that we can have together. Remind me that the paycheck is a cracker, not an apple. And I also need to remember that the paycheck will come again when The Fault Line Series comes out and that? Shit. That is like the caramel apple of artistic achievement—when one’s art and paycheck truly align—and I don’t want to miss that treat.
What serves as convenient consumption in your life? What satisfies? And how can you move your art to be the thing that you always choose? I’m back. I may have forgotten to write for a month in there, but my stomach is grumbling and I know how to fill it.
How do you like them apples?