Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Well It Draineth Every Day

by Giselle Renarde

When I was in my final year of high school, one of my assignments for English class was to read a novel from the Canadian literary canon and give a one-on-one oral report about it.  I'm not sure why, but instead of presenting that report to my teacher, we students presented to the school librarian. I'd never met the woman before. To say we had little rapport would be a drastic understatement.

I was an overachiever and I got excellent grades. Most teachers liked me.  This woman clearly did not.  That, or she just wore that sour expression constantly and treated everyone like dirt. I don't know.  I don't know her life.

The book I read was The Diviners by Margaret Laurence. Do I remember anything about it? Nope! Not a thing. But I do remember my oral report.  I talked about drawing from the well of creativity. What do Diviners seek but water? They figure out where exactly to tap the earth so we'll hit pay dirt rather than come up dry.

Speaking of dry, that was the look the librarian gave me throughout my entire report. Her face basically said: "You have GOT to be kidding me with this New Age crap!" And the grade she gave me certainly reflected her lack of enthusiasm for my thoughts on Margaret Laurence's novel.

And, hey, maybe I did get it completely wrong. Hard to say. I tend to believe that most opinions about literary fiction are valid, and that our interpretations of literature actually say far more about us as readers than about the book itself.

I've been thinking about the artistic well a lot lately.  I've always believed that, if you're doing creative work, if you're constantly drawing from The Well, you've got to keep filling it non-stop.  That's why I start every morning by reading.

But books aren't the only way to fill The Well. They shouldn't be, if you ask me.  The Well can be filled with personal experiences, TV shows, music, movies, conversations with Grandma, Netflix, eavesdropping on people while riding the subway... the list goes on. I don't place literature in an elite category.  It's in there with all the other stuff.

These days... I'll be honest with you... there isn't enough media on the planet (or even on the internet) to fill that well.  I'm running on empty. All the time.  I haven't written a book since July.  And I'm a full-time author! That's BAD. That's really bad.  I'm only happy when I'm filling my face with media.  Washing dishes and listening to podcasts is pretty much my idea of heaven.

I've been feeling really isolated lately. Depression stuff.  You know how it is. But podcasts have helped me so much.  Having other people's voices in my ears is so intimate, and I feel like I have friends, but they're friends who put no pressure on me.  I don't have to do anything.  I can listen at my leisure.

If I feel this way, other people must as well.  I really wanted to reach out to all the isolated people like me, but in a way where I'm not intruding too much.  That's a big part of the reason I decided to launch my Audio Erotica Patreon.  I've written hundreds of stories over the past 10+ years, and I really love narration. I'm a trained actor and a bit of a ham, plus narration lets me get out of my own head and inhabit my character's skin for a while.

One of the big reasons I held off launching my Patreon for so long (nearly a year) was that I figured nobody would want to be my patron and then I'd just feel MORE depressed and rejected. But then I thought, "Hey, you! Stop all that negative self-talk! You're offering a quality product. There's no reason to believe your supporters won't jump at the chance to be your patron!"

Well, Depression was right. I launched my Patreon on October 1st and I still don't have a single patron. At launch, I even made my weekly audio erotica broadcasts available for only $1/month.  When nobody supported me I thought, "Hey, maybe I'm undervaluing my work" (my girlfriend always tells me that's one of my bad habits--undervaluing my work and myself), so I cranked it up to $1/week.

The reason I became less keen on writing new fiction was that, honestly, my books are not selling well enough to make it feel worthwhile. The last ebook I put out... I don't think it's sold a single copy.  I was really excited about creating audio erotica. I still want to be excited about recording it. But I really need for there to be someone on the other end.

Want to know something funny? My girlfriend is always really supportive and encouraging of my ideas, but when I told her about my Patreon plan she said, "Sure, test it out. And then if it doesn't work you'll know the demand isn't there, but it's always better to try."  She knew I was going to fall flat. I guess I did too.

But I also chastise other authors for giving up too easily, so maybe I should practice what I preach and be more patient.

As for The Well... will it ever be filled? I consume media for days on end and I never feel inspired to create. Is there a dowsing rod for creativity?  Is it money?  I've heard studies concluding that earning money from your art stifles creativity rather than encouraging it.  I don't know.  I think a little money could sure light a fire under my creative ass.


  1. For what it's worth, I sort of have the impression that, generally speaking, audio-erotica fans are a separate demographic from the people who read erotica. At least that's the way I used to see it marketed: "Wouldn't you like someone to read you a sexy story at bedtime?" as opposed to "Wouldn't you like to hear your favorite erotic literature read aloud?" When the Sexy Librarian included an excerpt of mine in one of her free podcasts, it got a gazillion listens, but those people didn't buy my book. I gathered that those people were fans of her podcasts (this was before she was a book editor), not a readership for the actual books.

    Do you know anyone (not counting very famous people) who has made Patreon actually work for them?

    [P.S. This has been my most dismal attempt to post a comment without errors ever. Fourth time lucky?]

  2. It's hard to keep up interest in something that we think should be appreciated by others but get no response. Discouraging, I know.

  3. Giselle, for what it's worth, I don't think the well can ever run dry. It's just that sometimes there are obstacles blocking the flow. That's normal--happens to all authors. I went through similar feelings a few years ago, when I figured it just wasn't worth it to write, given how little my work sells. Then I don't know what happened, but the urge to write came back. Not that my books are selling any better, but I have tons of ideas and feel as though I can make them into stories if I can just find the time.

    Of course, the fact that you're trying to succeed at supporting yourself by writing is a serious complication. That adds tenfold (or maybe a hundredfold) to the stress that comes from having writer's block. And the stress just exacerbates the constipation of the imagination.

    I don't know about audio erotica. I don't listen to books myself--wearing earplugs makes me feel too cut off from the world. However, I recently read that audio books were booming.

    So if I were you, I wouldn't give up yet. You just need to find a better way to get the word find the people who enjoy listening to their stories. Have you contacted Rose to ask if she could help you with marketing ideas? Another person whose brain you might pick is Nobilis, who has been doing a scifi erotica podcast for years.

    The market is out there. But you can't expect to tap into it immediately. Do some research. And give it some time.

    As for the Well--it's part of who you are.


  4. Giselle, I so admire writers who can read their own writing well! I don't like the sound of my own recorded voice, so I have resisted the advice I've been given to do my own audio versions. $1 is nothing! (Canadian currency?) I'll sign up.

  5. I relate way too much to this post, Giselle. I've wanted to launch a Patreon, too, but have feared that a) no one would sign up, and b) depression would keep me from being able to keep up with it and I'd let people down.

    Anyway, I think you should be patient. You launched Oct 1--so it's only been up 14 days. I've used Patreon a lot as a user, and I see a lot of people building up really, really slowly. I think one of the keys is that you have to feel like you can keep up whatever you've promised with little/no support. It's hugely defeating to take on a bunch of extra things and then get nothing for it.

    I advise maybe adjusting your rewards so you don't have to do as much to fulfill them (what about a new story once a month while you're building up?). Also, maybe you can hook up with other audio erotica purveyors on Patreon, such as Nobilis Reed. He might be able to give you advice about what to expect and how Patreon works for him. And maybe there can be some cross promotion!

    Good luck! Stick with it! I think, especially when depressed, that one has to do things one is passionate about. Joy has to come from somewhere. But it can also be really hard...

    Also, I signed up, too! <3

  6. I signed up, too, and might even overcome my irrational aversion to turning on the sound on my computer to listen to to your podcasts. I already know that you offer a quality product.

    I also have a not-so-irrational aversion to trying something like Kickstarter or a Patreon account. A friend who has just set up her own publishing company wants me to edit an anthology for her financed by something like that, but I have zero confidence that anyone would pay any attention, with the possible exception of a few writers who might hope to be included.


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