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.