The New York Times had an interesting article yesterday--the writer talked about what it takes to make it as a creative person in New York City vs. what it takes to make a creative career on the Internet.
I don't know how much of it applies to poetry, or even to blogging, my latest creative love. Those kind of stories still appeal to me for a variety of reasons, however. When I was young, I had visions of moving to New York and trying to become a Broadway actress. Even at the time when I was consumed by daydreams of acting success and a Tony award, my practical self could see that moving to one of the most expensive cities in the world to pursue a career that likely wouldn't pay much for years wasn't the wisest idea.
At least carving out a presence on the Internet doesn't require gobs and gobs of money, like moving to New York would do.
Yesterday, I was thinking about the time after my chapbook was published. I remember wishing that I had done more to prepare. In particular, I wished that I had a website set up. I was lucky because I had been collecting addresses of people who had might be interested in my poems, and I did a mass mailing, which resulted in sales, thanks in large part to my mom's Christmas card list. I knew a bit about literary festivals, and I pursued some opportunities in that area, with some success.
At the time, I remember being grateful for the chapbook experience as a dry run, an experience that showed where I was unprepared for the publicity and self-promotion that needs to come with publication. I discovered that I'm deeply uncomfortable with self-promotion, which surprised me. I'm not sure I'd make a good entrepreneur. I continually fight the urge to just give my chapbooks away, even though my intellectual side knows that people value more what they pay for.
Now, five years later, I have a website and a blogsite. I'm on Facebook. Should I Twitter and Tweet? I'm still unresolved on that. I've made more connections in the poetry world, thanks to blogging; I feel more plugged in than I used to feel. I used to think I might enroll in an MFA program, simply because I wanted a poetry community, and I wasn't sure how to make that happen.
And here's the most important thing: I continue to write. Years ago, I asked myself an essential question: would I still write, even if I knew I would never be published (at the time, I didn't have much in the way of publication)? I decided that yes, I would. Writing is its own reward, and a far richer reward than publication and acclaim.
What I like about being a poet is that I suffer no illusions that I'll ever make a living solely on my poetry (unlike when I attempted to write novels and daydreamed about a blockbuster novel that was made into a movie that would mean I could quit teaching). I don't have to worry about the market; I can write what intrigues me. I can follow my fascinations. And if I'm really lucky, my fascinations might also capture the attention of some kindred souls.
Most of us are more likely to find those kindred souls online than we are by going to a strange city. It's a wondrous place, this Internet world, never sleeping, always offering stimulation, a whiff of danger, the possibility of successes we couldn't have even imagined in our previous small-town lives.
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