A Lone Artist: Wendy Drolma

Wendy Drolma

I don’t know this woman from Eve. What I do know is that everything about her online presence screams master craftsman and überprofessional.

Got a scene? A masquerade party? A Labyrinth con? A Venetian extravaganza? Mardi Gras? Need some sleep? Want something exquisite to hang on your wall? This is only a sampling. Visit her gallery to get the full effect.

Then buy something from her. This kind of exquisite craftsmanship needs to be rewarded.

(I may make this a regular feature.)

Everything is still biased against the lone artist.

I didn’t say it. Someone who shall remain nameless said that to me, and it started me thinking about The Lone Artist.

I’ve been to New Orleans, Paris, Venice Beach, New York, London, Amsterdam, and other places where The Lone Artist sets about attempting to earn a living or at least approbation from a crowd of strangers walking by.

Paris, France --- A Street artist draws the face of the Mona Lisa on a sidewalk in front of the Louvre to try to earn money. --- Image by © Owen Franken/CORBIS
In Paris, it was the Ecole des Beaux-Arts students drawing Mona Lisa in pastels on the sidewalk, their hats out for coins.


new orleans
In New Orleans, it was a pair of pre-teen boys tap dancing on a street corner, under the watchful eye of their mother, a trumpet player on a corner down the street, and an artist setting up shop in the middle of the St. Louis Cathedral courtyard, right under Jackson’s shadow.


In Amsterdam, it was the scantily-clad prostitutes in the plate-glass windows along the canal. (Okay, as “artist” and “lone,” that one’s questionable, but it’s vivid, ain’t it?)


In London, it was the—what is this guy? Is this classified as pantomime? Definitely performance art. (Shut up. I like mimes.)


In New York, it was the oddball music played by street musicians.


In Venice Beach, it was a dude who charged $5 to create origami magic with one strand from one palm frond. I knew it was a living sculpture that would die in an hour, but I bought it anyway because it was so different and . . . unexpected. I admired that he could do it in seconds right in front of my eyes, I admired the work itself, and I kept it for the hour it lasted, then threw it away. That $5 was very well spent.

In a lot of ways, I like being a lone artist. When I go to authors’ websites and read about the difficulties they have working with a publisher, I’m glad. When I go to readers’ websites and read about how sad they are when a favorite author gets cut off mid-series, I’m glad. When I sit down to write and realize that I can do anything I want without having to account to a sales staff, I’m glad. When I know that the readership I’m gathering one by one, to whom I am ever so grateful, now has enough faith in me to go where I take them, I’m glad.

There is one respect I really don’t like it. I don’t like the near absence of distribution. But . . . that’s about the only way I can think of that I don’t like it.  After all, a street performer can only play to the audience that walks by.

It’s not easy. Some days it’s damned depressing. I count on the readers to talk to me and remind me that there is something of worth in what I do, and believe me, I remember it. I count up those emails and screen shots and snippets of conversation here and there, and I keep them, put them in my hard drive bank like coins in my hat.

So when bedtime comes (if it comes) and I fall in bed exhausted from everything I have to do to be a lone artist, it’s the good kind of exhaustion.

Howard Roark laughed.

It’s work time.

I have nothing to say and too much to do. I meant to get my edits on Stay finished this weekend, but the widespread WordPress attack hit The Proviso‘s site and I spent my weekend, instead, cleaning up after that mess. And I still have a bunch to do before I’m satisfied with my sites.

The blog I just linked made the assertion that we should’ve upgraded. I made a deliberate decision not to because the last time I auto-upgraded, it broke my shopping cart and photo gallery plugins. I had to rebuild Peculiar Page‘s shopping cart twice (which still doesn’t work and redirects to B10 Mediaworx), and B10 Mediaworx’s once, which, thankfully, works. To me, it was a no-win situation and in hindsight, I see that I would’ve had to waste all that time anyway.

There was one thing that kept me from being hit on all my other sites, and that was the fact that I didn’t have “Anyone can register” checked. Only on The Proviso‘s site did I have that, and sure enough, that was the one that went down.

I made a Zazzle store for products with quotable quotes from or inspired by The Proviso and Stay. Culled them from fans, and I’m nowhere close to finished, but I’m trying to be more like the musicians who can merchandise the hell out of their music. Now, if I could figure out a way to go on tour…

In other news, Mrs. Giggles says she’s bored with romance bloggerland. So’m I, for all the reasons she listed. And you know, as much as I hate feeling like every time I post somewhere or tweet, it’s self-promotion (because it is, except most of my Twitterstream is me being completely silly stoopid or whining about something), at least I don’t have 90 days or fewer to make certain my sales numbers are enough to sell another book. That’s not a brag. It’s a statement of gratitude. I’m bored of most of all the rest of my regular blogs, too.

I also won’t be reading much of anything for pleasure.

Anyhoo, I’m making my blog vacation official since, you know, I haven’t actually said anything in a week or so because I tend to not speak when I have nothing new to say. Check my archives. Whatever it is, I’ve said it already. Twice.

I have much to do before Thanksgiving and I intend to get it all done.

Writers: Accept it and keep going. Or not.

Keep your day job.

Accept that you will not be able to quit your day job.

Regardless how much weeping and wailing and gnashing of the teeth goes on around the web about monetizing art, if you’re a writer not already pulling income that allows writing to be your day job, just deal with the fact that you probably aren’t going to.

In my mind, making peace with the fact that you have to keep your day job is a lot easier than spending all your creative energy to resent it. Ask me how I know.

Today, right now, as I look over the fiction writer landscape on the web, I see lots of writers I can slot into roughly five categories:

  1. The unpublished authors seeking publication via the normal route (query/reject/revise/repeat). They’re hustling to get an agent’s attention, and possibly spending money on ink/toner, paper, envelopes, and postage to do so. They aren’t earning any money.
  2. The midlist authors having to prove their numbers in order to get their next book contract, which means they have to hustle and market and fight to make sure people know their books exist (especially if they aren’t in Wal-Mart or Target). They probably aren’t earning enough to write full time.
  3. The self-published authors having to fight just to let people know they and their work exists. They probably aren’t earning enough to pay the cost of producing their book(s), much less earn a living.
  4. The career category authors (Harlequin/Silhouette) and e-published romance authors (Samhain, LooseId, Ellora’s Cave), a good portion of whom can earn a fairly decent living cranking out the books, but there’s a catch: Putting out enough books to make that kind of living has to be grueling. At least, it would be for me. YMMV. The advantage to e-publishing over career category publishing, though, is that your titles never go out of print and you have A) time to build a backlist and B) your backlist is forever available to any late-night shoppers with a credit card.
  5. The A- and B-list authors who have pressures of their own, I’m sure, to which I am not privy. This includes anyone who may (if they choose to) write only one book per year or fewer and earn a comfortable living doing so.

Now, I’m obviously #3, except that I’m doing okay: Not enough to quit doing my day job, but enough to bear out the investment of time and money. (See my Six-Year Plan.) However, my goal is the same as the e-published authors: Build the backlist and invest in the future.

I hate my day job. I really do. Yeah, it’s my own business but I hate the work, mostly because I’ve been doing it or something similar for years. It’s easier now that I have a couple of decent clients, but the work remains. I fight an uphill battle every day to Just Do It, but do it I must. Some days I’m more successful than others.

But the explosion of free versus paid writing that has kind of ballooned lately with Chris Anderson’s book Free, and Malcolm Gladwell’s review of that book in the New Yorker only reinforces the necessity of resigning myself to the fact that I must have a day job.

For now.

The fact of the matter is that I have better odds of doing so than unpublished authors who hold out hope that they’ll hit the lottery.

I also believe that I have better odds than those authors who have to prove every book via sales, even if all the stars are aligned against them (bad cover art, little marketing support, not being in Wal-Mart or Target); perhaps that myopic of me, but I’m hustling for 100% profit, while they’re hustling for 10% royalties and they’re locked into questionable digital contracts (amongst other things).

As for career category writing, I couldn’t do it (as stated above), especially within the restrictions of category. I know, because I tried, and missed the bullseye by half a hair every single time.

I also couldn’t do e-publishing because there isn’t one that would contract what I write, and I know that; I’d rather not waste their time or mine. Also, see above for the grind in order to make money.

Basically, what I have on my side is control and time. I’m going to write no matter what, and I’m going to write what the stories I have to tell. I’d rather put it out there for the opportunity to earn a little money than let it languish in the inboxes of agents who are also feeling the pinch.

Yeah, I think I’m in a really good position. I just can’t quit my day job.


I’m slowly coming to terms with that.