Thursday, November 12, 2015

Intellectual Property Mashup

The internet is a black hole for artists. It's a copyright Bermuda Triangle.

This is such a convoluted topic, I'm almost too wary (and weary) to tackle it. Don't take any of my opinions as legal advice. If you, as a creative person, fear someone "stealing" your work, then take advantage of all your legal avenues to prevent it.

Here's my take: Once I put something out there, it's out there. I hope no one uses my work for profit without my consent, but there's no way in hell I'm gonna know every infraction. I do know some. I have a Google Alert set up for my book title. More times this year than I care to remember (probably six?), an alert has popped into my email box informing me that my book is downloadable for free on a site that doesn't have permission to distribute it for free.

It used to irk me. Now, I figure, maybe a few people will read it and like it enough that they'll actually buy something else I've written (or will write).

My house sits on a large lot. At one corner, three neighbors, whom I've yet to meet, place their trash on the very edge of my property for pickup each week. At first, this irked me, just like the free downloads. Now I see that it doesn't really harm me much. I've even thought about building an aesthetically pleasing trash bin for them to use. It's just a matter of being neighborly, in a way.

Are those free download sites making a killing off my download? Selling ads as an aggregator? I doubt it, but I don't know. Frankly, it doesn't harm me much. Or at least, if it does, I don't feel it directly. I worry sometimes when I find things on the internet that I want to use but can't find a way to properly credit the creator. It's not easy to know who created what online.

But my creative work is my work. I put hours and worry into it. I'm not going to give it away outright. Far from it. I'd like to make more money from it, but doing so isn't easy. My advice: Do what you can and when you can to keep your work protected. Then, let it go. It's going to be out there whether you double-down on surveillance or not.

For an overview of copyright issues for writers, see this post by Writer's Digest.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Guard Your Creativity

The battery on my smartphone is dying. It keeps a charge for about six hours, then zip. Gone. Dead as a brick. At first, this was a major annoyance. The phone needs to be upgraded; its planned obsolescence has arrived. I like upgrading technology about as much as I like cleaning gutters, so we've limped along for months, me, uttering foul insults every time it died.

But something's happened in the last few weeks. I've come to appreciate the dead air. Instead of curse the black screen, I breath a sigh of relief. Ah, finally, a moment's peace. I don't rush to plug it in and recharge. It's gone, and the freedom from the chirping reminders causes me to want more silence. Even when it's on silent mode, it's still a powerful force field. Rather than invigorate my life, the phone and its conveniences have become a drain.

More specifically, it siphons my ability to create. Not always, but more than it should.

This has been a year of creative introspection for me. I started down this path unknowingly. I joined two groups in early 2015. One, started by a life coach transitioning out of being a life coach. Another, a class on living as an artist taught by a poet. These groups brought forth ideas about what it truly means to live an artistic life. Let me tell you, it's not the easiest life you can choose. It requires discipline, determination, a courageous belief in yourself, that ordinary 9-to-5 work doesn't necessarily require. No offense to anyone working a typical job. In many ways, I envy you. The structure, the stability, the camaraderie of working on a shared cause or task. Those are embraceable ideals. Writing for a living, even as a paid freelancer, lacks many traditional warm fuzzies.

So why do it? That's not a question I can answer altogether coherently today. My answer would change tomorrow, and two weeks from now, and in a year. I've chosen to survive by my creative wits because it seems the right thing to do at this moment, and I want to give myself the chance to see where it will take me. I'm not quite there yet. I'm not quite the artistic savant, the accomplished art entrepreneur, the one to take pointers from about success.

But I have learned this year that my creative urges are important to safe keep. Obstacles to creative freedom lurk around every corner. They come in the form of smartphones; of well-meaning people; of negative self-talk. They are real: bills and family obligations. They are made-up: no one liked my post/tweet/comment. I recognize them now, after a year of understanding how artists build resilience. You must have deep personal resilience to make it as an artist. You must positively believe in yourself, Pollyanna style, illogically optimistic, so sickeningly sure of yourself that very little strikes you down.

Because the world will. It's just gonna happen.

I wish it weren't so. Follow your dreams and your dreams will reward you? No guarantee. Your goal may need to shift, not to ideas of success but to an appreciation of the creativity you've been granted. If you guard your creativity, you will have it. Nothing more. It will be there when you want it. In it, lives the potential to open windows of contentment. This, I know.

Watch and read more related thought:

"Stop Googling: Let's Talk." NYT Sunday Review
Elizabeth Gilbert on Fear, Authenticity and Big Magic


Monday, September 28, 2015

The Gift of Time

Writing needs the gift of time. It requires the potion of reflective idleness. If a book is to live, it must grow. If a book is to grow, it must be nurtured. It must have space and air to expand and contract. Air and space are the equivalent of time.

Two years ago this December, I finished the draft of my second book about Athos of The Three Musketeers, part of my historical romance trilogy. I've written other kinds of fiction, but this series has taken up tons of my head space. When I finished the second book, my idea was to let it sit for about three to six months to "rest." My crit group had read it, and two editors were lined up to review it.

Then my husband died.
Prequel to The Three Musketeers

So much for book two.

Unfinished projects drive me crazy. They morph into little clouds of gray, sitting above my shoulders. Grieving trampled my motivation for just about everything. My good intentions eroded. So did my bad intentions. All my intentions. It's getting better. All the well-meaning people in my life said it would. It does. It won't ever be the same, but the grief is not molasses like it had been. It's still sticky, sometimes, but not thick and dark, like it had been.

The book kept pestering me. I enjoyed writing it, maybe even a little more than the first one because I had less to learn about writing fiction. Not that I know it all. God, no. I just had the basics down. So, I let myself run a little faster, a little looser.

Book Two is better than book one. My opinion.

My two editors read it last year and sent editorial notes. I let them sit, too. I lost one set of notes in my email, then rediscovered it. A year ago, I read one editor's comments and laughed and laughed at his pokes. There was work to be done. It took another year, until a week ago today, for me to decide enough was enough. Time to shape up the manuscript. I thought it would take me several weeks. It took six days.

The work sat idle for almost two years. It annoyed my conscience, but it also worked out the kinks. There are probably still a few, but now that I'm on the other side of revisions, I like the book more. It's angst-y, sexy. Better than it was. I dumped a bunch of purple prose. I recalibrated the logic. It makes more sense. I WANT people to read it.

It'll be out by November. Besides bringing about a sense of elation and relief, it represents a turning point for me. I'm moving forward. Little by little. It reminds me that rest is good, and all can end, if not completely well, at least a little better.