This might come as a shock to all of you reading this, all one of you, but Maureen and I actually established a list of rules for Long Shot Books when we started the company. We had two sets. One for anyone unlucky enough to find themselves collaborating with us and another for ourselves. (We gave ourselves much more liberty because we should be allowed to put our mouths where our money is. This is America.) Aside from these blog posts, which we do to let people sample who we are as people or writers, we try not to let ourselves bleed into Long Shot Books too much. (I mean, sure, there was that time with that professional victim of plagiarism that I accidentally pissed off; and that other time with the journalists I tweeted @ on the company Twitter account; and those times I accidentally posted Carly Rae Jepsen memes on the Twitter. O.K., I overstep my boundaries every now and again but this goes back to the putting money in my mouth thing.) One of the most important restrictions that we gave ourselves was that neither of us could publish through the company, nor could we promote our own work through the company's social media accounts. We felt that would cheapen what it means to be published as a Long Shot book and “delegitimize” the company (as though my blog posts don't enough as it is).
So, as some of our followers might be aware, I kinda released a book and have a book release coming up. More importantly, I accidentally made the event page on Facebook a Long Shot Book event. I don't know how this happened. I wasn't aware of this until just yesterday, when my personal account was invited to the LSB page's event by a friend...To quote one of my personal heroes, Robert Hymen, General Surgeon in the Civil War, “Well, that was fucking stupid.” To make this abundantly clear, my book is not published through LSB. The event is not organized by LSB, nor is it reflective of the company or future events that will be organized by the company. This is just an event that has the two founders of Long Shot Books as presenters. We're just Todd and Maureen. Not Todd and Maureen. (The italics make us look more professional for company stuff, right?) I don't even, really see it as a Todd Crawford thing. I mean, there are six other readers who will be presenting roughly fifteen to twenty minutes' of their own content. Mathematically, it's much bigger than myself or my own writing.
So, in conclusion, for as many stupid things I do that I'm proud of, this is one that I will apologize for...on behalf of our intern, Tucker Cow...son? Yeah, Tucker Cowson. Due to his gross negligence in this matter, we have decided to part ways with him. We are forever grateful for his participation in our company but quite frankly, he can fuck off for this. To quote Maureen, “If I was on a walk and saw that piece of shit, Tucker dead in a dumpster, I'd dump the rest of my coffee on his body and close the lid. This was Maureen, who said this, out loud.” Thank you for understanding. Oh, and Tucker was also supposed to be posting my weekly blog posts on here. I definitely wrote those and it's all his fault.
I've been reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I found it wedged between a duplicate copy of some Christopher Hart cartoon guide and another Ultimate Guide to Drawing Stuff and Things. It's kind of like a self-help book for For Dummies guide for creative folk.
In the first few chapters, The Artist's Way introduces the concept of the shadow artist. Shadow artists don't have a badass origin story about being born in a pit of darkness, fulfilling some kind of prophecy, or anything like that. It's kind of a sad one, actually.
You're seven years old. You like to write. Maybe you draw too. You spend hours in your room with a pack of printer paper and colored pencils, pinning your designs to your walls. You write plays you make your siblings perform with you in your living room. You explore all the things that make you wonder. Your parents, your teachers, and all the well wishers cheer you on. Long story short, you create a ton of shit all the time and you love every second of it.
Fast forward you're in high school. You've got a part-time job because your parents want you to learn some kind of responsibility or how to manage money or whatever. Now you just doodle for fun during your lunch break. Instead of writing stories, you're prepping for your SATs and ACTs. You're corralled into an AP Physics course and told it'll boost your class rank—so you take it instead of that writer's workshop class. Then comes the college applications and career fairs. This is when shit gets real. You want to be a painter or a poet or a playwright, but the same people who were once rooting for you are now telling you these things won't pay the bills.(They have good intentions though). You take a second look at those printer paper drawings, and now they don't look as good as you thought. So you take their advice and put your passions on the back burner.
You probably get the picture—the rest you can fill in yourself.
Shadow artists are basically people who grew up to love to create but walked way for one reason or another. Their parents told them they wouldn't make a living as a playwright. They didn't think they were good enough and that their form sucked. They thought they weren't true artists/creative folk. They hang around other creative people so that they can vicariously live out their dreams through other artists instead of claiming their own “birthright” as a creative person. And you bet they beat themselves up about it. They're essentially caught between the dream to act and the fear of failing.
Sometimes to ensure some shred of success, a shadow artist pursues a “shadow career,” or a job similar to what he/she wants to do. So instead of being a fiction writer, you're a journalist. Instead of being a director, you're a film critic—and so on.
I'm saying all this because I'm a recovering shadow artist. (Like Todd said before—we don't really like to talk about ourselves on here, but sometimes it just helps to use ourselves as examples.)
I grew up with a passion for drawing. I spent hours in the basement of my old house just drawing and hanging my pictures up on the wood-paneled walls with my mom's hospital tape. As I got older my sister and I started writing short stories back and forth (most of which were Spider-Man themed), and people said I had a knack for storytelling. I skipped AP Physics and took art classes instead. At some point, someone said I can't make a living as an artist. I know this person genuinely meant well—most people who say this do. But eventually I started having these crazy thoughts about not being good enough and how all my ideas were shit. So what did I do? I walked away. Instead of being a fiction writer I majored in journalism (because those things are similar, right?). I reduced my art to being a hobby I did on weekends (until I became so self conscious I quit art entirely). Trying to write a story became an excruciating endeavor. This led to an on-and-off relationship with writing for a few years.
The other ugly part of being a shadow artist is when you start to believe you can't be “great” without giving something else you really, really wanted up. That author of that book I keep mentioning says, “In other words, if being an artist seems too good to be true to you, you will devise a price tag for it that strikes you as unpayable.” So, the price of being a talented comic artist means you'll die alone. If you want to be a novelist I have to develop a dependency on alcohol and cigarettes. Et cetera, et cetera. In your mind, you can't have it all.
I don't really know at what point I realized I was a shadow artist. Maybe it was when 2018 became 2019. Or it could have been when we started LSB. Whatever and whenever it was, I guess it'll be lost to me. At this point I'm focused on the now, and I'm telling you it's kind of like you're in a dark room feeling the walls for a light switch while stepping on Legos.
Getting back into it isn't easy, trust me. Step one? Take yourself seriously. Take what you're doing and plan to do seriously—don't water it down. You're an artist. You're a writer. You're a whatever-the-heck-you-want-to-be.
Step two? Give yourself permission to suck. An Artist's Way says, “By being willing to be a bad artist, you have the chance to BE an artist, and perhaps, over time, a good one.”
Step two-and-a-half? Don't compare your beginning poems or sketches to someone else's master work.
Step three? Ramble, mess up, get lost in it. You'll be busting your ass learning how to play again, and it'll be hard work.
You owe it to yourself to at least try.
Soft Pumpkin Drops
1 cup sugar, 1 cup canned
grated orange peel, 1 teaspoon
ungreased, 2 inches apart in
beat until smooth, 8 to ten minutes
Photo credit: Pexcels