As someone who is examining low-cost holiday present ideas for this absolute disaster of a fiscal year, I’ll admit that I find myself somewhat frustrated that I can’t really fall back on my creative talents. Musicians can record songs, visual artists can offer pieces of their work, and craftspeople can give excellent handmade gifts. If your skill is words, it is a lot more difficult. I had an excellent gift from a friend that was a treasured memory written in beautiful prose, but I myself am not so inclined. Partly because I’m skilled at producing lots of words but feel like the weave of my prose is lacking, and partly because I genuinely don’t have many memories that aren’t tinged by sadness or loneliness.
I could give people poems, but I worry that they might not land well since poetry is so specific to taste. I don’t want to give a poem that doesn’t feel genuine to me because I had to manufacture emotion to give it sentimental power, or one that isn’t to the recipient’s interest because I have no idea what kind of poetry people like. Art gets displayed on walls, but poetry mostly sits in books on shelves or is tucked away somewhere important and safe.
If I had published a novel, I could gift that, but all I have are various drafts and I feel like giving them as gifts makes a statement about their quality that I am not prepared to back up. I’ve offered to write short stories to order as gifts in the past, but not one such offer has ever been taken up, so I think that people don’t really want a creative gift for which they must supply the prompt. I also find myself resisting the idea of commidifying my creations in that way since I have gone out of my way to avoid attaching any kind of value to them in the past. Plus, I post a lot of my writing here so it feels weird to gift it to people when I happily and gladly give it away freely here.
I understand that most of these issues are on my end. I am being far too critical of my creations, far too cautious, far too conservative, and probably undervaluing my words and abilities, I’m sure. But I don’t know by how much, so I prefer to avoid it all together. Plus, all of this exists as a interlocked series of entities in my head. A piece of art is a discrete thing that has some kind of tangible existence, or can be given it in the form of a high quality print. If I write a poem, sure, there is a discrete file or piece of paper that contains it, but a high quality print of it is, what, card paper and a laser printer?
I think this is a problem I’m going to need to get over some day. I know I’m not going to be creating anything for the holidays this year since I don’t have the time or emotional energy to address this problem prior to the end of the winter holiday season, but maybe by working on it now I work through this by next winter. Maybe I could do a “Choose Your Own Adventure” thing and just write out all the choices people make. Like Dungeons and Dragons but written out. Of course, if I’m going to do that, then why don’t I just run some Tabletop RPGs for people instead? And if those RPGs are a gift, what makes then different from the games I run every week, few weeks, or month?
I think this might have to do with me never being forced to draw a line between “freely given” and “created for money” in my various art forms. Most artists I know have sold prints or made items for sale. I’m still working on that. This blog is my “drawing prompts,” the various pieces I produce and share the stuff I post on social media. But I’ve never made it to the point of actually selling my storytelling prowess. I’ve dabbled in the idea of running D&D for money, but I don’t think I want to move that out of a hobby. And selling novels requires a hefty dose of work before the actual sale is made, so my work thus far has been unrewarded.
Maybe the key to this problem is to finally charge money for something I’ve produced. Maybe once this stops being toil I do for nothing but my own desire and starts being something other people have attached value to, I’ll start to see the value in it too. Which isn’t to say that I don’t value this right now. I just don’t put any kind of monetary value on it. I just value having a place to put these words, to share these thoughts.