Recently I strolled through the Saturday Market in Portland, Oregon, dodging crowds and window-shopping my way along the rows of booths. I passed a whirl of color. Shades of brown marked designer cutting boards. Prints and paintings broadcast a rainbow of hues. Jewelry sparkled in silver, bronze and gold. Clothing was displayed in brilliant azure, scarlet, auburn, and emerald green. But the glass! There were bowls, vases, delicate pendants and full stained-glass windows that glowed technicolor in the sun. One vendor hung long brass spirals from a frame on the back of his truck, with a blown glass ball in each that seemed to hold a cloud of colored smoke. If it could have survived my flight home, I wouldn’t even have asked the price.
Except for the unending stream of people, it felt more like a visit to a special museum than a shopping trip. There were kitschy souvenirs too, as well as lotions, oils, and food carts, but so much of what I saw was pure art.
As I walked, I wondered about the artists themselves. Did they make a living at this? Did they have day jobs and pursue their dreams in stolen moments? A few worked at their craft while they waited for customers, but most sat looking out at the crowds, staring down at their phones, or rearranging their creations.
In this age of automation and mass production, I admire the artisans that create these works of art and then wait, as a world of people whirl past their wares. I envy that artistic talent, but writing is a talent, right?
I have a friend that I occasionally show my work to. She reads, then looks up at me with a flattering expression of wonder. “Why aren’t you a writer?”
While I think of myself as a writer who blogs, I know what she’s trying to say. She wonders why writing isn’t how I make my living.
Walking through the Saturday Market, I found an answer for her. Being talented among your peers isn’t the same as standing out among the millions who write every day. But even if your genius is unmatched, writing as creating is only one piece of the puzzle. The other piece is selling your wares. The author equivalent of sitting outside every weekend waiting for customers is doing research, finding your market and maybe an agent, composing queries, sending manuscripts and not hearing for weeks or months whether anyone even read past the first page, and, if you do make a sale, promoting it endlessly on social media.
I like to think I’m a writer, but I’m not fond of sales. I’ll never say never. But in the meantime, I decide when and what I write. My blog gives me the joy without the pain. And you, dear reader, are welcome to window-shop whenever you like.