I am being asked more and more, “how do I sell my work?” “How do I write when I have no money for editing and book covers?” “How can I get my out-of-print books up and into circulation again?”
Writers seem to be getting lost in the market, thrown around my poorly deduced statistics and seduced by the demands of one-sided advice. It appears at times, that almost everyone that has e-published then has an urge to write a book on how they did it, as a self-proclaimed expert! Often, the advice is at best, partial; at worst, downright dangerous to a writer’s mental health! As I’ve look at some of the advice in the books, then look at a poorly written sample of that writer’s actual published novel, I’ve quickly developed an allergy to these ‘experts.’
What is really bothering me at the moment, is how often I see the same messages being repeated which are dictating how we are to blog, how we are to write, how we are to publish. We are being assimilated to a manageable norm. So are we having our creativity and originality juiced out of us? It concerns me that we are. If I read one more four character based novel with a predictable ending, I am going to scream. The writers are stuck in a formula rut. At times, it makes me stop reading. I’m bored with the same old thing.
So I decided to watch a few out-of-the-box movies, such as “Finding Neverland,” which is magic for writers, and “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.” I’ve always been intrigued by Johnny Depp’s performances and surprised at his ability to chameleon into roles. He is original and outstanding. I don’t watch a Johnny Depp movie to see him. The character always overtakes the real Johnny in appearance and personality. Depp is that character, rather than appearing as another reincarnation of “Star X now depicting the character Y.”
Reading more about Depp, I quickly discovered that he is his own man, takes his own path, frustrates the Hollywood norms… and wins. Labelled as frustrating, eccentric, unusual and odd, he won’t do the standard cliched blockbuster films, that enable the financial wheels of the movie industry to safely spin along their predictable path. Yes, he is also a writer. Just at the moment, that is the kind of role models many writers need… so much so, it is at least rumoured that Harper Collins has started an imprint of books which are “authentic, outspoken, and visionary,” a project initiated by the “bookish” Johnny Depp. The Imprint title is characteristically him: Infinitum Nihil” (“Nothing is forever.”)
Johnny has reminded me:
- You can still be successful by being yourself, rather than filling the mold;
- Reflect your own interests in your choices, not what’s popular now and thus liable to make the most money;
- If instinct says so, disregard the ‘shoulds’ from the experts: there is always more than one formula for success;
- Write for the love of writing, not the money, you’ll stifle your real self;
- Don’t be afraid to write outside your standard genre, step out of your comfort zone and do something completely different;
- If others raise an eyebrow at your work and call you ‘unusual’ that’s good! Negative criticism can be a long term positive.
- Never compromise yourself.
So “do a Depp.” Seriously consider where you are conforming to the norm in any way that is not you. Find your way back to your genuine creative self. Take a few risks: write something in a new genre and see where your journey takes you. The satisfaction of the creative journey is worth more than any payment or popularity. Plus, it can also become a winner for you too.
From Depp’s Point of View:
“The challenge for me is still to do something that hasn’t been beaten into the moviegoing consciousness. Otherwise what am I in it for?”
As an undercover cop on 21 Jump Street, Depp emerged into the spotlight as a teen idol in 1987, but a future as a lunch box icon and not having any control over his own image, scared him. “I waited and waited to do a movie, because I wanted to do the right one. I wanted to go as far away from the series (21 Jump Street) as I could. The first film I did after Jump Street was Cry-Baby with John Waters. That was a great experience. After that I did another season of the series, and then I did Edward Scissorhands. During that movie I got the phone call saying I was out of the show. I felt like, Ah, possibilities. I was freed up. I swore to myself that I would never again compromise to the degree that I had. I swore that I wouldn’t just follow the commercial road. I wouldn’t do what was expected of me or what was necessary to maintain whatever it is –a popular or financially rewarding career. I promised myself that I would do that.”
After the success of Pirates of the Caribbean he has been considered less of a non-conformist risk and more of a bankable movie star. However, his change in status has not changed the way he maintains his career path. Depp: “I’ve always been some distance from that game. I guess there have been times when I was on the brink of being bankable. But that’s all so weird. All these weird lists – top five star, top 10, “Let’s get this guy because he’s bankable.” I don’t think about that. You’re on the list two weeks and then – poof – you’re gone. It never jarred me that I wasn’t on the list. If I’m considered bankable this week, that’s great. Next week I’ll be totally off. I’m used to that. I’ve never had an allergy to the idea of commercial success. When you put a movie out and it’s successful, that’s great. I just wanted to get there in the right way, in a way that’s not too compromising or demeaning or ugly. Whether I’m there as a bankable movie star or not, I don’t know. If I stay there, who knows?”
“It’s just an odd game. I mean, I may want to do dinner theater. Maybe it’s not so bad. I’ve always said I might end up being forced to do McDonald’s openings dressed as Edward Scissorhands. You never know.”
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