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Just write that book

Posted on March 28, 2024 by Sunny South News
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By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

There are few things more terrifying for many artists than releasing their work out into the world; but I would argue that the fear and regret of not releasing it, far surpasses the fear of sharing one’s work.

Most creatives know this, but there is a lot of gatekeeping and elitism in creative spaces. I have found that the more your identity and work disrupts the status quo, the less seriously “the academy” may take you. I am fortunate to be surrounded by many visionary artists and makers in my personal circles, many of whom have enjoyed the fruits of their talents in some pretty big ways, landing publications, major podcast spots, and news features on their exciting creative and academic work. Overwhelmingly, these creatives all have one thing in common. It is not that their talent and work is so undeniably and objectively “good” that it cannot be ignored. Rather, as far as I have observed, no amount of quiet talent or hidden technical mastery can actually outpace or overshadow a consistent relinquishing of one’s work into the world. This idea that one must meet specific standards in order to be worthy of creating and sharing their work is simply antithetic to the role of art and creativity, although I am sure there are a lot of ordinary debt-free white men with MFA’s who might challenge this. Many people would argue that not all experiences “deserve” representation, and to do so without skill or training undermines those who have mastered oil painting, or analog photography, or poetry, or pottery, or song-writing, but I don’t actually think it matters as much as these gatekeepers would like you to believe. 

In my opinion, creativity and meaningful art is about the pursuit of documenting or harnessing our internal conceptions, experiences, and individuality through mediums outside of the self. Sometimes, this translates effectively, securing a bridge between people to share in some kind of idea or experience outside of themselves. Sometimes these ideas and representations are quite intangible, or fleeting, or even insufficient. However, those who are moved to invest in their creativity, regardless of accolades or outcomes, with the sincere hope of externalizing something truthful or meaningful can find transformation, connection, and catharsis all the same. 

All this to say, I think one of the most liberating things artists and creatives can do it simply share their work, regardless of how their work may compare to commercially-successful artists, or top-performing stores on Etsy, or even those finding upward mobility within progressive creative circles. It is not a pre-requisite to reach certain milestones before you are allowed to share your work. Write the book, paint the canvas, sculpt the mug. 

In 2022, after months of unsuccessful queries to traditional Canadian publishers, I closed my latest poetry manuscript “Rhymes From a Jail Cell” and put it back on my bookshelf. Without an agent, it became to cumbersome and daunting to face another rejection letter, and I stopped sending out pitches to publishers. Several shifts of tectonic proportion took place in my life over the past six months, which made my idle manuscript feel like a stick of faulty dynamite taunting me in my home. Due to the personal nature of the collection, holding onto it had started to feel as though it could metaphorically detonate at any moment. As I rung in 2024, I was in a very different place than I imaged I would be just one year earlier. I became acutely aware that this collection had to be released, relinquished, and liberated.

I self-published Rhymes From a Jail Cell and it is now available online in paperback and Kindle edition e-book at https://a.co/d/8LQkJB3, and at selected retailers in Lethbridge. There are things I could have changed or omitted, which perhaps could have changed the minds of some publishers in the end, but ultimately, I knew it was time to release the collection into the universe. So far, the response has been really encouraging. People from my hometown reached out to say they saw themselves in it, and a few strangers even reached out to say it resonated with them. It is a deeply personal collection, and it was not easy to let go of. It’s not representative of all I want to accomplish. It is not reflective of where I hope to settle artistically. It is certainly not Gertrude Stein or Robert Kroetsch, or bpNichol, but it’s off my bookshelf and out in the world, and right now, that’s enough. 

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