Friday, June 27, 2008

These Words Are Free

Writing this blog is a great pleasure. Its the one activity I do solely for self-expression; no restrictions, no deadlines, no predetermined goals. I like using the written word to turn seemingly divergent thoughts into cogent sentences. When executed with integrity, words feel more direct than, say, painting or music. That's what attracts me to it - the specificity.

Blogging is not journaling. The latter has therapeutic value when used as a means of emptying the mind without hesitation. When I've written in a journal without editing, the act of pouring out words has sometimes produced unexpected and revealing results. But I can't imagine inflicting any of that on a reader, privacy issues aside. I want my writing to be personal, but it must have shape, pace and some kind of central theme. The form of the blog gives me the opportunity to organize and massage my ideas so that the finished pieces are (hopefully) readable.

A good friend has been encouraging me to do some commercial writing, by which I mean trading the words I put together for money. The idea is attractive on the one hand. Why not try to earn some cash doing something I really enjoy? But I've already fashioned a career from music, the other art form close to my heart. I generate income from nearly everything I do musically. I play many different kinds of gigs, teach, transcribe, arrange, copy and run a jazz website. About the only things I don't sell are my original compositions.

So I am susceptible to the "art for money" concept. I recently wrote a series of music reviews for and have successfully pitched an idea for another dozen track reviews for that website. I admit that it was fun getting paid for having opinions and making the short pieces informative and entertaining. But now that I have garnered this new assignment I'm realizing that what really turns me on about this endeavor is having the liberty to write whatever comes to mind, whenever I feel like it.

Ever self-suspecting, I thought at first that I might be resisting the temptation to write for money out of fear. Maybe I don't have the skills; maybe there's too much risk of rejection. But I now believe that my reluctance stems from my strong desire to keep this means of expression safely optional. I want writing to be something I do for fun. I don't want it to become another task, another responsibility. I never want to feel that I "should" write something. It may not be rational, and it certainly isn't practical; and that in itself feels liberating.

Money is good. Freedom is better.