Ashley Holzmann is a horror author by trade and a generally cool person overall. The irony of a horror author writing a post on writing without fear isn’t lost on me, but he makes some excellent points and it’s always great to hear someone tell you to not be afraid of your writing. There are some links at the bottom of the post if you want to find out more about Ash, but without further ado, I’d like to turn the stage over to the amazing Ashley Holzmann.
Hello, my name is Ashley and I will be your guest blogger this evening.
This post is for the writers out there, but will also hopefully interest the readers and other creators alike.
Why is that? Because some of the biggest hindrances to creativity are the self-imposed fears we carry with us.
I’m normally a horror writer, though I dabble in various genres, and I’m going to be putting on my writer hat to tackle this from what I believe to be some interesting perspectives. My goal is to discuss the fears that hold creators back and methods to get beyond those fears.
Creation For The Sake Of Creation
The pure artist, as can be found discussed in great detail in Leo Tolstoy’s What Is Art?, would state that the purer forms of art and creation are performed for the sake of the creation itself.
On some level, they are performed for the sake of the creator, but the more any single creator decides to push their art into the world and display it for others, the less pure it becomes.
I struggle with the purity of this idea.
On many levels, I love the romanticism of it.
The unfortunate counter argument is that it’s terribly convenient to have such an opinion of art for art’s sake, but what of us who were not the creators of War and Peace?
Tolstoy formed many of his important ideas and wrote many of his important essays concerning art after he was already an established personality. This is unfair of me, I know, as the argument is supposed to be separated from the man making the argument, but it’s hard to. Purists are not often in a position of vulnerability
Purists are often not in a position of vulnerability.
What of the artist who is only able to work on their art once a month because of the costs associated with it or the time constraints?
While art may very well be more pure when done for the sake of the creation of it, I would argue that a free artist is one who has enough support to function as an average member of society and concentrate wholly on their creations.
This, too, adds complications to the argument. As famous artists such as Michelangelo were given such freedoms, but were also constrained by the Medici family who paid his bills growing up, and then his commissions throughout his life often being from churches.
Who knows how great Michelangelo’s art could have been if he was given the financial freedom, but also the political and creative freedom to experience his art simply for the sake of it—allowing his mind and hands to take the work where it would go.
Tumbling around these arguments, I find myself settling into a middle ground as an artist, myself.
I create for the sake of creating. Most of my drawings are shared only briefly with family, and sometimes never. My writing is shared as widely as I can get it to be shared, though, and I am actively pursuing that lifestyle.
Maybe it is selfish of me to desire to make enough money off of my creative work to finance my lifestyle and allow me the freedom to leave my day job.
But if the result is more art, then is the world a lesser place?
The interesting aspect of modern times is the self-financed artist. Self-publishing for books, websites like Fiverr that allow for creative people to directly be sourced: the freedoms given to creative people are amazing these days. I sometimes wonder how modern platforms would inform Tolstoy’s opinions, if at all.
All of this brings be back to the title of this section: creation for the sake of creation.
Any artist must start somewhere, and in practicing the craft there will be many works that are never shared. That honing of skill is important, but also something I would argue is so important that it must always be returned to. While I personally believe that artists should strive for freedom in order to actively pursue their art as a career, I also recognize that some art should be kept to ourselves.
That art is both pure, but also important because it teaches us to discern between what we place of ourselves into the world and what we place of ourselves only in those closest to us. Because, at its core, most art is in some way a reflection of ourselves.
Because, at its core, most art is in some way a reflection of ourselves.
When You Are Afraid, Your Art Suffers
The freedom to create anything is not often give to artists. This is not always the choice of an artist, either. I already referenced one of the Renaissance masters. While the great awakening of artistic value occurred during that period, most of the people financing those efforts were the elite. It was not easy to be completely free and still tailor one’s work to the holder of the money purse.
These days we are in may ways more free, but if we are pursuing careers in creation we still have to play to an audience somewhere. This holds back a lot of creators, who feel like they must create to appease the people.
Stroll to the local movie theater and you’ll be given plenty of examples of the fear of creators. Held by by either themselves or by the financiers in order to appeal to as many people with wallets as possible. Being a creator isn’t an easy experience.
Being a creator isn’t an easy experience.
I would argue, however, that it is the artists who fall for this fear that create the lesser versions of the art they hold within them. And while it is financially safer to sometimes tackle the easy victory, the mass market appeal, many artists may surprise themselves when they take the risk to be themselves.
There is a happy medium between the artist who pursues their art in order to achieve financial stability and the artist who wishes to have the funding to be free to express themselves.
The Lack Of Fear
The irony of the fearful artist is that the un-fearful artist is often the one who stampedes through the cliche and lands themselves in the record books.
Every actor who has taken a performance and turned it up to eleven is hailed for their bravery. It is not easy to go through a fight scene completely naked like Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises. Or Michael Fassbender in Shame.
Stanley Kurbrick defined most of his career by his lack of fear. He often took so many risks with his work that a large part of his filmmaking experience was ensuring that he had the financing and creating his amazing work on as low a budget as possible. He found a way, though, and he stuck to his artistic guns and remained as pure as he could.
Lolita is another excellent example of a lack of fear. Like Catcher in the Rye, both star a likable, yet unlikeable, unreliable narrator tackling subjects that the writers themselves have stated are not pure to them as creators, but they had a vision and executed it masterfully.
When you work without fear, you are able to work in that middle ground between the extreme of the hermit creator and the opposing side of the sellout.
Pure Art Creation
We can all identify beautiful art. Many of us agree on certain aesthetics, but we will also disagree on many things as well. That’s understandable. What matters when it comes to any form of creation is for the creator to express themselves fully. If an artist is unafraid, then this is the next step they must take: being true to themselves.
This often means that artists true to themselves are exposing some of their inner-most demons to the world. They are allowing themselves to be vulnerable in front of the masses. This is almost always difficult. Crying in front of thousands of people is something that takes training.
Writing about secret childhood experiences can bring back horrible hurtful memories. Exposing one’s character flaws leaves us open to criticism that we may not be fully emotionally prepared for.
Exposing one’s character flaws leaves us open to criticism that we may not be fully emotionally prepared for.
The reason we do allow ourselves the freedom of pure expression is because while we do expose ourselves to the voices of critics, we also expose ourselves to inclusion and acceptance.
I’ve often told myself that my friends and family will never read my work. This is not true, but the thought of showing my stuff only to strangers has a freeing quality to the creation.
Another simple tactic to use is to create things you would only want yourself to see. Then leave those things for a time. Come back to them. Refine them. Then either force yourself to release it out into the world, or have a trusted friend or loved one do it for you.
Tell yourself that you have not created such a work. Or use a pseudonym to hide your true identity. Create the double life that is necessary to spread your work. Justify your work to yourself any way that you can.
It is not easy to be true to one’s self, but the more often you are, the more often you open yourself up to surprising revelations. More people may fall in love with your work than you think. More opportunities may open the door for you as an artist because you are known to not have fear.
More people may fall in love with your work than you think.
You may also be surprised to find out that many artists will also look up to you. They may reach out to ask how you were able to be so honest or brave with your work. You may be surprised to find that being true to yourself opens yourself to just as much awe as it does to judgement.
It has been my experience in both creating and in enjoying art that the awe of admiration is more often gifted toward artists than judgement.
-Ashley Franz Holzmann
About The Author
Visit asforclass.com for more from Ashley.
His new book is available on Amazon. Get your copy here.
Ashley Franz Holzmann bio:
A Boy Named Sue, named Ashley, who goes by Ash around his friends. Ashley grew up overseas on Air Force bases. He once bought a 70s VW bus so he could drive it across the country. He married his first love—they were long distance for seven years. He reads poetry constantly; believes experiences define a life, and pursuing art is the purpose behind his existence. Ashley kept all of his Legos growing up and plays with them with his three kids. He’s in the Army. He likes big dogs.
Visit asforclass.com to learn more about Ashley, or to sign up for his mailing list to receive an exclusive and free novella.
His mailing list is also the best way to learn about upcoming projects, exclusive deals, and opportunities for free advanced versions of his work.
You can find out more about Ashley at his various social media sites. Drop by and say hello. Or howdy, if that’s more your speed.
As a side note, if you’re ever interested in doing a guest post, drop me an email and we’ll figure it out all out. Questions or comments for Ashley? Drop ’em in the comments section.
3 thoughts on “Guest Post – Writing Without Fear”
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This is a pretty raw and insightful look at what portions of ourselves we choose to allow others to see. More often than not, those portions are pretty small, considering how complex humans are. The only writing I do is blogging, for the most part, and even though ninety percent of my readers have no clue who I am in real life, I am constantly conscious of my reading audience because of the other ten percent. My day job does not allow for judgment-free public opinion, unfortunately—my boss(es) are great, but there are others who seem to think they’re in a position to judge—so I find myself omitting more than I wish to at times. I’ve often thought of starting a blog with a pen name, simply to say what I feel needs said in a safe environment that won’t leave me vulnerable.
Nice to hear your thoughts on this, Ashley. Thanks for hosting him, Eric.
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