Blog,  Creativity,  Writing

Blog 4.17.24

I had an opportunity to interview filmmaker Geoff Marslett yesterday for an upcoming podcast episode, and it was a powerful conversation about the challenges independent artists face, and the line we have to walk between our wildest creative impulses and marketability.

To me, it feels like a paradox. Art, by its very nature, is disruptive. Often provocative. Sometimes downright distressing. It doesn’t always make sense, and it exists to challenge our egos, not affirm them. Art transforms us, sometimes against out will. It seduces us with rare glimpses of blinding truth and undermines our concrete, inflexible thinking about the world. This is why totalitarian states and fundamentalist religious communities consider it a threat and attempt to channel all artistic impulses into propaganda.

At the same time, the cost of producing art – materially or otherwise – is often so great that an artist must find ways to earn money from it. That means at a bare minimum not offending the basic sensibilities of the public, though it often ends up undermining our artistic efforts altogether and turning our art into a product that fulfills some egocentric need that people with disposable income will gladly pay for.

The question for the modern day artist isn’t about whether to make compromises on our art, but rather, when and where to compromise so that we can earn money without feeling like total sellouts.

I’m thinking about this a lot as I write my first novel.

The reality is I’m no genius. At the same time, I have stories to tell and I think some of them are pretty good. I write things that I’d like to read, and I’m pretty sure I’m no special snowflake. Somewhere in the world there are enough people like me who will find my books fun and enjoyable – my job is to write the books and do my best to find those people.

I’m not laboring under any illusions about what I’m facing as I take on this challenge: a global literary market glutted with increasingly shoddy craftsmanship; the publishing industry in financial distress; gatekeepers who have reserved the plum publishing spots for their pet authors; and the fact that I’m a middle-aged white woman from the United States of America – a demographic from which so much nonsense has been vomited into the creative zeitgeist I feel like I have to go out of my way to let people know my perspective is unique and worth reading.

Anyway, the point is, as I sit down to work on my novel today, I’m sober about its prospects and I’m asking myself – is it worth it?

The bottom line is that I’m writing for myself. I write because I like making up stories. Because it feels good – invigorating, in fact! When I finish writing something I sit back and feel like I’ve accomplished something powerful and important. Maybe not for everyone else, but for me. This creative life I’m living isn’t about impressing other people or winning awards. Most artists I know don’t even want to be rich and famous. They just want to be able to keep doing their art and growing in their abilities. Money and notoriety are just tools to accomplish it.

Still, I ask myself, will anyone read this thing? Is it any good? Does it have artistic merit, or am I deluding myself? I think of the immense pleasure I get from reading, and the idea that anyone would experience that feeling while reading something of mine feels like an honor. Am I worthy?

These questions can’t be answered. Ultimately, I have to do my work as best I can, put it out into the world and keep going regardless of whether or not it makes money. Why?

Because I’m a writer, damn it.

Comments Off on Blog 4.17.24