Wednesday, March 14, 2012

For Love of Words or Paper

Anyone who knows anything about me as a writer, as an artist, knows that I am passionate about my creative output. And those same people may know that I can get a bit irate and downright ranty when it comes to the subject of artists creating with one hand while holding the other out in expectation of (supposedly well-deserved) monetary award. So I apologize to anyone who has heard from me these same gripes but I felt I needed to make one more definitive statement on the issue.

More and more, I am seeing writers who have taken up writing as a means of generating income and who view the craft as an easy and lucrative way to make ends meet and then some. Essentially, the story goes: writing was something they always enjoyed (as a hobby) throughout life, but now times are getting tough, jobs are scarce, and so they turn to the craft of the pen to scare up a few bucks with the help of the (swiftly expanding) world of self-epublishing.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with writers making money or getting paid for their work. Ideally, I too would like very much to one day be able to make a living off of what I love to do. And I take no issue either with those would write so-called "trashy" novels for quick and easy consumption. There is a place for these works as much as there is for dense volumes of literary fiction.

What irks me truly is this emphasis on making money. In my social media streams, I see more and more posts regarding ways that writers can hope to strike the most lucrative deals with literary agents or how to best sell to a specific audience. I am seeing a group of writers who seem to place the act of word-crafting into the backseat behind business strategies and self-marketing. It's now said that the modern writer must be invested in these affairs though if they are to get anywhere, if they are to become something, if they want to strike the next big movie deal.

It's been said that the days of Hemingway, of sitting locked in a room with only pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) as company, of carefully constructing an opus are long over. This act of painstaking creation (especially if one does not tweet about it) is no longer acceptable in this new digital age. We, as writers, must be quick, must be voracious, must be social and vocal with our reader base, must pump out "literature" that the public wants and do it often if we wish to stay relevant. And by relevant, they of course mean, get paid.

But, do we deserve to be paid? Or, is it our duty, as writers, to put the work first into producing truly great work that others will want to pay us for? I honestly find something immoral, artistically, in the act of seeking out what potential readers might want in their literature and then bending one's work to suit this want rather than creating something so unique and wonderful that readers will have no choice but to love it for what it is, regardless of their expectations or preconceived desires. And this journey, this long path to growing ourselves, to perfecting the craft, is one that should always be propelled by love of the word, love of story-telling, love of creating beauty through language, but never out of want (or worse, need) of eventually being compensated for services rendered.

Truly, I would be happy going my entire life without ever being paid to write a word as long as I were not reduced to shaping, conforming, rushing, or otherwise compromising my vision for the sake of satisfying the ever-fickle mainstream. And it is because I write for the love of the thing itself that I can say this with confidence. And as long as I have readers who can enjoy my work (however few that may be), I can be glad knowing that my work has provided at least a small amount of enjoyment. As artists, what more can we ask for?

Sorry again for those who have already read parts of this rant from me before, I will try to contain my disdain of things relating to this topic from now on.