Ask an artist if what they do is an art or a business and you’ll be surprised at the answers you receive. Ask different types of artists and you’ll start to see a pattern take shape. That pattern, from my perspective, is quite telling. Depending upon the medium, you’ll see something like this:
- Theatre actors: What business? Don’t insult me.
- Film actors: Mostly business. I am the product.
- Dancers: Most certainly an art. My body is the art.
- Painters: I wouldn’t dare defile my art by calling it a business!
- Sculptors: I’m too busy to answer this.
- Writers: … … …
It’s that last bunch where you’ll find some serious diversity of opinion. This, of course, has changed over the decades. Had we the ability to hop into a Tardis and ask the likes of Poe, Shelley, Blake (or any given master) we’d find them very clearly stating their craft was an art. Now? The world of authorship has been taken over by a wholly different beast. A slight shift from the theatre actor to the film actor has occurred to tempt writers away from considering their work art and reshape their ideology until the written word is a product and the creator a platform or brand. The average writer today spends more time finding ways to market their work than they do actually creating the work.
And that, my friends, is a shame.
Where did this come from?
We now live in a society of immediacy. Because of this, it is so easy to fall out of the sights of those who would purchase your product. This happened to me a few short years ago. I had serious momentum built up on my I Zombie series. Due to being placed in a holding pattern (by unforeseen circumstances), the release of Cry Zombie Cry was delayed by over a year. This put a massive dent in not only my momentum, but sales. However, I’d made a promise to someone and did everything I could to keep that promise…delay or no. And even though I knew I would lose momentum, I held true to that. Why? Because this is art…and that truth is getting harder and harder to come by.
That should help you to understand why so many writers have made this shift. Society has developed a collective binge frame of mind. We want what we want and we want it now. The art of patience is no more. So if writers aren’t pumping out title after title after title…they risk falling into the wells of obscurity.
Personally, I think there’s a fine line to balance between efficiency of release and respect for the process and the art. This, of course, comes from someone who suffers over word choice, sentence structure, rhythm, and flow. Over the years I have developed a style and process that works for me…such that it affords me the time to wring my hands over the choice of a word or the flow of a sentence. That doesn’t mean I absolutely have to release a new book every two months. That type of schedule could easily lead a writer to release a book well before it’s ready. That, my friends, is not art. That is assembly-line creation. Good for you if you make it work…but for me, that type of production schedule is doing my craft–my art–a disservice.
How I see it
To me, this is quite simple:
- The process of creation is an art
- When the process is complete and I have created something ready for public consumption, that “something” is now a product
- Once the product is released, I now must step into business mode and promote the product
So the act of creation is an art, the promotion of the end result is a business. For me, I must keep those two inherently separate, otherwise I run the risk of sullying something very dear and important.
It may seem obvious (art is creation, business is selling), but I’ve seen far too many writers, over the last five years, blur those lines until their art is without heart. The hand of business has no place wrapping its cold fingers around the heart of my craft. Nor do the child-wide eyes of my art have any reason to glance into the steely gaze of business.
It makes for an exhausting effort; but for me, keeping business and art separate is a must.