Yes, I've skipped over a ton of stuff, yes, I've generalized, yes, I've waved my opinion around like a red flag in front of a bull. I confess, I wrote all five of these posts in a single afternoon (since it was sort of one, long continuing thought), so undoubtably there are gaps in information and loose-logic.
I love art, just as I love writing, so don't get me wrong and think I'm trying to demonize the institution.
Elitism in all forms bothers me. It's when we start drawing lines that we start marginalizing other people.
The idea that art is somehow this untouchable, holy, genius-inspired wonderful thing that the unwashed masses can only struggle to understand and capture... I think that's a load of salesman-crap.
As a culture, Westerners value intelligence, education and experience. When something is valuable, it has worth. It has merit. Art, just like writing, is a process of refining technique, training your eyes, your brain, your hands. Like any profession, it's a matter of specializing. It requires hard work, time and effort.
In her post, Janice Hardy said this:
But going back to the "agents killing art" post...
With the vast technologies available to us today, I found myself thinking about writers who just want to create art. They can put up blogs for free and start creating, making their work available to everyone to read. Nothing is stopping them. Agents aren't killing their art because art can't be stopped when you can display it where millions can see it for free. (of course, getting millions to come see it is another story).
If the sole goal is to create art, then why is it necessary to get an agent and sign a deal with a major publisher? Isn't the goal of getting an agent and signing with a big publisher so that you can make money? They are, after all, a business, and the goal is to make money by selling books that are commercially viable. By selling product, not art. Just as I don't try to sell watercolors to my design clients, I wouldn't try to sell something to a publisher that wasn't a commercial product--a sellable book.
If you're complaining that agents won't take you on because you won't make them money, isn't that admitting that money is what you're really after? Not the distribution of art? Because you can publish without an agent or a big publisher if you aren't in it for the money. Or the prestige of being with a big publisher. Or the validation of having pros in the industry say "yes, we think your work is good enough to sell."
So, can writing be art? Or is it commercial?
Why was Shakespeare so successful and popular? His purpose was to write plays that drew in audiences and sold theatre tickets. How can you not call that commercial? Dickens was paid by the word to fill newspapers. Do you think that's wrong?
Shakespeare understood how to communicate with his audience, so he was successful in selling his Ideas.
Steve Jobs was all about the user experience. By making Mac products easy to use and reliable, he became successful.
Honestly, I don't see a division between Western art and product. It's all about selling Ideas, the only difference is whose idea is getting sold. If we're going to marginalizing writing/writers as mere entertainers who offer up fantastical worlds, gritty underworld crime, idealized romance, beautiful and noble heros and heroines fighting the dark and evil forces, or the every-man struggling for the most basic of needs...
...well, that's the subject matter of the Louvre's collection right there...
Writers are selling an experience, a world, characters, story, and Idea, the same as an artist is. It's the heart of the story, which I've blathered on about more than once. Your ability to successfully sell that is no different than Michelangelo, and he didn't get paid for the pieces his patron didn't like.
Just like a badly-made product won't sell. I have nearly destroyed two different cell phones because the menu systems were so incomprehensible. I will never again buy one of those brands. Sure, those cell phones were a heck of a lot cheaper, but there's a reason the iPhone is so widely used...
...and why I use a Mac.*
You have to work hard to make your Idea, your message, understood. You have to think of the audience, think of their user experience.
I've said before that if the meaning of your writing is not being understood, it's your fault as a writer for not being clear, not the reader's fault. It is a failure to properly communicate the Idea. If you are stomping your feet like a child throwing a tantrum and saying, 'You don't understand my writing!' you're never going to convince others that your writing has merit. You need to work for it, improve your skills so you can effectively communicate with your audience.
In the original post accusing agents of killing art, all I see is an unprofessional so wrapped up in the Idea of being an Artist that they don't care about honing their skills to make their work understood, and therefore accessible, to those who would buy it. It's arrogance, pure and simple.
If you love your work, if you have pride in it, you should try to make it the best that it can be.
Alcar already made mention of this in the comments last time, but:
My life-drawing teacher in university once told my class that if you want to be a successful artist, you have to want people to see your paintings. If all you do is create art for yourself, what you're doing is essentially (not my term...) "artistic masturbation". You're not an artist. All you're doing is pleasing yourself. That's not a professional attitude.
And I think writing is the same thing. You have to want to please other people to actually reach them.
I think that's the main difference between people who are writers and people who write. The professional attitude and commitment that drives them to improve their work. Artists are the same. People mock Jackson Pollock and say all he did was throw paint on a canvas, but he discarded hundreds, if not thousands of paintings he felt weren't up to standard. Even Leonardo DaVinci re-painted the Mona Lisa, re-posed her, re-imagined her, re-worked her.
Artists can't be successful without making sales, and neither can writers.
So what do you think?
...so how was my sales-job? For those of you who actually hung in here with me through these extremely nerdy posts, do you think any differently about art and writing? And really, does it all even matter? Do we need these hard divisions to validate, or justify what we like and why we like it?
*I shan't get into my thoughts on Microsoft... just that, the more you know about how and why something is the way it is... well, let's say I've lost faith in Microsoft ever putting the user-experience before the almighty dollar.