Friday, May 3, 2013

Selling out is for the birds

I read a great blog post by Julinna Baggott over at Writer Unboxed this morning. You can find it here. Julianna touches on the issue of selling out as an artist, to which I replied:

"Great post Julianna!

You are SO right about the primacy of the subconscious. A novel is a massive creative undertaking. So many creative decisions are involved along the way, from concept to final edit, that it becomes impossible for a writer to withhold their heart work, no matter how hard they may resist.

So why this fear of selling out? That we will somehow lose our own identities if we pander to the business of, gasp, selling our art?

I personally believe that underlying this fear is the deeper fear that we will fail if we try.

As writers. we work for months at a time in seclusion, with no feedback from the outside world. During that time, there is the constant nagging fear that our book will suck, that no one will EVER buy it, fighting against the hope of hopes that our precious thought-baby will SELL, SELL, SELL!!

The pressure this struggle creates can become so great, our intellects will often shout at our fears: "SHUT UP YOU! IT'S NOT ABOUT MONEY AND SUCCESS!! IT'S ABOUT ART! THERE IS NO PRICE ON ART! ART IS PURE! NOW GO AWAY!!"

I believe this is wasted energy.

That's why I strive to think like a live performer. Imagine you are a street juggler or busker. You've got your juggling balls, or harmonica, and your empty hat. All you want by the end of the day is for your hat to be full of cash. if your act isn't working, you adjust. You don't have time to erect elaborate intellectual barricades against self doubt. So you juggle chainsaws. You pause from blowing on your harmonica to sing about heartbreak. Why? So you can afford to buy dinner that night. And you inevitably see results when you change your approach to have greater appeal to passersby.

When you fire up the farting chainsaws, people stop and gape and ooh and aah. When you sing about how your man is a dog because he's sleeping with your best friend, people clap, reach into their pockets, and spare change rains into your hat. And not one of them calls you a sell out. Because you have entertained them. With YOUR art and YOUR heart, and a whole lotta urgency."


  1. Great post - I agree. Worrying about whether you are selling out is a terrific way of dealing with a writer's natural fear of rejection. Art isn't art if no one likes it or understands it. At some point, you've got to make a connection to somebody to feel that it is worth the effort, the time, the lost income . . . I had the same response to Julinna's post. Fear of selling out is probably a good indication that we are afraid of rejection.

  2. Thanks for commenting Lynn! I was worried I might offend with my comments. I know some people take the idea of "Art" with a capital "A" very seriously. But I'm glad you could relate! :-)