Saturday, May 9, 2009

Be Yourself--Everyone Else is Taken (Oscar Wilde)


Lady Rhoda Birley, by Valerie Finnis

Post script to yesterday’s post:  whenever I feel like writing, I hoof it to my computer.  Or my notebook, or the back of a napkin. 

I’m not sure I communicated this yesterday.  I didn’t mean I’ve given up the dream of writing.  That’s not a dream.  That’s a reality.  I meant, there are more ways to be a writer than to wear the black turtleneck.     

I did publish a few small things, and I was happy about those.  But, as I wrote to a reader yesterday, the American publishing scene became discouraging.  In my estimation, much excellent, fine writing can’t get published—or ends up on the Costco sale table within a month of coming out.  Fiction that sells often tells a decent story but is not well crafted.  I’m a better sentence crafter than teller of major stories, and I needed to learn that. 

It’s like this.  How hard would you work for a cheesecake?  Maybe pretty hard.  But what if you never got it, after years of work?  If there was a coconut cream pie with your name on it somewhere, would you consider going that direction?  It’s a matter of finding one’s place in the world.   

Finally, Tara at dollcannotfly raised this question:  what’s a real artist?  In her case she was talking about actors.  Is it the one who says two lines and gets paid a small fortune?  The one who works her hiney off for years, performing without pay? 

Who’s the real actor, artist, writer?  And who gets to decide?  


Susan B said...

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that 90% of being an artist or a writer is DOING. Write, do your art. Whether or not it's a commercial success and even whether or not it's any "good" are secondary (and subjective). Some are able to attain acclaim and commercial success, but that isn't always what makes it "real." I wanted to be a writer from the time I started crafting horse stories at 7. I was told by parents and teachers that I was a very good writer but that one can't make a good living at it, so I put that dream aside. I make a living another way and a few years ago started writing my blog for fun. Am I a writer? Yes. An "author?" No. Am I OK with that? For now.

Maria Killam said...

I think the only person that can say is me. If saying 2 lines is 'enough' to call yourself an artist, and that fulfills you, great. It's for each individual to say.

Unknown said...

I have a nephew who is a writer. As for the powers that be....they turned him down. The publishing company kept him dangling for about a year, then said no. So he's laid out the money and published the book himself. His niche is Christian fantasy. There is not much out there that is approved by his church. They don't approve of Harry Potter or the Golden Compass, yet approve Lord of the Rings. I give him a lot of credit for taking the risk and trying it on his own.

his blog:

Zuzana said...

Ah, I find your question so difficult one to answer.:) It can be applied to many aspects and dilemmas in life.

Could it be that the answer is as versatile as the opinions out there that describe real work of art?
To me, a real artist is the one who literally "lives art". Not doing it for profit, for recognition or money, but purely for the purpose of art itself; because there is nothing else he or she would rather do. But whether the art produced this way is always something that appeals to me is an entirely different question all together.;)

Hope you are having a lovely weekend; thank you for your -at all times- kind comments at my place.;)

Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP said...

Wow - that's a big question, all I know is that I am not an artist in any genre - I wish I was, but I realised early on that I just don't have that high level of creativity required.

Maybe it's to do with original thought or just great skill and craftsmanship?

angela recada said...

Hello! Just found you through Rosaria's wonderful blog. I really enjoyed this post, Oscar Wilde's quote and the photo you chose. I'd love to have my own flamboyant style, not unlike Lady Rhoda Birley, someday!

Best wishes,

Stephanie N. said...

I got all excited when I first saw that picture, because I thought you were going to write about Little Edie. Well, Lady Rhoda Birley, you and I are going to have get to know each other via Wikipedia. You look like my kinda classy lady.

Actor, artist, writer - maybe you qualify as one of these when your work changes or impacts people in a profound way?

Looking into the eyes of the men of Auguste Rodin's Burghers of Calais in Pasadena, California when I was 16 changed me. My breath caught in my throat, and I felt at once elated and sick to my stomach. After that, I saw sculpture in a whole new viewpoint - not as something that could simply represent and honor its subject, but as something that could represent so much more than what was plainly visible - the subject's state of mind, their sacrifice, the suffering, their destiny.

My experience with John Steinbeck's novel The Pearl was similar. I finished reading it when I was in a bowling alley. I think I was around twelve years of age. I got dragged there every week because my mom was on her church's bowling league, and I was deemed too young still to stay home alone. Reading the last pages of this novel in that noisy bowling alley, I sobbed. It changed me.

I don't necessarily think that changing or impacting people in a profound way is the only factor for being defined as an artist, writer, etcetera - but maybe it is one of them?

Lucy said...

You know Sallymandy, I really think that an artist, is an artist. If success is measured by sales, than that has probably a lot more to do with marketing. Not all artists know how to market themselves- word of mouth becomes important-especially if the art is a means to supporting oneself.
I think blogging is a wonderful way to get your work out there without the same kind of pressure. And- it seems that like-minded people have a way of finding eachother- that goes for art lovers as well:)

Eleonora Baldwin said...

I believe the greater artist is the one that never loses enthusiasm, whatever the commitment.

As far as writing and publishing... I'm treading those tempestuous waters presently. My agent says 6 months is too soon to even consider this as the beginning. We're still in fetal position pointing down, waiting to come out.

I am an optimist and I hardly ever give up on my dreams.

Did you publish your books through obstinacy or a concurrence of guided fortunate events?

Ciao artist

Woman in a Window said...

The real artist, whatever she may be, is the one who simply is. I've battled with this for years, what to call myself and when I might be able to deem myself a writer. Everything I submit is turned down and I've come to the realization that it doesn't matter. Screw 'em. I feel like a writer. I see like a writer. I feel my day like a writer. That makes me one, not the paycheck.


Anonymous said...

Well, to comment first on Woman in a Window...if she is not a writer and an Artist then there is no hope for any of us.

I am a writer because I write, I am an author because I have written books. Not published mind you, but that does not mean I havn't written them. Had they been published and reviewed as badly written, I would not be a GOOD writer. Is Barbara Cartland less of an author because her books were lightweight? Never mind that she sold in millions. Who is to say what is good and what is not? Most critics have never written more than a column of bile. Who cares if the literati disapprove of the latest bestseller...Down with the Elite I say, let the public decide.

drollgirl said...

oh, i hear you! i feel for all struggling artists, musicians, actors, fashion designers, etc., that work their butts off and can't seem to get a break. success in the arts is not all merit based. a lot of it is who you know + luck + timing. and that is a hard pill to swallow.

Cynthia L. H. said...

Beautiful comments and thoughts! Every one!
What an amazing group of artistic souls who have found each other!
THIS is art!

Fragrant Liar said...

Yes, I agree. Writing, or more specifically, publishing is very hard indeed. Highly competitive and so much gets published that shouldn't, and so much that doesn't get published ought to. Being a published writer is a crapshoot. Being a writer in real life is, as you say, a reality. It's a matter of how you view yourself, I think.

Expat From Hell said...

I am impressed and impacted. I got here by way of Sixtyfivewhatnow, and I am very glad I arrived. I will be back again. Keep up the good work.


sallymandy said...

Dear All: Thank you so much for your kind comments and thoughtful words here. I've appreciated them all. Normally I respond individually to every comment I get, but I'm now behind because I've been pondering all these thoughts about art and writing SO DEEPLY that my brain is almost dead. Sorry, and please return. I love hearing from you.

XO, Sallymandy