Commercial vs. Eternal Writing

There seems to be a big philosophical split between commercial writing and eternal writing. If you’re in one camp, you tend to think little of the other. For every web-site describing the Eight Steps To a Successful Novel, there’s another that emphasizes the purity of authentic expression in all art forms (because grammar is The Man’s way of keeping us down). If you’re open to what each side has to offer, the next thing to consider is whether you’re eager to publish, or eager to publish this story.

Say you want to publish just to get your name out there. Commercial success requires collaboration. Collaboration (even in ideal situations) requires some compromise with your editor, agent, publishing house and/or scriptwriter and director. You may have to demonstrate flexibility and versatility in order to maximize your access to opportunities.

On the other hand, if you have a soul-deep connection to your story as it is – you must honor that connection. Compromising on your baby hollows you out. The more specific your needs, the longer it may take you to find a dream team that doesn’t want to change what you have. If you’re committed to telling this story, then that’s the only story you can tell.

Ultimately we’re pursuing mastery: the balance of technical expertise and purity of expression. A ballerina will practice dancing thousands of routines in her lifetime. Only a few of those will be opening nights with giant crowds. As he hones his craft and develops technical excellence, he’ll be better able to express his art at will. His greatest and most breathtaking performances may take place in the studio, with only his reflection as a witness. Does that make the standing ovations less gratifying? Is commercial success or highest excellence more important?

I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.

The more you write, the more you read, the more you study – the more you hone your craft – the closer you are to excellence: your ability to manifest your dearest aspirations. Whether skin-deep or soul-deep, your writing is always yours.

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
― Aristotle

The ludicrous element in our feelings does not make them any less authentic.”
― Milan Kundera


(Fun fact: the Greek arete and the Chinese gongfu are similar terms; the former expresses manifestation of one’s full potential, and the latter describes any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete. It is implied that athletics are an integral part of arete
, and the word gongfu/kung-fu has become synonymous with martial arts in its modern usage.

Healthy body, healthy mind, eh?)

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3 thoughts on “Commercial vs. Eternal Writing

    1. Setsu Post author

      I forget who said it, but an Intro to Humanities teacher once told me that the good writing is that which still resonates, 400 years later, in a different language. Greek and Chinese have it, but I don’t know that English “excellence” sums it up as clearly.

      Reply

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