Lately, I’ve been given cause to seriously consider my writing career and to ask myself why I’m truly engaged in the pursuit. Though I am an optimist by nature, it does occur to me that as a universal rule, one can only work with a situation successfully as long as it works with them. When it comes to most things in life, there is an art to meeting things half-way, to staying in the middle, to watching the dynamic of cause and effect in one’s life, to not over-extending oneself, nor taking things personally. It’s helpful for a writer to keep this in mind when it comes to the experience of rejection. This is not to say that it’s a bad thing to be goal oriented, only that there is folly in putting a time frame on the long range goal. Many writers want to see measurable progress according to their time-table, but this is where we’re best shown that we are not in control. I think the adage of showing up, doing the work, and being unattached to outcome is the aim, but how to seriously achieve this stance of nonattachment; this acceptance of our lack of control? Artists tend to be emotionally involved in their creations. We want to see the fruits of our labors manifest, elsewise, what’s it all for? But I’m going to take this to a soul level and say the soul only wants to create; it wants the experience of creation as its reality, and if one considers art from this premise, then it is enough to create. So the fundamental question for any artist to ask themselves is do you want the glory of the experience, or do you want to reap a reward? The world will tell you success looks a certain way at a particular end and therein lies your validation, but what attitude are we to assume until that fateful day? What price happiness, and how are we to manage within an arena whose premise is to contribute then relinquish control? The thing is, we have no control, and assuming we do sets us up for all kinds of false premises, wherein frustration, self-doubt, victimization, and all the rest are given license. As a writer, I think art for art’s sake is the answer because we can’t control our reception. We may or may not gain riches and recognition, but if we engage the artistic flow as a way of being in the world and are in the right relationship with its unpredictability, then I think we can say we’re living a successful life. It’s not necessary to be the choreographer of the show, it’s only necessary that we are wise enough to dance.
Author’s note: This post is in response to Jason Howell’s question of the week on his blog, Howlarium, of which I am an avid fan:
Q: How often are you able to create a desired result for yourself by sheer force of will, or by arranging circumstances? Do you ever feel as though the reason you aren’t far enough along is that you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough, even though you’ve worked very hard? In your writing life or otherwise—is control really all it’s cracked up to be?
Check into Howlarium @ http://www.howlarium.com/
6 thoughts on “Art for Art’s Sake?”
It’s only necessary that we are wise enough to dance.
How true this statement is.
You are well accomplished, Claire. I have much respect and admiration for you.
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Thank you so very much; I’m still following
the path, and it does occur to me that there is no “there” to get to, when one decides to put writing at the fore of their days. There is only the process- I try to be mindful of this, but your kind comment has absolutely made my day!
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I’m often struck by the dichotomy of creativity as a profession. As you say, on the one hand the dedication needed to create content that can earn a living for the artist can be grueling, but at the same time, even as the artist strives for success, they must become comfortable with the reality that there will be setbacks, and they can’t control when or if they are successful in a financial sense.
Part of the answer, I feel, lies in choosing to focus on our own success as craftsmen. The goal becomes “to improve”, to challenge ourselves and continue to improve as artists and storytellers.
What really drives me are those moments of realization, the moments when momentum carries me forward and I can really “feel” something resonating within me, and the moments when I’ve finished it, and it feels right, and I feel a sense of peace and contentment, because I finished it.
Of course inevitably there comes a time when I need to write again, but in that moment, for a time, I’m good.
I get it, Adam. And we have to admit to ourselves, when these moments happen, that we are building towards something, although I can’t say exactly what that is, beyond the achievement of establishing who we are as writers, and what we have to say. I’ll say it again here: with writing, there is no there to get to, only whatever happens along the path! Great, insightful, and thought-provoking comments from you. Had to read it twice to be sure I got the spirit, for clearly, it was there in spades!
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That is a common phrase “get there”, though I think there is a way to reclaim it. Gradually I’ve been trying to say it with less of a definitive or specific “there”, and more as a question. I’m going somewhere, but where is it? When I finish writing for today, where will I be?
Instead of a level that we are trying to achieve or measure up to, it becomes an act of discovery.
In some ways the journey becomes a long series of “theres”, each a waypoint on the journey. They journey itself is endless, limitless, but it’s also nice to pause, take in a little pride at where we are, how much we’ve grown.
Well said. I think a lot of writing has to do with fine-tuning our way of writing, which teaches us our craft. I’ve recently noticed that after tearing through 3 novels by Ron Rash, that I’m not leaning towards being as long-winded as I have in the past. It’s startling how reading “the greats” subliminally effects us. The art of succinct brevity is something to aim for, and yet I do love descriptive narrative. I’m working on striking the balance without having it be actual work, if this makes sense. Always a process of discovering one’s comfort zone, it seems.