Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Artist's Dilemma

Yesterday I had nothing to say, so I didn't post. I wasn’t unplugged, like so many other writers. I kept clicking New Post and then opening new tabs and getting lost in endless searches for inspiration.

Today: *silence*

But I don’t believe in writers’ block or bloggers’ block, so I decided to come up with something to say. I am disillusioned quite often, blog-readers. I have done a lot of over-thinking on this, and I am pretty sure the reason is that I am highly sensitive. But really I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about you.

Because being over-sensitive is the artist’s dilemma.

It’s what makes us feel for other people when we read or write about them. I’ve blushed when a character did something embarrassing. I’ve thrown the book across the room when a character failed despite all of my wishing for him to succeed. I’ve spent whole afternoons pondering this: these worlds are fake, so why can’t they be fair?

One reason we get disillusioned so often is that writing (a gooey-inside spiritual kind of thing) has to reconcile itself with publishing (a hard-as-steel soul-sucking sort of thing).

Anyone who knows what an ISBN is knows business ain’t booming in the publishing world.

Editorial Ass explains how gazillions of books are made so they seem to be bestsellers and are then quietly destroyed when they are inevitably not.

This post by sweetie pie agent Kristin Nelson says that paranormal historical romance could be dead. I had no idea. And publishing is dead and print is dead and vampires are dead. Yes, even the undead are dead.

This post speaks for its stupid self.

I mean, it’s enough to bring everyone down, isn’t it?

But fear not, blog-readers because artists also have an, uh, (enter opposite of dilemma here) in their unending hope that things can get better. This is what makes us re-read the scene of the book we just threw against the wall.

I send you all to Jennifer Jackson’s agent blog, where she says to those who follow directions:

Be ye not dismayed. Your efforts are worth it.

She’s talking about the query process, but it’s good advice no matter what you’re putting your effort into these days.

Right on, writers. Write on.


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. I often wonder why writers get angry when they get form rejections from agents. Don't they know that is just how it works? This business insanely subjective and we can't take it personally right?

    But the truth is most writers are sensitive people and sometimes sensitive people don't think logically (at least not in the heat of the moment). So when they have an emotional response to a query rejection or an snarky agent blog post maybe we should cut them some slack.

  2. Thanks Nat.

    I rarely hit actual nails on heads, let alone proverbial ones, so that's quite a feat for me.

    Remember #agentfail? Back in April, the agents at Bookends, LLC, allowed writers to complain about their biggest issues with agents. My very favorite was by an anonymous poster who wrote this:

    Creating art requires the ability to expose the self and plumb the depths of human pain. Please stop telling me not to take it personally. Sending you my manuscript is more personal than a visit to my ob/gyn.

    This quote has been simmering in my mind since I read it. So true. I think it might have subconsciously inspired this post.

  3. lol. love that comment from agentfail. I'm Miss Over-Sensitive too, but maybe our sensitivities will pay off for us in the long run.

  4. I remember that post from #agentfail too. I think it's right on for most writers.

  5. Another dilemma of the artist is trying to fit in with society.

    I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a writer. The main definition that comes to my mind is that writers think too much, looking for answers where there is no need for questions. Most people aren't like this, so then writers appear oversensitive and self-absorbed in others' eyes.

    But like you say, there's no sense in giving up hope of a happy ending. ;)