One of the things I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten the hang of as an adult is the idea of being professional. Now, I’m pretty darn good at playing the part, but I always want to keep a piece of myself in the puzzle. Sometimes those two don’t mix very well, as I can get. . . well, a little too outspoken.
However, in the process of trying to make a break in the literary world, I’ve had a tad more trouble of actually combining the two.
First, this site would probably be considered incredibly unprofessional. In my attempts to honestly document the heart-break that is the process of writing, I know I’ve said many things that would not really make me appear to be the most sane person on the planet. It’s a lucky thing no one actually reads anything on this site. However, even in all of that, I have kept a lot of thoughts to myself, in order to keep from actually angering the literary gods. It’s not that I’m unhappy with the industry, but frustrated. There’s so much of it that seems to have really gone away from the actual act of creating a piece of art and gone the way of Hollywood and the like, where prospect of money appears to be of a greater importance than actually furthering the medium.
That makes sense, especially in a recession. So, I’m not complaining exactly, especially seeing as I can’t say that either of my books will further the medium, just something I’ve noticed in my research over the past year that makes me sad.
But anyways, all of this comes back to the actual issue at hand. You see, I would love to just be one of those authors who says “Screw tradition, I’m blazing my own path!” I find myself thinking of the music and movie industries frequently, where you see very talented artists bypassing the labels and studios and allowing themselves the freedom to do whatever they please. I love the pioneering spirit these people express. I just don’t think I have it in me.
In fact, I love the tradition. There’s so much about how a book currently gets published that I think is amazing, and feel I would fall horribly short of if I attempted to go my own way. Looking into some of these authors who have blazed their own paths as self-published aficionados, well, I can’t help but see a lack of professionalism in the art. There’s that grungy sort of independent feel to them that I love, to be certain, but there’s also a lack of care for the actual art of writing. Some of these people are known to crank out a book in a week and put them out there immediately after, no editing, no revising, just 70,000+ words of whatever, warts and all. I see the appeal of such a harsh approach to publishing, where the final product is more a process of emotion than technical prowess, but it just seems too careless.
In fact, I believe these authors could do more damage to the medium than the millions of Harry Potter clones that were created back in the day.
However, that serves as a perfect example of professionalism vs. personality. The books released without any oversight, any editing, not even a second look by the author, well, it’s bound to be filled with personality. But I’ve read excerpts of many of them. Let’s just say, they weren’t good. The few books I’ve been asked to read like these have caused me to fear picking up any other book, regardless of how they are published, just because I have a nasty taste in my eyes from reading them.
But, I get this same feeling from many traditionally published books as well. And that’s the real issue at hand here. The magic of storytelling seems to get lost in a lot of these bad books. It becomes a large random string of words. The ideas can be beautiful, but the execution is far less than magical. And that’s what a good book really should be, magic. I remember reading the first book of the Harry Potter series, having no clue what I was picking up and assuming it to just be another example of young adult pandering, and almost immediately being drawn in by the magic of the storyteller.
It brought me back to other books of my childhood. Books like The Hobbit, Tom Sawyer, and Charlie and the Chocolate factory. These books weren’t all about magic (especially not Tom Sawyer) but you could feel the magic dripping off the storyteller’s words. It’s an art, but you need the technical know how to put that art out there appropriately.
I can’t say that this magic comes out of the words I put to the page, but I can say that I feel that magic as I’m telling the story. And I love that part. But all of that magic disappears as soon as I move from the page and onto the selling aspects of writing. It’s disappointing, but I have a feeling that’s one of the reasons why so few books carry that same magic anymore. Writing’s a business, and as a business, there’s much more thought on whether a book can be mass-marketed, than if it is a great piece of art.
And that’s where my battle comes in. I’ve spent so much of my time trying to come up with the magic of storytelling (once again not claiming I have succeeded) that I don’t always remember the selling part. The professional part.
I’m working on that, but it’s a difficult piece to put together. A well-written book shows the personality of the author, but sometimes that personality really can’t be mass-marketed. So, a great writer today needs to be able to hide their personality under the glorious sheen of what people will buy. And that’s where the real art of writing comes in nowadays.