Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dollar Signs

 Money kills creativity. Money breeds censorship. Money destroys art. Money breeds derivative, "safe" art. 

Once money enters the equation, creativity suffers. Yes, it can offer powerful inspiration, but think about what Rod Serling has to say about "pre-censorship" in this clip:

If a writer is thinking about what is and is not acceptable even before a piece is written, it kills the creative process. Damon Knight offers a very important piece of advice in his seminal Creating Short Fiction. To paraphrase, a writer should never say "no" to his/her subconscious in the creative process. It seems Serling's mention of "pre-censorship" is just that. It hacks creativity at the roots.

And here's a little something from Ira Glass about the time involved to make your art what you want it to be:

Did you catch the part about time (Mr. Glass talks about "years")? It takes time for a creative individual's ability to catch up with her/his taste. It takes time for creativity to really bloom. Money kills that time. Money makes everything urgent. If you need the money, you will do whatever it takes--even cutting corners in a process that just can't be rushed.

Wait, you say. What are you saying? Are you saying writers should write "for the love"? That's an insult, Aaron. Writers should be paid. Didn't you post that video from Harlan Ellison ranting about paying writers? Have you changed your  mind?

No. Absolutely not. But--and this is the important moment, the epiphany--if a creative type does his/her work solely for money, that work is robbed of its potential.  For example, if I write a story solely to try and publish at a specific market because said market pays well, I'm no longer thinking about the story. I'm thinking of the market and of dollar signs, and I might just make some (conscious or unconscious) decisions based on the potential pay day. It's why I have a hard time writing stories to target for specific anthologies. I'd rather write the stories I need to write and then find them homes. It's how I work.

And there's another, more insidious cancer growing here... self-publishing. If it takes time for ability to catch up with taste, it will take time before work is ready for the public. I know mine did--and even upon my earliest publications, some of my stories were not all that good. Read the first page or two of a self-published novel from someone with no other experience or "time" at the craft. Rarely will you find anything I'd call literature. And yes, speculative fiction is literature--it can still be art. It takes time. You can't rush it.

I'm still working. I'm also blessed that now, at this point in my life, I don't need to make money with my creative endeavors. I'm free to let them be the best they can--even if it takes the rest of my life for them to be where I want them to be.

Neil Peart explains in Beyond the Lighted Stage that upon the creation of 2112, Rush decided to do it their way or go home. If the record company pulled out the rug, so be it. They would remain true to their vision.  One of the greatest rock drummers of all time was willing to go work at his family's tractor dealership rather than compromise on his art. I hope all creative types have the time and financial resolve to be so uncompromising.

Hell yes I do.

(And did you see how I worked three of my heroes into one blog post? Well played, Aaron. Well played.)


Barry Napier said...

One pretty huge error in your post, Aaron. Neil Pert is THE greatest rock and roll drummer of all time.

Aaron Polson said...

I agree, Barry, but you know how people like to get silly when you use the words "the greatest" together.

James Everington said...

As you know I've done self-publishing as well as small press - but I have to say I'm glad self-pub wasn't around in my earliest writing days. I might have succumbed & released some right shite.

Good post!