Art, Commerce, and Respect

When I write ‘art vs commerce’, I suspect you have already taken a side. 

via GIPHY Nicholas Nickleby. Dir. Douglas McGrath. Perf. Nathan Lane and Barry Humphries. United Artists. 2002.

Perhaps you hold art on a pedestal. I mean, great works by brilliant thinkers that stand the test of time, that deserves respect. Wouldn’t it be a privilege to be counted among those called ‘Artist’? Certainly creating a Work of Art is more difficult than spitting out some trash that appeals to the masses.

Or maybe you are in the camp admiring popular success? Millions in book sales also means the attention of millions of people. A platform to share ideas, emotions and create community with your fellow humans is absolutely a worthy goal. Certainly creating something appealing is more difficult than creating some elitist puzzle that no one can understand. 

The problem is that we feel we need to chose. That by respecting ‘Art’ we must distance ourselves from mere commercial success. And by pursuing a large audience and accessability, we are somehow thumbing our noses at the artistic gate keepers. The real truth of the matter is that every single act of creation deserves some respect. It is a brave act simply to put something out into the world for others to pick apart, boo, or cheer. 

I have had the privilege of talking to aspiring NaNoWriMo winners over the past several weeks as we prepare to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

In each meeting in one way or another the topic of art vs. commerce has come up. As new writers we are still shifting gears from being consumers of writing to creators of writing. All of us are wary of advice we receive, wondering if people are trying to steer us away from our own definition of success. 

We push back by asking questions: Is it possible to create a work of art in a month? Do you really plan or outline a work of art? Do you listen to the crowd or follow your gut? (Answers: Yes. Many do. Both.)

No matter how you define success – be it artistic or popular – the truth of the matter is that learning and creating are admirable, challenging, and worthy of respect.