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Thread: Really Bad News for Aspiring Writers

  1. #46
    destoyer tylerdf's Avatar
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    This is the same reason that the radio blares idiotic garbage while real music lives in dive bars and underground venues. The masses need uninspired nonsense to fill their minds and allow them to live without thought.
    This truth transcends all mediums (Hunger Games, Nickelback, Twilight, FoxNews).
    If you want to become commercially successful creating something, know with a grim certainty that you will have to compromise your art. If you want to stay true to your passion, know that your chances of commercial success are slim to none.

  2. #47
    www.markbastable.co.uk MarkBastable's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tylerdf View Post
    If you want to become commercially successful creating something, know with a grim certainty that you will have to compromise your art.
    Depends on your art. I don't think the Beatles compromised much. After about 1966 they didn't compromise at all. But they were pretty commercial.
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  3. #48
    riding a cosmic vortex MystyrMystyry's Avatar
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    A good point to be made Mark

    There's nothing wrong with being commercial provided the art improves. I've read the unreadable fiction, heard the unlistenable music in dive bars, seen the uncompromising art.

    Very occasionally, for something different, it has its place. But not all the time.

    There is a good reason why some things become popular and other things don't - ugly is really easy to get sick of.

    And if an ugly story becomes popular it's most likely that it has other redeeming qualities and isn't actually as ugly as it could have been.

    Alex and his three droogs would just be any thugs at any train station anywhere if it wasn't for the writing style and that to make his point Burgess gave Alex a brain and a (misguided) taste for classical music and art. It's not a particularly easy read, not least for the subject matter - and its success may have had more to do with the movie's easier accessibility and the director's fame and style.

    But it should also be remembered that Burgess himself disowned the novel and Kubrick later regretted ever filming it.

    So many examples of things that perhaps shouldn't have become popular but doing so, that I guess a form of comfortable familiarity takes hold. Perhaps humans just naturally seek out the shallow? But that doesn't account for the good stuff with resonant depth which deservedly takes off.

    I suspect that a lot of stuff to skyrocket into the bestseller and blockbuster lists (later) surprises the authors. Realising they've more or less accidentally stumbled on a successful style which didn't take a zillion rewrites and reworkings over thirty years with feedback from a team of specialist academics, but was hacked together over a spare weekend from a few bits and pieces with a vague hope it might cover the months utility bills - and suddenly it's the must read book of the Summer everyone seems to be yacking about and wanting you on their television program - woo!

    Bashing popular stuff that isn't to your particular taste won't make it go away. Better to try to create popular that is to people's taste - even better if you actually have something to say (and it doesn't really matter what, it seems), or create for own pleasure and satisfaction.

    Looking at the Beatles again: sales of their records at the the height of their popularity in 1970 when it was impossible to not know who they were, indicate that across Britain 1 percent of households must have owned at least one (note: not 99 percent) - more likely it was 1 in two hundred with two records or 1 in three hundred with three etc - far from the close to universal popularity they have today.

  4. #49
    riding a cosmic vortex MystyrMystyry's Avatar
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    I was just brewing my morning cuppa when it suddenly dawned on me that I don't actually have any stats on the sheet music sales (which were probably huge), on how many times the songs were played and requested on radio (again), or the rampant piracy to cassette tape that undoubtedly occurred.

    So yeah - pretty enormous popularity whichever way you look at it.

  5. #50
    www.markbastable.co.uk MarkBastable's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MystyrMystyry View Post
    Looking at the Beatles again: sales of their records at the the height of their popularity in 1970 when it was impossible to not know who they were, indicate that across Britain 1 percent of households must have owned at least one (note: not 99 percent) - more likely it was 1 in two hundred with two records or 1 in three hundred with three etc - far from the close to universal popularity they have today.
    That only means anything in terms of their market - the area in which they were intended to be commercial.

    If the Stones or Englebert Humperdink or the Tijuana Brass were hitting, say, one in four hundred households, then the Beatles were not only a commercial success, they were a commercial phenomenon.

    At that time, they had sold more records than practically anyone ever. That's commercial success, however you cut it.

    But if you want to do it in terms of percentage of penetration, then you have to have some measure of what success is - so, who was producing anything at the time - music, novels, paintings - that were in more households than the Beatles? What, in other words, could be considered a success, if not that level of uptake?

    I'll tell you, if I wrote a book that was on one in a hundred bedside tables, I'd be pretty pleased with myself, artistically and commercially.
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  6. #51
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    No offense, guys, but what does Beatles' music have to do with aspiring writers?

  7. #52
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    It is a great example of keeping artistic integrity while being pop/commercial, which is an obvious path to some writers to find room in big publishing house: write according the market.

  8. #53
    Registered User Jassy Melson's Avatar
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    A serious writer will write regardless of the benefits or lack thereof. I have been a serious writer for more than forty years. I found that to make a living and stay somewhat close to writing it was necessary to work as a journalist for more than thirty-five years. It never bothered me that I wasn't able to make a living from writing fiction. I worked as a newspaper writer to make money to live as I continued to write serious things. I actually sold some work, and had a number of things published. Did I blame anyone or anything on the fact that it's virtually impossible (unless you're Stephen King or Rowling or Tom Wolfe) to make a living from writing fiction? No, I did not. It's just the way things are. I don't think it's getting much worse. Times have always been hard for serious writers.
    Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist.

    Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. - Albert Einstein

  9. #54
    www.markbastable.co.uk MarkBastable's Avatar
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    If you're not happy with the Beatles as an example of achieving commercial success without compromising artistic intent, then let's use Dickens or Wodehouse as examples.
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  10. #55
    Registered User Jassy Melson's Avatar
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    On Serious Writing and the Serious Writer

    I want to expand an earlier post I made on the serious writer.

    What do I mean by serious writing? I mean writing that goes beyond self-expression and self-analysis and tries to find some meaning in this life and/or time. (I do not exclude science fiction or horror or erotic writing.)

    No one told me to become a serious writer. No one forced me to seriously write. It was a choice I freely made.

    I learned that if I wanted to be serious about writing, nothing else would matter very much. (It was nice to occasionally receive payment for writing and to be published. But it didn't change anything. I continued to seriously write.)

    I have been a serious writer for more than forty years. I have received rewards for writing, and payment. But I found it impossible to make a living from serious writing. So I chose a profession wherein I could stay as close to writing as possible. I became a newspaper writer and a journalist. The rewards were there. I had things published that were serious and rose above the mundane. And I was making a living at the same time.

    I worked as a journalist for more than thirty-five years. Sometimes I enjoyed it, sometimes I didn't, because I found it expedient to occasionally write silly "realistic and newsworthy" articles about mundane subjects--which newspapers and the publishing business in general thrives on.

    But all this time, I stayed a serious writer, and I wrote a lot of fiction. I didn't change, and neither did the publishing business. It continued to cater to what it thought the public wanted. It still does this, and it always will because that's the way publishing works.

    I finally retired, having worked long enough to collect social security and a monthly disability payment which I won't go in to. It's enough to give me a satisfactory life (my wants and desires are few and I live frugally) and time to seriously write what I want. I am sixty-five, and if I'm lucky I will live twenty, even twenty-five years more. I can and will write a lot of fiction in that time. I average a fictional work about every month. So I should be able--if I live long enough--to write more than two hundred works of fiction (or nonfiction or whatever I want).

    In all this time--forty years--I never blamed anyone or anything for my decision to become a serious writer or that the rewards would be relatively few and far between. I knew in my heart and soul that what I wrote was serious and good (yes, good, because one doesn't practice a craft for more than forty years without becoming good at it--unless one is an idiot).

    I will continue to seriously write till the day I die because I chose that path more than forty years ago, and I haven't deviated from that path, and I know I never will.

    The rewards (including payment and being published) do not really matter. They are nice when they come, but they are not why I seriously write.

    I want to leave something behind that is serious and good and tries to find and communicate some meaning in an indifferent universe.
    Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist.

    Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. - Albert Einstein

  11. #56
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    That's really sad.

  12. #57
    Registered User manuscript's Avatar
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    "To be an artist you have to give up everything, including the desire to be a good artist." - Jasper Johns

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