Those who practice the other Fine Arts all have long traditions as independent artists who are free to produce, promote and sell their own works. Authors, on the other hand, despite their being Artists, have traditionally been shackled to the pursuit of approval from others, in order to publish their works of Art.
The practice of seeking agents and contracts from publishers grants control over artistic output and income that other artists would not tolerate. But it is authors who provide publishers with their means of making a living, by hiring them to be the middlemen between the producer and the consumer (hiring an agent merely adds another middleman), an approach that dates back to when few could afford to own and operate a printing press.
Personally affordable computer technology has nullified that anachronistic hegemony, but even in the age of the Indie Author-Publisher, too many writing Artists are willing to concede to the demands of retailers who insist on selling books as if they were baskets. Authors are expected to allow their works of Art to be used by retailers as “loss leaders,” by offering their work for a pittance or free of charge – and it is authors who are forced to carry the loss.
The revolution in publishing affords writers a golden opportunity to take back our Art from the vested interests in publishing and sales who have misappropriated and mislabeled it as a Craft commodity, for which, if we manufacture it “right,” they will deign to reward us, in their own good time, and at the level of income they deem that we deserve.
Writing is an Art, not a Craft.
The purpose of Art is communication, which is intangible, and the appreciation of which is subjective. The purpose of a Craft is to produce a tangible object, which serves a specific purpose, and can be evaluated objectively on its potential and actual function.
The techniques for making a craft can be learned by anyone with an intact nervous system, the necessary limbs and digits, sufficient dexterity, and the right tools and materials. The craft worker can then set up a stall in the market and be reasonably sure to find buyers for everything the worker has made. There will always be someone out there who needs a new cap, cup or coffin, and who will pay to own it.
The production and selling of art is different. Everyone with an intact nervous system, the necessary organs, a message and the means to communicate it can learn to do so; nevertheless, not every artist who writes, paints, sculpts, acts, sings or plays a musical instrument can be sure that the message in the writing, picture, statue, performance or music will find a receptive patron who will pay for it. An artist may be very effective at communicating “red,” but if the current style is “blue,” or the market is located in a community of persons who have red-green color blindness, no one will pay to own the artist’s work.
At this time, a manual worker who masters a tangible craft will enjoy success. But an artist who masters the intangible art of writing may never enjoy success as a great storyteller, bestselling novelist or award-winning author.
Communication principles govern Art.
Writing style gurus and publishing gatekeepers insist that our success as authors is all up to our following their craft-based rules. But until we can stop accepting the inappropriate imposition of tangible craft rules on our intangible art, we’re going to be miserable, and we’re not going to make any headway towards achieving success (however each of us may define it).
The principles of effective written communication are relatively few and simple:
Sufficient correct punctuation for signage on the path to meaning.
Understanding of literary conventions.
Love for language and loyalty to its complete lexicon.
Writing by inspiration, rather than controlling the performance of the tale.
I call these The 7 Reasonable Rules of Writing. By internalizing and following these fundamental rules, writers can confidently produce and present to the world books that are worth reading: those which clearly communicate universal truths in the kind of enlightened entertainment that should characterize a work of Art.
As technology frees Indie Authors from bondage, our concomitant task is to communicate that it is we, the artists who create with words (and not the gurus and gatekeepers in publishing and sales), who have the right and responsibility to help the reading world achieve the self-actualization that gives meaning to the work of living.
Writers, their inspiration and motivation suffer, because Art and Craft have been confounded. A craft can be carried in a basket. Art must be carried in the heart.
Writers! Take our Art out of the Craft basket: Communicate!
* Adapted from the motion picture Cool Hand Luke.