Monday, December 31, 2007

The Big Question: Art or Commerce?

So, a dear friend of mine posed a question on the BB last week: If a genie granted you one WIP wish, would you rather have your published novel be a commercial blockbuster or a literary classic? How would you choose? (Thanks Franny!)

Difficult question. All my life I've been that idealist who wants nothing less than artistic divinity. But of course, I'm no George Orwell or William Shakespeare, etc., so I have to accept that reality. Sorry, can't suspend my disbelief quite that far. But then again, who says the two things have to be mutually exclusive?

One fellow writer decided commercial success was the one way he could get paid and keep writing what he loves. He further added that he couldn't stand to have his work dissected by scholarly know-it-alls (what? English teachers like me? Naaa!) Of course my brainiac husband pointed out that the world of YA fiction rarely ever registers with the scholarly crowd, and of course I argued otherwise. But he did have a point. Of course JK Rowling has been the subject of plenty of scholarly debate, at least I would call it that. And as far as I'm concerned, she has both in her pocket. The HP saga will find its place in the classic canon, one way or another.

But then, I am the one who wants it all, as foolish as that may be. But I also realize that I have a lot more writing to do before I ever hone it to a point even on the outskirts of art. So what would I choose? The romantic in me wants to live on through my work. Hand me that classic, Mr. Newberry. But the practical part of me has seen poverty up close and would much rather have something for my kids besides potential riches after I'm dead. At least I would like to keep writing and not starve. So what's the answer? I guess I'll have to wait and see what 2008 brings. I have a feeling it's going to be a good year!


  1. Yeah, why not both? Who wants to be a starving artist all his/her life? I wish I could afford to stay home and work exclusively on writing and painting but I can't.

    Still, if I had to choose one, I'd prefer my work to be a literary classic (hah).

    Anyhow, Happy New Year! I wish you a healthy and happy one that brings you publication success.

  2. Maybe I'm kidding myself but I think I can safely say I prefer to write a literary classic. I guess I want my name to be associated with quality. And I'd like to be associated with great writers.

    I need money to live. I want money to continue home improvemements and I'd like to give generously but I don't feel motivated by money.

    Having said that - I hope my books will be successful and I think it is possible to be literary in a way that drives sales!

  3. I remember this BB post and have been pondering it since. Man, I think I'd want my first book to be a blockbuster commercial, and my second to be a lit classic. Is that allowed? :)

    But overall, I think I'd LOVE for my book to stand the test of time.


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