Saturday, May 19, 2012
"Make Good Art"
"The rules, the how-tos, the supposed-to-do-nexts are breaking down. The gatekeepers are leaving their gates. You can be as creative as you need to be to get your work seen." - Neil Giaman, bestselling author, whose commencement speech (video below) should inspire anyone who wants to create.
In my case, it's writing. I get occasional requests from would-be writers who beg for advise on "how to succeed" like I have. I sometimes have to laugh, because my "success" is purely based on failure.
Gaiman's writing included a typo of the name Caroline which led to his innovative story Coroline. He mentions this in his speech about rejection. My first book, PINS, thankfully, was rejected by 56 editors and agents. I was forced to publish it myself, and because of that, I started a small business, learned so much about publishing. The secrets were revealed, and I made a hundred times more on it than if I had received the usual advance in those days.
My latest book, Every Time I Think of You, was a dare to myself, an impulse based on a series of dreams. I didn't follow the standard advise, "write what you know." I wrote what I didn't know at all. I made stuff up. I did real research, of course. But I let the story tell me where to go.
And here I am, two weeks away from taking a cross-country trip to research the book's sequel in Philadelphia, do a reading at the historic Giovanni's Room, and attend an awards ceremony in New York City, because these adorable boys, Reid and Everett, want to continue their journey.
And while it may sound insincere to say that I don't care if I win that award (I'd love to, actually!), I know I've already won. I wrote a book purely on impulse, purely out of the love of telling a story, not second-guessing the market or double-thinking an industry.
"The old rules are crumbling," says Gaiman.
One wonderful example is ceramic artist Dewey Arsee. I doubt anyone told him it was a good idea to make erotic coffee mugs and plates with guys humping and smooching. But he went ahead and made some of the most original, witty and sexy ceramic works I've seen in a long time.
I own one of those mugs, a gift from a friend. It shows two young men in tuxedos having a wank. In a perfectly naughty world, that might be the cover of my second novel, Monkey Suits.
That's a novel a bunch of other editors said wasn't good enough. It wasn't better than PINS. But I didn't care. I wrote it before PINS, and it shows. But I had written it, I wanted to share it, and did.
Have I made good art? Certainly not on the scale of Gaiman, but enough to pay some bills, get some nice reviews, and feel, as I longed to do before I knew how, become a part of the world of literature.
So, the only advice to offer repeats Gaiman's statement. Don't fret about agents and PR and ebooks and all that, until you have made good art.