Success, Sanity and Alignment
So I’ve been thinking about this whole publish-a-novel-and-live-happily-ever-after-on-the-interest-from-the-royalties gig and I’ve come up with three Principles of Artistic Wealth and Well-Being.
If getting published and getting paid a meaningful amount is the definition of success, then to be successful, you need to tell people what they want to hear in a way they find entertaining, because that’s what people will pay for and what publishers will “hire” you to do. Hey, it’s business and business is about the buck. No one’s going to pay you big bucks to do something they won’t get even bigger bucks back for selling copies of. That is the Principle of Success.
If staying sane as an artist means getting to do your thing your way, then you need to say what you want to say in the way you want to say it. Creative-celebrity suicides (and other forms of self-destruction engaged in by creative celebrities) are probably at least largely due to the creative artist’s getting locked into a philosophy or style that doesn’t come from within, either from the beginning or down the road as they change and mature but are forced to keep doing what the boss thinks will sell. Be true to yourself, whatever that means at any point. Doing otherwise will destroy you. That is the Principle of Sanity.
How do you bring success and sanity together? Well, you align by submitting what you want to say to people who want to hear it and who find the way you say it entertaining. It’s so obvious you’re probably slapping yourself silly for being so silly all these years, but many deep truths are only obvious once we see them in a plain typeface with everything spelled out nice and slow. In terms of your behaviour, the Principle of Alignment means that you stop sending your manuscripts to the venues (book publishers, magazines, journals, websites) that are big and glitzy and start sending them to the venues that want what you do. This will take research, of course, but what doesn’t? Successful courtships and the marriages that imitate them come from research: targeting the partner who wants what you’ve got and gots what you want, not from chasing the sexiest skirt or trousers. It’s John Nash’s game theory with specialization by mutual suitability. Yeah, a few thousand hacks and a few dozen lucky shape shifters can get their glamour and gold without consulting their inner Phoebus or studying the field, but you and I aren’t hacks or shape shifters. We’re artists. We need the right match.
The Three Principles of Artistic Wealth and Well-Being
Success: Tell people what they want to hear in a way they find entertaining.
Sanity: Say what you want to say in the way you want to say it.
Alignment: Submit what you want to say to people who want to hear it and who find the way you say it entertaining.
(c) 2012 Mark Penny