Joseph Campbell once said, (paraphrasing) The Grail Knights never entered the forest at the same point, but always found their own way in.  Because the moment you take the path already cut, you are on someone else's path, and you should already know that the Grail is not there.

He means YOUR Grail.  As an artist, your work, and your journey to create it, IS your search for the sacred.

I just just read a great post last night - for any author or artist - over on the blog of Kristine Kathryn Rusch (linked below).  

There's a great quote from Adam Levine of Maroon 5 in her piece that illustrates the possibilities of the new digital world for artists of all stripes.

Levine said, “ The diversity in people’s tastes now is so much cooler. Everyone is saying MP3s and the Internet have ruined the music business—and it’s sad there are no record stores—but music is just so present now in the culture. More than it’s ever been. That’s a result of the [technological] advancements we’ve made. I’m such a huge fan of where music is right now.”

Rusch also explores runs-ins with gatekeepers of various kinds, and  how the new reality of the digital world frees you to bypass them, if you’ve got the guts.

It reminded me of a column I wrote last year about the same thing, and what the new freedom for writers might mean for books.  From my earlier post…

None shall pass!

But the new development in publishing might just be the most radical of the big three.  A very short time ago, books were very expensive to print and very difficult to distribute.  The gatekeepers were firmly entrenched in a New York based business that had a strangle hold on the magic elixir (Distribution).

But then something happened.  Amazon’s experiment with electronic books, the “Kindle,” worked.  People liked it.  They told their friends and bought more.  Other companies with internet presences followed suit with their own ereaders.

And now, quite suddenly, books are not expensive to produce.  And distribution is readily available for an after market cut of the profits.  That is to say, there is no distribution cost to the manufacturer (the writer).

Imagine that you have been guarding the same bridge for one hundred years, then the water in the river suddenly drains and there is no need for your bridge.

“Oh my God,” some of you might say, “I LIVE on the other side of that bridge!  Doesn’t this mean that there will be a flood of crap writing from every wannabe poet and novelist who couldn’t get by the Gatekeepers?”

I’ve got two answers for that.

First, in 1977 there was a movie that was even better than Stars Wars.  But even Alan Ladd Jr. wasn’t interested.  So I never saw it.  You never saw it.  Nobody will ever see it because it doesn’t exist. (I'm obviously just joking to make a point here because, as everybody knows, there has never been a movie better than Star Wars).

And second, Yes. Yes, of course there will be tons of crap.  But unless there is something terribly wrong with you, you ought to be able to recognize and easily side step crap.

But keep your eyes open because there will be a lot of other things coming as well.

There will be beautifully written stories in which nobody but the teller had a say in how much or how little sex and violence “needed” to be in it or not in it.  Or in how long or short a book must be in order to save on printing costs.  Or in who lives and dies in the end.  Or in how many sentence fragments can be strung together with artistic license in order to make a point about artistic license... (see what I did there?).

There will be concepts that are so different from whatever was successful last year that they will shock and delight you.  Rules will be broken for worse or for better. And readers who are not gatekeepers will find that there are books out there written, it will seem, just for them.

And new things that work, new things that are good, new things that may surprise and delight, will be picked up by those for whom they were intended.  Word will spread to others who like the same things, and before you know it, somewhere within the millions of diverse minds, tastes, and interests that exist in cyberspace, audiences will come together.  Perhaps so small that they are barely a blip on the world wide web, but easily large enough for writers they enjoy, to write for.

Find the rest of my post here - GOT BOOKS?

Stumbling over Rusch’s post last night was uncanny because I was JUST having the same conversation over dinner with my wife.  We were discussing how my goal as a novelist  is to write “unexpected.”  How high-concept themes and stories don’t have to be delivered exactly as they’ve been seen before…

From Rusch’s article - But those things forced me into a series of ever smaller boxes, the idea that I should write only certain things, even though I wanted—and was capable of—writing several other kinds of things. To make matters worse, many of those boxes formed because other opportunities died because of someone else’s incompetence, or simple dumb luck. It wasn’t because I was best at the things I ended up doing; it was because those were the things that had had better breaks.

It all seemed random, and that made it even more frustrating...
And then there was the changing role of advisors.

Somewhere along the way the advisors felt they should control my career rather than allowing me to control it. All of this was before 2007, and since then things have only gotten worse.

Only instead of saying “Out! All of you!” to advisors like that, most writers embrace the criticism or the snide comments, and try to shove themselves into the tiny boxes, not realizing that they’re destroying the one thing that makes them unique.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s article is well worth the read.  And it’s right HERE…

Over dinner last night…

It was exactly like this... wife and I spoke about how my belief that my voice will resonate has been the driving force.  And how I can’t wait to work every day, and get deeper and deeper out there in this new water.

The point is, the sudden ability to bypass gatekeepers was never a green light to produce trash.

It is an invitation to dare to be great.

1 comment:

  1. Another excellent post, Stephen. How many great individual voices have been discovered over the years IN SPITE of the gatekeepers. The paths are all opening up...and we need only to trudge, or walk, or run! Thanks for provoking more thoughts! :-)