Written by Sarah Yoon
Sometimes I critique books as I read. Though some prose surprises me with its artistry and rhetoric, other styles snag. My mind has been trained to edit and critique, so nit picking has become involuntary and even burdensome. When I pick the book up again, I rebel against my education and force my brain to shut down. The gears slow; I can finally enjoy the story.
I’m not the only one with this problem, I know. Recently a friend’s child announced that she wanted to be a chocolate taster when she grew up. One wise adult quickly discouraged her, saying that she wouldn’t like chocolate as much if she became a chocolate taster. However, isn’t that the risk you take when turning a treasured hobby into a business? Artists pour their souls on canvases only to sell them off. Composers can never listen to music the same way again. Writers impose their critique training on poor, defenseless books.
How can you enjoy your craft after it goes commercial? When grocery money and rent become a driving factor, how do you keep telling honest, heartfelt stories with your words, notes and brushstrokes?
It’s Okay to Care about Money
Money is necessary. It’s okay. Even though some may scoff, don’t be afraid of letting your art become your career. I once heard commissioned art jokingly referred to as prostitution. I felt sick at the very thought—do artists really judge each other so harshly? This elitist view hinders you from breaking out of the ‘starving artist’ stereotype. Art is a very personal form of self-expression, but it is also a legitimate form of business—a specialized skill that many can’t even hope to attain. It is okay to make a gainful career out of your work. It is okay to bend your artistic skills at someone else’s request.
Balance Personal and Commercial
Though isolating yourself and refusing to share your personal skills is detrimental, compromising quality is also a dangerous pitfall in the commercial realm. As a freelance or full-time artist, you’ll need to draw, write or compose upon request. It may feel invasive, but it’s healthy to welcome people into your process. This collaboration can lead to aesthetic growth and exploration. But it can also lower the quality of your work. While compromise is unavoidable, it shouldn’t lead to products that you’re embarrassed of. On the tightrope between the two extremes, take a few steps. Adjust slowly and find your balance. As Rebecca Edwards shares, you can be both authentic and marketable.
Keep the Spark Alive
In any long-term relationship, infatuation is replaced by the daily grind. After a decade of chocolate tasting, the initial spark of your love affair may fade. To enjoy the cocoa’s richness—or your art’s beauty—you need to mix things up. Try something new. Experiment with mediums, colors, sounds, etc. Become an inventor. Tell the stories that your heart longs to tell and spend time with artists like yourself.
When I shut my brain off to read snag-worthy books, I am quickly reminded why I write. Even though I personally find the verbs to be awkward, the heart of the novel is worth experiencing. As I fall in love with the story, I stop critiquing and fall back in love with the craft. The key to keeping the spark alive is remembering why you started in the first place.