from C, a friend: “Is asking you to write about faith the same as asking Bill Bryson to write me a guide to my next vacation destination? Is it the same as hooking up with a girl who works as a prostitute? Is this philosophical question really me committing the offense that I am writing about?”
While it is absolutely ridiculous and endearing that C feels a stab of conscience over the idea that he needs to pay me to thoughtfully respond to his emails, it brings up a lot of layered questions about the state of writing. Further, as I continue to doubt that my decision to use ‘blog’ as a verb was a worthwhile endeavor, I can’t help but see his question as a bit metablogical.
Metablog Moment #1: I must, at some level, believe that my writing deserves to be read and compensated, otherwise I wouldn’t have quieted that self-doubting voice long enough to hit the ‘Create Blog’ link.
What makes writing that appears between a cover that’s stamped with letters that spell out things like ‘Norton,’ ‘Penguin,’ and ‘Graywolf’ more fiscally deserving than other writing that seeks to be art? The obvious answer is the years of experience and networking/luck that lies behind that printed outcome, but it also exposes the quirky financial standards of art.
Visual art seems to remain the form that has the potential for the biggest earning for a singular piece. And while there are countless counterarguments (so few artists sell enough to live, the ratio of paid bad artists to paid good artists is ludicrous, etc.) I think it has something to do with its history. Moby Dick, War & Peace, and even Realms of the Unreal may be megatomes, but writers still have no equivalent to the Sistine Chapel. Words are used for everything from commerce to art, so it doesn’t have the immediate reaction that visual art does
Metablog Moment #2: this blog would be heck of a lot more interesting with something more visual, and with much shorter entries.
Also, the use of fickle materials like gold leaf and found shrapnel induce a sense of awe in the viewer a lot faster than a reader realizes the almost impossible complexity in the seemingly simple lines of an early Harold Pinter script. Even if you don’t like found art sculptures (and generally, I could care less for the ones I’ve seen), you can’t help but grasp the level of difficulty in bending steel.
Of course, the answer to all of this should be: if it’s your art and you believe in it, then who says you need money to validate it? That’s fine, especially if your Emily Dickinson or J.D. Salinger* . But, at this point, I’ve been paid far more money for filing results of urine tests at a temp job than my writing.
Metablog Moment #3: this could all change if this ever gets a few of those breakdancing housewives on this side of the screen, saying that now is a great time for refinancing a mortgage.
*though, I’d argue that of course Salinger cared about money, in its role as a symbol of success, and that his decision to not have his work published until he was dead seems awfully presumptuous. I love Franny & Zooey, but is there any bigger act of artistic hubris than to say, “You think I’m smart now? Just wait ’til I’m dead!