If we were going to identify a single artist’s call to action, the decree sent across the genres to creators around the world, it would probably be to create what you know, create what you love.
After all, there are MOVIES about the creativity of the great ones, the way they pushed back against the expectations of society and won. So in our studios and offices, we write and paint and sculpt and design the things that elicit excitement, that embody our passion.
But we forget that the point of movies is to make money, that based on a true story is a a step above “Once upon a time” in believe-ability, and that it is utterly impossible to tell a single life in 2-2 1/2 hours.
I’ve been hanging out with creatives for a long time. I’ve been rubbing shoulders with them, listening to them, encouraging them, learning from them, and in EVERY SINGLE CIRCUMSTANCE, the creative who saw their dream advance did one very important thing:
They changed their creation.
I realize this might be heresy to say, that it goes against everything we as artists want to hear. But the reality is no one got to a place of success without changing things about them, what they were working on, etc.
But how much do we have to change?
Depends on the goal. I know someone who started writing contemporary middle grade, switched to YA historical fantasy and found her niche. I know another who thought she’d write a series of boy focused MG, chased a girl story on a whim and sold it.
For me, that means transitioning away from the light dose of magic I’ve been weaving in my story. My characters get to stay, their problems and arcs and situations get to stay, but the little bit of surrealism that I considered will not stay.
This may feel like selling out, like we are letting “the man” win. But if we think about the way that we have gone through life, it becomes very clear that this is the way of life. Nearly every child goes through a time when they don’t want to shower, and yet most adults do daily. Artistic people don’t want to work with deadlines, don’t want to rush their process, but being able to pay the bills, to have their work known, well, it makes the deadlines happen.
And yes, you could just run out and self-publish your work, but even the people who I know who have had success with this take the pieces of information suggested by readers and editors along the way, have their period of mourning, re-examine the suggestions, and generally accept most of them. The story can stay true to itself, just as a the child is still a child, but it’s cleaned up, people friendly, and, when we are ready to be honest with ourselves, better.
Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and high school English teacher in Southern Utah. She writes contemporary women’s fiction. Her loves include Diet Coke, owls, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly magazine, where she also serves as a board member.