Creative Artists versus Created Artists

Right off the bat, I’d like to credit the talented Lionel Ritchie with inspiring this post. During his acceptance speech as he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last fall, he discussed the difference between being a creative artist and being a created artist. He shared how many of his colleagues discouraged him from releasing certain music because they were a departure from his genre. Then, when the songs exploded into mega-hits, those same associates pushed him to do a similar song. Naturally, that prompted him to do the exact opposite!

Even if we’re not an artist of his magnitude, we all face the predicament of others giving us input about our work. There’s nothing wrong in taking it, either, if it aligns with where we see our path headed. As I’ve mentioned before, my mystery series developed after my writing coach nudged me to compose a sequel to the first book. She also coaxed me into Wrong Line, Right Connection…though it took a decade to convince me. Both projects have brought me immense joy and fulfillment, and I don’t regret taking her advice for a second.

Still, even those who know us best may not always steer us in the right direction, and we have to politely pass on a suggestion from time to time. I typically just offer a noncommittal giggle unless the tip is presented in a way that merits a more serious response. Regardless, we don’t need to feel ashamed when we make such a call, as it’s a sign of being in tune with your individual style.

Well-intentioned friends and mentors often give you the first taste of maneuvering your creative decisions, but the pressure doesn’t end with them. Especially at the start of your career, open calls for submission tempt you to your core because you just want to get your foot in the door. I don’t recall many details, but somewhere along my quest for my first publisher, a company had a request out for westerns. For a fleeting moment, my desperate mind supposed, “I don’t write westerns, but maybe I could,” until common sense lassoed me. Perhaps some would argue that you need to take any chance extended to you like actors who make their debut in commercials for digestive supplements, and I respect that outlook. At the same time, though, I think you’re better off putting forth whatever helps you shine rather than submit inferior work that could leave a bad impression.

Pressure can also sneak up on you if you haven’t obtained the level of success you wanted to. You might observe the subjects or styles others employ and wonder, “If I began writing like that, would I make the best-sellers list?” While it can be good to learn and evolve, you really need to evaluate your definition of success. If it is to reach new heights of fame, you might consider trying the mainstream thing. If you want to leave your own imprint on the literary world—regardless of whatever size it may be—you’re best off sticking with your personal style and creative choices.

Artists come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and we’re all inspired by different things. Sometimes, we might need a nudge about our next project, and if we listen to advice, that’s okay. Just the same, we may choose to take the input and do the exact opposite because it’s not on point with where we want to go in our career. No matter what, the important thing is having passion for whatever you opt to create. Your passion will translate to your audience and showcase your authenticity.  

Also See

Can You Read My Voice

Who Governs Your Genre?

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