Originally Posted by mrthejazz
From a fiction writer's point of view, it seems he is saying to be Stephen King over a Herman Melville. I'm not sure I agree. Melville made little money and died thinking he was a failure. Years later, his work Moby Dick was widely received as a great work of literary art. He was literally a starving artist. King, on the other hand, is a great writer who knows his market and knows how to craft the kinds of page-turners that people are addicted to.
It's true that taking the King path will get you money, but what if you care more about your contribution to society? What if that true gem just waiting inside you that you have to write turns out to be initially hated by the rest of the world? What if you just write organically instead of trying to find a target audience all the time? What comes of the story then?
Of course, realistically you don't want to cut off your own legs. A starving artist can't generate much art, but given the stupidity of our society right now, I wouldn't put it past them to "not get" most intelligent writing in the world. Twilight may have sold a crapload of copies, but that to me isn't a measure of how skilled or artistic the writer is. It's a measure of how well she knows her target audience. Sometimes the public needs to see controversial material. Sometimes the public needs to be exposed to things they don't like or don't want to hear, and to ignore that because you want to make more money off your art is in my opinion irresponsible.
Perhaps a better option is to just have a day job or alternate source of income, that way you won't feel the pressure to taint your work just to satisfy people who don't necessarily understand what you are trying to do or who aren't necessarily in your corner.
The way I read it was that Steve was suggesting that you follow your heart but do so sometimes with an eye toward market acceptance. If, from time to time, you really feel the need to write something, write it. Maybe it'll hit, maybe it'll be a posthumous success, maybe it'll die in a pile of bits in the cloud.
I think there is a difference between selling out, say to write pulp fiction that you don't love, and finding a market. As writers don't we have different voices we can apply? Don't we have more than one book idea in our mind? Can't we write in a style accessible to an audience? Of course.
The other thing Steve was saying is that we need to hone our craft. Whatever our art, we need skill within our craft. If you want to succeed (have others value your work), you need to provide something of value. That doesn't mean pandering but it does mean high quality work. You have to put in the hours to develop the skill. The greater the skill, the greater the potential success.
One of those skills should be some marketing sense. If your only focus is on the art and you want others to value your work, then you aren't doing your best if you don't become more well-rounded and grow in both the depth of your art and the breadth of your abilities.
Look at Steve. Here's a guy who is constantly pushing his boundaries further out. Now it's music, before it was his sexuality. Before he started his blog, he had already worked to develop his business, computer, social networking, and writing abilities. Without all of these, say only good writing, we wouldn't be here now posting on this forum.
Herman Melville, presumably, was not the best he could be. Had he invested some time to learn the social and marketing skills he needed to succeed, he probably would have done so without having to rely on someone else 'discovering' his writing and marketing it after his death. The same could be said for van Gogh. Great artist, lousy businessman.
Like the Army ad slogan says, "Be all you can be."
Keep in mind that there is no such thing as "good enough" rather successful living comes from a constant expansion of being all you can be. Each day you are more than you were the day before. Yesterday you were all you could be then. What will you choose to be tomorrow? That is the question that you must ask.