Sunday, June 23, 2013
A few weeks ago, my aunt and I were listening to the radio. A popular song came on by a former American Idol contestant, and she was telling me how she liked the song. I replied, “Yeah, but I wish he wrote his own songs.”
Their main role as singers is to perform, true, but if they’re being called artists, it should be about the art. It seems sad to me that the vast majority of singers don’t even write their own songs. If you’re given a song promised to be a top hit and you sing it without meaning, wouldn’t it feel inauthentic?
I have a heightened respect for those who actually take part in writing their own songs. Even though they evoke the same emotions, there’s a difference. The songwriter actually feels those emotions and has participated in those experiences; they make it real. Although I know you can coax emotions easily, and many people do, wouldn’t it be better to feel the emotions that you’re singing about, to have poured out your thoughts in a song?
As I ranted, my aunt looked at me and said coolly, “People sell out in writing, too.” As she explained it, I saw the truth in her words. If you go traditional, once you get an agent and editor, you’re going to have to make changes, some of which you won’t necessarily like. Maybe your characters need to be less direct . Maybe the moral of the story gets dumbed down. This isn’t always the case, but publishing is a business. And as much as the publishing team wants you to succeed, they also want the book to sell. This is commercial, after all.
Or maybe this isn’t the case. Maybe you hire a ghost-writer because you don’t want to deal with your drafts anymore, and they change the story too much, but then it sells. Maybe your first book goes really well, but when you propose a new idea for the next book, they change it until it isn’t yours. Or maybe when you self-publish, your readers don’t like the plot and urge you to write something that would be easier to read. Or they want the love interest to change to reflect current trends, as opposed to being the strong character you’d created.
Any road you take, it’s not easy. There will always be someone who wants to change who you are, what your book is, as my aunt showed me. Sometimes, it’s easy, too easy to go with that choice, the choice that will make it salable. But don’t sacrifice your story. Of course, it’s easy for me to say that, when I don’t have to make this decision. Maybe I will sacrifice my writing to get published, but as for right now, I’m going to write the best book I can and keep my novel’s message intact. As Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self be true.”