“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” —Virginia Woolf
Virginia obviously didn’t live in the digital age. Today all one needs to write fiction or to create art is a working knowledge of social media, access to an exclusive mentoring group, and a three-step marketing plan—or so you’d think if you took your cues from Instagram.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the digital age and in many ways, I owe my ability to write to it. Had I been born 10 years earlier or 10 years later, I would never have become a writer–at least not a published writer with an faithful readership. Instead, I had the good fortune to begin writing when online conversation was just that: conversation, when blogs and comment sections were still laboratories and studios rather than showrooms and boxing rings.
I started blogging and writing weekly essays back in 2011, and my first book released only three years later in 2014–a remarkably unorthodox amount of time from when I first put fingers to keyboard. Today, only a few years later, I hardly recognize the space that gave me my first opportunities. Were I to attempt the same process in today’s environment, I would likely have to have a mastery of social media, access to the right influencers, and a clear path for getting my message out to have any hope of a book contract or publishing opportunities. And with online space much more crowded than before, I’d have to shout to be heard.
But if you spend all your time shouting, you’ll spend less and less of it writing.
Such are the tensions of trying to create art in the digital age. The same space that leveled the playing field and allowed many of us to work in our creative niches also demands time, attention, and constant accessibility. How are we to do our work in such a context? How can we be faithful to craft while still giving attention to audience? And even more to the point, what if our craft should have remained a hobby all along? These are just some of the questions that we hope to tackle in the fall series of Persuasion, a series we’re calling The Creative Process.
In our first episode, The Creative Life, we tackle the question of whether we really want to create or whether we simply want the lifestyle that we associate with creative people. Are we honestly devoted to craft or are we chasing a lifestyle of financial independence, free expression, and trending glamour? And what are we willing to sacrifice to achieve it? Would we sacrifice our privacy? our homes? our art itself?
Even if you don’t regard yourself as an artist or have never been tempted by the gig economy, we invite you to join us for this important and timely conversation. You likely know and love artists who are trying to make their way through these uncharted waters. And ultimately, the questions we’re asking are questions that all of us need to wrestle with: questions of vocation, skill, and the sacrifices we must make to fulfill callings.