Monday, April 12, 2010

What's Better?

I was reading something the other day which said something about one's work, and how if it's instantly popular, it's probably just a fad, something down to good marketing, but if it remains popular, then you have art on your hands. I don't think any of us would only want to be popular now, or only be popular later. We'd want what the latter option is, of being popular now, and maintaining that popularity in the future. I mean, wouldn't we all love to be the next Agatha Christie and be surpassed in sales only by the Bible and William Shakespeare? Sure, some of those sales are people just curious as to why she's so insanely popular, but the sheer volume of sales clearly means she was doing something right (and boy howdy was she ever).

But suppose you had to choose. Suppose, for a minute, you could be like Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight books -- insanely popular now, and likely to experience the occasional moderate resurgence, but no doubt it'll all fade into relative obscurity in a couple of decades. Or you could be like Vincent van Gogh. Indeed, van Gogh wasn't totally unknown throughout his career, but his popularity didn't begin to spread until the last year of his life, and after his death, his works took off. Which would you rather be, rich now or rich later? Famous now or posthumous fame?

Of course, we don't all want to be rich or famous. Rich, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to be. Would I be perfectly happy with less? Certainly. But to have that kind of financial security would be nice. Famous I could do without. But these are just example terms, reiterating a point I've already made. So allow me to repeat myself one more time:

Would you rather reap the rewards now and fade into obscurity in your dying days, or would you rather struggle now and see success in the generations after? No middle ground option. Obese artist or starving artist, those are the only cards on the table.

As for myself, I don't know which one I'd choose. I would like to be the van Gogh, to enjoy some degree of appreciation in my lifetime, but to know people love my work so much they'd keep buying it well after I'm gone. At the same time, like I said just a short while ago, the creature comforts are indeed nice. I guess at the end of the day all we really can do is put ourselves out there and hope for whatever degree of success we can.


  1. I'd settle for just getting published. Oh and making enough money from it to quit my day job.

  2. I would want to reap the rewards now. I would want to see how people reacted to my work. I would want to know if they loved/hated it. It would make me feel legit.

    Who cares if I died in obscurity? I made a difference. Well, if I ever get published. ;-)


  3. Meh, starving artist as long as I can have me the occasional chocolate and at least some people appreciate my work now. :~D