Sunday, April 1, 2012

Willa Cather: Never Compromise

From Willa Cather, "On the Art of Fiction" (1920):

"A good workman can't be a cheap workman; he can't be stingy about wasting material, and he cannot compromise. Writing ought either to be the manufacture of stories for which there is a market demand--a business as safe and commendable as making soap or breakfast foods--or it should be an art, which is always a search for something for which there is no market demand, something new and untried, where the values are intrinsic and have nothing to do with standardized values."

Anyone up for a good discussion? Are Cather's words true in 2012, when market demand so heavily dictates what gets published? How does her distinction apply to a genre like historical fiction? Comment away! (Thanks to WritingSense for bringing this passage to my attention.)


elena maria vidal said...

I totally agree with her!

Julianne Douglas said...

I do, too, Elena, especially the words about the artist not compromising. It's easy for an author, especially an unpublished one, to start thinking, "If I do it THIS way, I'll have a better chance of selling," or "Editors only want THIS, so I'll ignore that topic I'm dying to write about." They wind up limiting, if not betraying, their own artistic vision and leaving unwritten books that might be important both to their own growth and to future audiences.