The art and craft of writing seems to reside in different parts of the brain: the art for art’s sake side and the practical side. Now, I realize there is an enormous branch of philosophy dedicated to the deconstruction of binaries oppositions, but for the sake of simplicity I’m going with the model I know. The devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, the yin and yang, the two voices inside my head when I write. One, a wandering sensualist; the other, a strict disciplinarian with an eye on the bottom line. Both are essential to the creative process, at least if you want to achieve a certain level of success and I do. And although I certainly enjoy hanging out more with the former, I’ve grown to respect the latter. But it’s important to put both of them in their proper place.
I’m guessing that most of us writers spend our time in front of a computer working a little, playing a little (sometimes a little too much). Even the great George R.R. Martin admitted to Stephen King he was guilty of internet distractions, which is probably while we’re all still waiting for that damn book! When I need a break, I have my go-to guys, BookTubers usually (Peter Likes Books whom I loved even before he loved my book, Grumpy Andrew, and the Bald Book Geek) and, of course, the “writing gurus” I stream for advice and inspiration. I’ve noticed that lately I’ve been gravitating toward two very different content creators: both offering opinions on the creative process from two diametrically opposed points of view.
I’ll begin with my buddy Cy Porter (I’ve never met him, although he’s lives in Philly—Cy, if you read this, hit me up, k?) Cy’s recommendations of “just relax” and “write from the inside out,” spoken with a sweetness that soothes my inner artist like a lullaby, go straight to the heart of passion and craft. His videos include how to add layers of meaning to your writing and why mistakes are to be celebrated. Any creative writer taking the process seriously will glean much from his videos. He offers a lot of content on his page and it’s apparent from the rapturous comment section that he’s touched many creative lives. Cy hasn’t posted for a while—has he left his 98 Twitter followers hanging? I hope he’s pulling a Walden and currently lost in his his art project that he hopes to still be working on at ninety. Cy, I bought your book even though it had zero reviews on Amazon.
The flip side (sorry, I can’t resist those binaries) of the creative coin is one Derek Murphy. Derek’s videos attract many an aspiring writer with the lure of 5K to 50K—while many of us are working on $10 to $100. Derek is cornering the market on author desperation (not to mention young adult mermaid romance), but he’s being very upfront about it, which is admirable.
Cy’s only self-promotion is a shy appeal to check out his obscure art project at the end of each post, where Derek’s slick website with its annoying pop-up landing page (sign my mailing list to make it go away) contains hidden land mines of products all leading back to his pocket. It’s like the old, send away for this pamphlet for $1 and I’ll tell you how to make a million dollars: sell a million of these pamphlets. Wha-wha! Despite writing to market, Derek seems a bit sensitive about being called a hack, taking particular issue with The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I think Derek misses the point; it’s the War of ART, not the art of shameless self promotion. But then again, maybe Derek really is passionate about this teenage mermaid romances. If you liked Twilight, you’ll love…. In Derek’s defense, I’ve already picked up some very useful practical tips without actually buying anything. I think most writers would find value on his site.
It’s easy to relax into the yin of Cy, but I know I need some yang of Derek in my creative life to balance things out. Although neither of them appears to be an Oriental-minded genius (literary quote anyone?), they both, in their own unique ways, give a nod to Zen spirituality, but then, who doesn’t these days?