I can make a decent list of reasons documenting why you won’t hold a paperback with my name on the cover. It starts with “I won’t try hard enough” but that’s the one I’ll dust under the rug. I’ll blame it on The System.
Rachel Held Evans wrote an honest and exposing blog today about why Christian bookstores have a chokehold on the Christian publishing industry
. (Musicians – is it true in that genre as well?) Since she’s publishing books by the multiples, she’s experienced it firsthand. And she spoke up not because she’s angry of the outcome of her edits, but because she’s saddened by the effects on the larger Christian subculture.
Unfortunately, fear of fizzling sales keeps books – like the ones still in my head – from ever getting a first shake. Publishers fear the stores won’t carry it, so they don’t even take on the author to see what comes to fruition. Granted, this situation is true of the larger publishing industry. However, in the Christian subculture, the Few speak for the Many and what we get is a very whitewashed, sanitized version of the Story.
What makes me most sad has little to do with the millions that could await had I the gumption to pen something worthwhile. No, I’m saddened by how much art we may miss. We live in such an atmosphere of commoditization and industrialization where it seems an original no longer exists. Every time we turn a corner we face another fake version of something that started good but became whittled down so that it’s easy to replicate.
But art doesn’t exist to be replicated. It inspires. It pushes you along to sing your own song, tell your own story, show the world your own view. Not because your view is better than any other, but because it contributes to a greater understanding of the world. Without it, we’d never see such a perspective. We need those telling us The Story in ways we’ve not heard before. Art challenges us to understand better, to empathize more, to get out of our own comforts and engage.
Rachel, as one of the first voices, said she didn’t have much to offer in terms of solution, but by reading through the comments we begin to hear themes of how we might change the tide. Here are a few of my own, and I’d love to hear more.
1. Remember the power you carry in your own pocket: a pen and a dollar. How you wield them will over time shape consequences.
2. Buy local. Privatized shop owners answer to the consumer, not to the Corporate Office. Could you often encounter slightly higher prices (or, related, miss those “40% off” sales)? Perhaps. But your dollar will empower that shop owner not just to stay in business, but to carry titles and works that LifeWay shy from. That private seller, in turn, is employing artists and encouraging them to keep at their work.
3. Buy art from artists. I struggle here! I really want unique art, preferably photography, on my living room wall. But I get trigger shy when I need to get out the checkbook. Confession: I have a friend with amazing images from living across the country and he even followed through and sent a few to me! Clearly I need to run to LifeWay to buy a book on accountability partners and make this happen. Related: I need to be better at employing my favorite photographers instead of running off to Target for the “free sitting fee.” Fortunately I’ve been enough of a failure at momming this year that we didn’t even make it to target, so I can switch the guilt from one column to the other.
4. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Another of my favorite bloggers
said recently, “more conversional memoirs should contain the occasional f-word.” If you’re sensitive to the tragedies of a fallen world, perhaps this is an area where art can help you engage and understand as opposed to perpetuating a false idea that everything is okay if we airbrush the surface. And airbrushing is known to happen even when subtitles use the word “messy.”
5. Tell your story. My husband, mother and friends can each tell you how my creative juices generally only flow through words. The walls to my house remain white, I wear mostly black (in a non-goth way) and choose fixtures and shoes based on price and comfort. I simply don’t have an artistic eye. But I envy those who do! My cousin LBW uses her wardrobe as a canvass. My B-I-L strings the world together in melodies. KLR grows veggies. A quick glance at Pinterest and we find women who color the world through food, accessories and outdoor lawn furniture. Whatever your avenue, please keep creating. I need you – and not just because my house is lame. I need shown the ways of seeing the world with color and expression, not just typeface.
6. Kiss an art teacher. Encourage them, ask if you can buy some supplies they’ve been pining (and pinning!) to use in a project. Fight for the arts to be more than a peripheral part of education. Because our society needs less mass-merchandising and more creative solutions. And who will come up with them if all we’re taught are the step-by-step instructions? The artistic mind says, “let’s see what we can do with this!” and one-ups the suggested outcome. Give me – and my kids – more of that.
7. As I just heard today while singing along to the Rent soundtrack, “the opposite of war isn’t peace – it’s creation!” Don’t assume that tranquility is the place to be. Genesis 1 tells us that over the chaos, God hovered. It’s out of that mess that God created and ordered. Before you create a reading nook, you have to clean out a closet, and this is true of both pinterest
goals and life. Embrace the messy and seek to look at it with fresh eyes. Don’t aim for nothingness. Aim for newness. That’s the Story I wake to each morning and I’m hoping to tell each day.