corporate-sellout (Hack Writer)

“The Definition of A Hack”

This is the title of a chapter from Steven Pressfield’s book “The War Of Art.”

What a great read!!

This book very bluntly defines and puts into perspective the many trials and tribulations one must face when discovering and achieving their true path in life.  The book focuses on our muses and the resistances we face while trying to let them commune with us, but the concepts very much transcend art and can be applied to human nature and every day life.  The following passage stood out to me  because as a self proclaimed mercenary writer/producer, I’m constantly trying to express myself while keeping my work relevant to others.  I know my peers can relate.

“I learned this from Robert McKee. A hack, he says, is a writer who
second-guesses his audience. When the hack sits down to work, he
doesn’t ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market
is looking for.
The hack condescends to his audience. He thinks he’s superior to them.
The truth is, he’s scared to death of them or, more accurately, scared
of being authentic in front of them, scared of writing what he really
feels or believes, what he himself thinks is interesting. He’s afraid
it won’t sell. So he tries to anticipate what the market (a telling
word) wants, then gives it to them.
In other words, the hack writes hierarchically. He writes what he
imagines will play well in the eyes of others. He does not ask
himself, What do I myself want to write? What do I think is important?
Instead he asks, What’s hot, what can I make a deal for?
The hack is like the politician who consults the polls before he takes
a position. He’s a demagogue. He panders.
It can pay off, being a hack. Given the depraved state of American
culture, a slick dude can make millions being a hack.  But even if you succeed, you lose, because you’ve sold out your Muse, and your Muse is you, the best part of yourself, where your finest and only true work comes from.”

Very interesting.  Is it true?  It certainly has its points.  I think there’s a fine line here that can only be defined by ones self concerning their own work.  I know some VERY talented motherfuckers who are slick as shit making millions giving the people what they want.  They’re smart, strategic and gifted and I applaud that.  I also know that some of their best work has been created in fits of love, fear, heart ache, and goofiness etc. Those songs I believe are honest and became hits because of their true artistic expression of the moment.  So my question is, is it possible to be honest and pure with ones self all the time during the creative process?  If that’s the goal, is it in itself honest?  Or is it contrived?  In my earlier writing sessions, I would say “hey guys, let’s screw everything and JUST WRITE A GOOD SONG.”  The songs ended up sucking because I was lying to myself and everyone in the room. My true intentions were to write a hit for other people.  I had the interests of others on my mind.  My muse, wherever she was saw right through that shit and let me flounder.  And rightfully so.

Check out “War of Art” here