Monday, December 19, 2016

Beauty Out of Context

A popular post from April 2009

By Julie Wright

Several years ago, the Washington Post convinced Joshua Bell, a world acclaimed violinist, to dress in simple jeans and a t-shirt and to take his $4,000,000 Stradivarious down into the subway to play for the masses. The experiment was to see if people recognized great art out of context.

Within 45 minutes, 1097 people passed by the violinist playing his little heart out. Only seven people stopped for any duration of time to actually listen. Joshua Bell is a man who can fetch seat prices of $100.00 for merely adequate seats in a symphony hall and much more for good seats. Joshua Bell is a master. Only 7 people stopped for beauty, recognizing it for what it was.

What has this to do with writing, and more importantly with you?

I recently heard an editor say that they don't normally take middle grade work, but if Neil Gaiman walked in, they would never refuse him simply because his protagonist's were a little young for this imprint. They could say this because they know Neil Gaiman. He's been declared beautiful by literary standards.

But what if he showed up looking like everyone else? What if he came in out of context? What if he came through the slushpile as an unagented author without the Newbery sticker? Would they recognize him for who he was? A few might . . . but I'd bet most wouldn't. (and by the way, I loved The Graveyard Book)

The point is that you may be the next big thing--stamped with the approval of the literary world. Your manuscript may be beautiful, but not recognizable exactly yet. Don't obsess or let it get you down. Joshua Bell stood in the masses and played beauty. Few actually stopped for beauty. It's not to say the music was any less beautiful down there in the subways, but that out of context, it was harder to see, harder to pay attention to as the people scurried about with thier lives. The world just works like that.

Life gets out of balance and the subjective nature of art makes rejection inevitable.

Take a moment to view the entire article as it is beautiful in its own way and deserves to be read:


Curtis said...

Julie, great post. The article was unbelievable, wasn't it? I especially thought the idea that all children are born with a knowledge of poetry because the mother's heartbeat is in iambic meter, was especially distressing. How sad is it that life slowly chokes the poetry out of us? The article was reflective, and your post was inspirational. Nicely done.

LexiconLuvr said...

Wonderful post!

Annette Lyon said...

I remember reading that article. It was fascinating and sad all at once. This was really inspring.

Melanie J said...

What a great way to look at this.

Kimberly said...

What a beautiful, encouraging post Julie!

Heather B. Moore said...

Yes, I remember that violinist story and was amazed. Great thoughts, Julie!

Taffy said...

Thanks for the post!
And it was nice meeting you at the PG library!

Stephanie Black said...

Absolutely fascinating, Julie.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. You made my day. Really and truly.

I am a nationally/internationally exhibited contemporary artist.

And, in the town I grew up in -actually the part of the country-
that I had to move back to, no one sees my work at all.

Sometimes it can leave me feeling so lost as an artist.I end up holding out a lot at times until my next trip back to where my work is recognized.

I will think of your words again and again at those moments when I start to question my worth in the world based on the wrong context.

Thank you.

Uppity Rib said...

I read a lot of blogs and rarely comment, but this post has inspired me. Thanks for a very insightful, well-written perspective. I've subscribed to your feed so I won't miss any more.

Anonymous said...

The story of Susan Boyle also comes to mind.