I believe it was Neil Gaiman who suggested that writers really ought to manage to be two of three things at all times, the three things being: talented, charming and punctual, and I’m with him on that one.
Since none of us can rely on our talents every day, my suggestion is that we all work longer and harder at being charming and punctual, and I try, and, on most days, fail, to do just that.
The husband is a consummate professional, and, barring little things like seizures, he manages to be pretty well on time, I’ve never seen him be anything but charming, at least in public, and I’m pretty sure his talent hasn’t ever deserted him, at least not in the past fifteen years. What a lucky man he is. He is also, perhaps, the most hardworking person I know.
But I digress: My point was going to be something else. Neil Gaiman was talking about the talent; he was talking about writers, and, I presume, pretty well all creatives; he was talking about freelancers.
Today, my message is for publishers, and, for that matter, curators, gallerists, impresarios; in short, I’m talking about the people who look after and exploit, or, put another way, employ the talent.
Art in all its forms is a commodity. Like everything else, it needs to sell. Publishing is a business, as is dance, music, art... If you want to make a living out of a talent then some sort of business model is bound to be involved.
Business people are about making money, though, and that’s where cracks can begin to appear in any system.
Talent must be nurtured. It is fragile. It can be worn out, driven out, stamped out, crushed. It can stagnate. It can simply fail to develop.
The lucky ones, the young writers, artists, musicians, dancers find great representation and good people to work with; they aren’t driven into the ground by a business model that uses them up, spits them out, and then looks for new blood. They become the bestsellers of the future, the leading men, the headliners, but for every one of them, dozens of poor kids are poured into a brutal machine; they get one shot, if they’re lucky. They are worked too hard, stretched too far, too soon, they aren’t nurtured, their talents aren’t allowed to grow and they’re never given that opportunity truly to shine.
There’s an old saying that unless you have a very strong stomach you never want to see how laws and sausages are made... You might want to add stars to that list.