Even when writers stare into the empty space before them, they are still working.  It is because, as writers, we are always in our minds.  The games of make believe that many played as children; we never ceased playing.  While others' interests turned to the practicality of medicine, law, politics, our imaginations grew with fantasy.  We often don't fully immerse ourselves in the world because we are too much in our minds.

Much like Lord Alfred Tennyson's, Lady of Shalott, we sit weaving on our web what we see of the world through the filter of our imagination.  As I again read this eloquent poem recently, I viewed it as an allegorical example of an artist's (including writers) struggle to reconcile their perception of the world artistically with the need to present that work to the world.

"She knows not what the 'curse' may be/And so she weaveth steadily/And little other care hath she..."(Tennyson. II, I, 6-8).  During the creative process, most artists don't consider the "curse" of revealing their work to others for both analysis and sale.  Instead, the heady intoxication of creating a piece of work often mutes the critical voices and softens the possible disappointment of unmet expectations.  So the writer lives within her story and the painter lives within his canvas, knowing the "curse" exists but without full understanding of its ramifications, they continue to, without care, create.    

And moving thro' a mirror clear/That hangs before her all the year/Shadows of the world appear (II, II, 5-6).  The "mirror" through which artists view the world is their perception of it filtered through their creative persuasion.  Artists are influenced and inspired by the events and people outside of their creative realm; however, the reality is that the same place from which artists glean inspiration is also the place that can destroy it.     

"I am half-sick of shadows," said/The Lady of Shalott (II, V, 8-9).  Although an artist may fear the "curse" of imparting his work to the world, he also has the desire to share it.  There is a time when a writer wants someone to read her story; an artist wants someone to see his painting, a composer wants someone to hear her music.  There is usually a point when artists become "half sick" of seeing the world only in the reflection of their creation.  And that is the moment when they present their work to the world but in doing so they are often forced to remove their creative lens.  

Out flew the web and floated wide;/The mirror crack'd from side to side;/"The curse is come upon me..." (III, V, 7-8).  The "curse" is unleashed once the work is placed into the world.  The harsh reality of sales, marketing and disappointing reception of their work causes the "mirror" to crack.  The "curse" is losing sight of creating art for the love and passion of it.  Instead, the writer must now market her book and the artists must sell his painting, causing a distortion in the purity of the work.  When the practicality of sales, rankings and marketing becomes the focus, the complexion of emotion behind the creation changes.

Under tower and balcony,/By garden-wall and gallery,/A gleaming shape she floated by,/ Dead-pale between the houses high,/Silent into Camelot (IV, V, 4-6). To complete this allegory, the Lady of Shalott is representative of the work that we artists float into the world and many of us have experienced the distortion of our art when we do so.  But the question becomes when we cash in Camelot, what happens to our perception of it as artists?  When we unleash the "curse" of selling our art, do we do more than distort it--do we destroy it?  How do we sell our work without cracking the mirror of our imagination and creativity?

I will not answer this one because I cannot.  So I hope that you, reader, will help me.

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Tags: Lady, Shalott, Tennyson, art, artist, marketing, of, sales, story, writer

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