How to Master Commerce vs Creative
In more than one room of creatives that I've been in, the question has come up about whether the focus should be on the commercial options, or on the creative. It comes up regularly with both sides decrying the other for either selling out or being a sensitive artist without a head for business. The debate has been done so many times before, with stereotypes abound.
Having seen it play out a few times, I've noticed a few patterns emerge, and I've come to my own thoughts on the matter. I think, at the end of the day, both are important, and the tension between them is the most important.
In the ideal state of the world, each is serving as a set of constraints on the other. Commerce should limit the art you create - knowing that you need to, at times, have an eye on the world of the relatively mundane and occasionally icky. Whether your project will sell, what it would have to sell for, why would people buy it - these aren't considerations that should be thrown out whole hog. They matter, and when you're stuck at the canvas or the blank page, these limitations prevent you from spinning your wheels forever.
On the other side, a lack of artistic vision all too often leaves things that feel soulless or formulaic. We've all heard or seen the project that could've been so much, but the purse strings held a little bit too much sway. Artistic impulses are the piece that gets us to push further, to find a way for our souls to sing with joy as we try to create something entirely new from the aether. It is what drives us to create something for the mere sake of creating it.
I've come to the opinion that the best case scenario is finding a balance between the two fo them. Each guides and limits the other. Establishing a series of constraints on the other to create better products. The tension and limitations that each establishes on the other a structure. Through establishing these you can determine a way to shape and create the best version of the end product that you can.
By creating a tension between the two aspects of creating a new project. It's the tension of these two aspects that the greatest art is often developed. When you have to create within constraints, you're often forced to draw upon other aspects and ways of handling things. Being forced to actually deal with these issues and challenges can prevent your first idea from being followed, instead of pushing you to surmount previous limitations that you've already faced.
Ultimately, all artistic endeavours are limited by a set of constraints; the limitations of the actual money and time you have to set aside to them, even the absolute limitations of a human life can establish a series of limitations behind it. By openly and realistically addressing these limitations, we can chart better paths forward and create better projects.
Embrace the tension, learn to love it and live within it. That's where the greatest projects are so often born.