Comedians will often call other comics: hacks. A hack comedian isn’t someone who lacks talent necessarily. Rather, a hack comic is someone who plays to the audience.
Now on the surface that doesn’t sound like a cardinal sin. Don’t writer’s play to the audience? Trying to write stories people will read and enjoy?
Yes, and no.
Finding an audience for your work doesn’t mean you have to sell out.
Hacks in the comedy world, or writing arena, are all about finding the lowest common denominator to get a laugh, or sell a book. They’re not hacky because they lack talent. Many of these men and woman are gifted.
Hacks are hacks because they don’t create work from the heart.
Steven Pressfield in his book, The War of Art, said Robert McKee defines a hack:
“… as someone who second-guesses his audience. When he sits down to work he doesn’t ask what’s in his heart. He asks what does the audience want?” (page 152)
That’s the key difference between the hack and non-hacks in our ranks. What do they think about when they get into their writing space?
More common features of a hack
1. Hacks write articles and books that are essentially click-bait, low hanging fruit, and not designed for gaining your 1000 True Fans.
2. Hacks research what’s hot in a market and try to emulate that authors success. Never truly writing something that moves their own soul. Something said in a style and perspective all their own.