As a writer I cover a lot of different topics. For my freelance work, I do a lot of content stuff that is aimed at a VERY specific, professional audience.
When it comes to my work — whether sci-fi, fantasy, other fiction, mindfulness, conscious reality creation, positivity, and all else — it’s more of a two-way street. I write stuff akin to what I like to read. I share it because I feel a compulsion to share my writing.
Whether I publish a book, post a blog, or share a podcast, do they reach anyone else? Is anybody reading this stuff?
I know the answer is yes — but not at the volume I should like it to be. Building that kind of audience takes time, so it is an ongoing work in progress.
I know that I am not the only artist who asks this question. Do I have readers? Watchers? Listeners? Viewers? Fans? Because while art is an expression of the self, it also is meant to have an outside impact.
Art for art’s sake
Art is utterly and completely subjective. You may like the simple, homey paintings of Thomas Kinkade. I think they’re bland and sterile. You may like horror movies. Not my cup of tea/shot of whiskey.
Everyone has their own taste. So everything artistic appeals to a specific audience and will not be accepted nor beloved by everyone. That’s why styles, types, genres, and other definitions exist. They separate and group like works together.
When I write fiction, I write fantasy and sci-fi. Many people are not readers of these genres. Even within these overarching types there are sub-genres. Urban fantasy, alien invasion sci-fi, and so forth.
There are even works that defy classification. They straddle multiple genres, or maybe even create something so unique that they are their own style. This can be applied to every medium of art imaginable.
Again, this is all part of the subjectivity of art. I know that as a creator there are notions in my head that I feel compelled to share. It brings me joy to discuss mindfulness, conscious reality creation, and other inspirational self-help ideas. I love envisioning the characters and settings in my novels and then sharing them. There is a great deal of love implicit in the expression of my art when I write.
With or without an audience, I believe I would still write. This is something that brings me joy, and I really get into the work that I do. That, I believe, is the definition of art for art’s sake. Audience or no audience, it is created and presented to the world.
Stuff for an audience
Some people poo-poo work purely intended for an audience. I can point to any number of books, paintings, graphics, songs, movies, and other works of art made with nothing but the intent to sell. The art is still somebody’s creation, but it’s pretty clear they cared much more for the paycheck than for creating something simply for the sake of its creation.
However, I can still argue its art. Someone felt the need to bring it to the world. Maybe they were pandering to their audience, and there may be very little heart and soul in the work. But it’s still there, and still art.
All kinds of artistic work is stuff created to make money. Even art for art’s sake, when you put it out there for sale, is intended to make money. Where is the fine line between selling out and being a creator?
That answer lies only with the artist in question.
What is a sell-out?
To put it bluntly, a sell-out is someone who takes no joy in their art. Their work doesn’t make them proud, happy, or particularly satisfied. They do not get a sense of accomplishment or achievement — and I suspect that if they do it’s not very satisfying.
Everybody needs to work. That may include artists who find the process a grind but still something that pays the bills.
I create what I create because I love doing it. When I am at work on a project its super-easy to lose all track of time. Why? Because I am focused on the act of creation. Making my art feels good and holds my attention.
This applies to every form of writing I do. Even building new bits for a business website. Still a part of that which I do that I call my art.
I know that my novels will never be the “Great American Novel” level of work. But then, frankly, that’s not what I do. If I tell a coming-of-age story, chances are it’s on some non-existent fantasy world with swords and sorcerers — or else across the galaxy somewhere no human has gone with means of travel currently scientifically impossible.
That’s my stuff. It’s how I define my art.
And to be honest, my art might be shit as far as you are concerned. Equating my art as stuff, a favorite quote (and lengthier comedy routine) from the late George Carlin:
“Have you noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff?”
Many people externally define a sell-out based on this notion.
Does anyone read this stuff and does that matter?
Only you know the answer to that question. When you put greater emphasis on the creation and less on the outcome, you may discover greater satisfaction. In my experience that is true for me.
I keep on keeping on. This is what I love to do, this is the stuff I want to write and share. Along the way, more and more, this is how I earn my income. And as my income is more and more based on what I love I worry less about a need to retire.
Quit doing what you love? No thanks. Whether anyone is reading this or not I am going to keep on writing it.
Do you feel the same about the art that you do?
You are worthy and deserving of using mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you and I matter — even if nobody else gets into our artworks.
Originally published at http://www.mjblehart.com on May 22, 2020.