The Artist-Audience Dilemma

As an artist of any kind, you are very likely to at least eventually face some sort of artist-audience dilemma. It starts with the question of “Who do you create for?” Some people would readily answer with “Myself,” others would readily answer with “For other people.” And the people whose initial answer is the former probably have the greater problem. Especially when you distribute what you create.

I believe in art as a form of self-expression. How then can the sole purpose of your self-expression be to pleasure other people? That is not being true to yourself. You really mustn’t always give the audience what they love at the expense of your authenticity. Nevertheless, the audience is your consumer market. If they don’t like your book, why would they buy it? If they don’t like your music, why would they listen? If they don’t like your writing, why would they read?

Your success depends entirely on the audience, while your authenticity depends entirely on you. See how difficult a commercial artist’s work is?

It was recently brought to my attention, for instance, that sometimes, my poems are too long for people to pay the due attention, and that also, sometimes, my finales are not attention-grabbing enough. This was my thought process:

  • But this is how I write! –>
  • I shall end a poem how I damn well want to end a poem. –>
  • Why should I compress my ideas for the sake of an audience? –>
  • Oh yes…because the audience are my consumers. –>
  • Why do I need their attention anyway? I’m just doing me. –>
  • But I’m a performer now. Hence, I can only do me for them. –>
  • People should stop expecting things! It’s stressful!

Yes, I know that is an unsatisfactory end to my thought process. But this is me being me. (Do you get the dilemma now?)

Another issue is people not getting things. Think about it like a comedian who makes jokes about, say, chemistry, but the audience is made up of 80% physicists, and so the laughter response is daunting. It’s like that, but it doesn’t matter if it’s jokes, puns, experiences, similes – if they (the audience) don’t get it, you’re lost, man. Both parties are. The type of audience is, in fact, crucial, sad as it may be to think that you can’t just “do you” and prance away. =(

Me, I love metaphors – extended metaphors, especially. I use them a lot in my poetry. And there are some times I feel like I have struck pure gold with what I’m writing, you know. Those pieces that you read even weeks later and say, “Gosh dangit, I am a genius!” Then you release it to the world, and then even your best friend doesn’t get it until you explain. Sigh. Feels like it’s all just going to waste, when you release elaborate things to a world that is unwilling or unable (as yet) to look beyond the surface.

You cannot imagine the frustration I felt when, at the time I was reading a collection of Sylvia Plath poems, I freaked out from all the genius in “Two Daughters of Persephone,” but nobody understood why until I explained for MINUTES! And she’s dead! What if she lived her whole life with people just not getting her? It makes me sad.


4 thoughts on “The Artist-Audience Dilemma

  1. Is there so much I’d like to say about this? I think so.
    Am I really sure I should say something? Errr. . .

    But yeah, it was an insightful read.
    And… *forgets what I was going to day…remembers!* …brings to the fore of my mind some of my main thoughts.

    “Your success depends entirely on the audience, while your authenticity depends entirely on you. See how difficult a commercial artist’s work is?”

    What a quote!

    Success and authenticity.

    *thinks of authenticity and self-awareness and self-esteem…begins to go deeper into the mental…psyche – snaps out of it!*

    *begins to speed up process of seeking out a publisher for the long overdue anthology of…”poems” – no, “of poetry” sounds better.

    There have been times that I’ve used extended metaphor without knowing what it was I was actually doing – but that kind of thing is for another day.

    But dilemma? Yeah, I think I’ll leave it here.

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