The Fear of No Audience

Imagine me risking everything I have to achieve my dream, through relentless hard work. After a long period of self-torture, I produce a novel. I get it published and sit back, waiting for the rewards to flow, waiting to receive feedback from my readers. I wait forever; no one’s reading.

Let’s put this into a more thought-provoking perspective:

Imagine me overflowing with a message I need to share to the world. I risk everything I have to get this message into a piece of lyrical art. After a long period of seemingly endless strain, I produce a novel. I get it published and sit back, waiting for people to show evidence of what it evoked in their minds. I wait forever; no one wants to understand.

There is art that is produced lightly, as art for art’s sake. Then there is art that takes tonnes of emotion and effort from you. There’s the kind of art that, after you’re done producing it, you just go into sleep so deep, anyone would think you’d just run a marathon. There’s also some art that is produced form a fire burning in you, threatening to consume you unless you find the right means to tell your message to the world – be it poetry, a song, a play, whatever.

And there’s the absurdly large fraction of the type of audience that listens to music that clashes so strongly with their beliefs, but they play and sing it excessively anyway. The kind of audience that’s most likely to say, “Oh, I don’t want to know or care what it means. It sounds nice, so I’ll consume it.” They’re the kind of audience of audience that appreciates everything about the art except for its message; the entire basis of the artistry. (I’m obviously not referring to the kind of music designed for jamming and jamming alone.)

A few days ago, I attempted to discuss the brilliant artistry of Justin Bieber’s “Purpose” album, with which I am head over heels in love – for the sake of not only the beautiful sound, but the authentic truth of its deliberate lyrics and message. The person with whom I was discussing it, however, had barely a thing to say about the entire album, other than that the Skrillex beats were nice. *facepalm*

When it comes to art, I’m rarely in the mood for ad hominem business. I have no doubt that mine has the capacity to work to my advantage. I’m Black. I’m African. I’m Ghanaian and American. And I write stories. The way these things work, I may have a steady fanbase, if I ever become a novelist whose writing is of at least reasonable quality, like I fervently pray I will, just because of my heritage – and therein lies the danger.

For the most part, I write because I have things to say; I release what I write because I want other people to hear and understand whatever it is that I have to say.

The understanding part is the problem. Behind all the “You write beautifully” and even the “Sit down, you’re not quite there yet” comments, I tend to wonder, Yes, you have obviously seen the words, but did you care a bit about what it all actually meant?

I’m partially immersed in Ghana’s poetry and spoken word scene as well, and the ad hominem is strong there as well. There are so many glorified poets – and not without reason, I guess. They’re super talented and super practiced. What gets to me, however, is when we hype up a person so much that their actual message is completely lost on us; we’re too busy fangirling/fanboying about the individuals to hear a word that they’re saying. For me, an audience like that is equivalent to no audience at all; the people merely become hype-machines and your sources of income.

I don’t just want to make money; I want to be heard. And I’m scared that I won’t be.

In other news, please go and read my story, Puppets, found here:

Puppets cover


2 thoughts on “The Fear of No Audience

  1. That’s one of my biggest fears. I write something I think should move people and get a reaction and I’m hoping people reply me, wanting to talk about what I’ve written. And then I log off. Go offline for a few hours, hoping when I get back there’s a flood of comments from people who have understood the message in my post and want to comment on it.

    But I’m disappointed. Cos the comments are there but they are all the same. Just like the last time. And the one before that. “Nice” “Great story” “Good one”.

    But I still write anyway because I know there’s going to be that one time when someone will understand.

    I’m sure there’s something that keeps you writing too.

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