It’s hard to understand why some people reach a wide audience in creative disciplines, while others toil away year after year in apparent mediocrity. While you have to be in the right place at the right time, and you have to meet people, the last ingredient is the most critical: your vision must be indispensable.
It’s no good hoping to be a famous author if you keep writing things that people don’t need. Everything is an economy, including the world of thought and emotion. People need emotional catharsis and intellectual leading just like they need bread and electricity. And despite the digital revolution, pirating, and the debilitating effect of TV on our ability to think critically and appreciate beauty, people will still pay for emotional and intellectual catharsis. If you are an artist, this is your industry; and it is not at all wrong to think that way. In fact, thinking that way is the only thing that will help you to find an audience who needs your work.
Good writing can lead its readers to new truths of the mind, just like good music can open the sluicegate of the heart to let the tears finally flow. (I know that’s an awful generalization of the function of each, but bear with me.) We are all, to varying degrees, emotionally constipated and intellectually stunted. We are all trying to find the way. If your art is not showing people the way, it is not necessary; and in any economy, that which is not necessary fails.
All right, so your projects aren’t getting off the ground. That’s okay. There’s a lot that goes into creating something and then getting it to people. For many of us, creating is the easy part; the process of getting it to people is strange and complicated–and waking up to the Internet in 2013 makes it even more so. If you aren’t marketing your stuff, no one will know it exists; and an artwork that could change the world yet stays stashed in the basement will remain stashed in the basement. So the next paragraph is not about artworks that have failed due to a lack of appropriate marketing.
This is going to be hard to hear. But listen. If people aren’t responding, if they aren’t excited, if you don’t see at least a little good that your art has done for others, you might want to sit down and reevaluate what you’re doing. What is your vision? Were you given one, or did you invent one? Are you a conduit of something from beyond yourself, or are you trumpeting the fact of yourself? Are you preaching the fact of Other to others, or are you preaching the fact of yourself to yourself? Do you want to be a vessel of beauty, or do you want to be a rock star? The world needs beauty more than ever, but we have enough rock stars. They’re on stage tonight at every black-painted dive bar in every Nowhere, USA.
The digital revolution and the rise of indie culture have redefined success for everyone who creates things. But the fact remains: if what you create is necessary, and you tell the people who need it that it exists, it will find some type of success. If it is not necessary, it will fail. This is because people need things. They need bread and water and beauty. Think long and hard about this; and if you still turn out to be an artist, go out and let beauty flow through you.