I wonder about art. Some I don’t get, but that’s not really the point of work, I’ve decided.
Art isn’t actually about making you think, it’s about how it makes you feel.
Entertainment holds the consumer’s hand through the adventure, but art is for anyone to simply interpret, and it means whatever the consumer decides it does. Art is intimate; entertainment is for the masses.
Thinking falls into the entertainment category, at least for me. Puzzles and learning something new – that’s what I enjoy in entertainment. Don’t get me wrong. I like my fair share of TV shows and novels and other stories, just like the rest. But my favorites are the ones that make me think on some level: the crime, the intrigue, the large casts of characters that network and interact on several different levels. I think that’s why I write the way I do – but I’ll save that rant for the moment. My sense of humor falls into this category too; I enjoy wordplay and doublespeak and puns over fart and sex jokes.
That’s just me.
But art is a whole different concept entirely. It can be beautiful, terrifying, heart-wrenching and infuriating. The best art is. There’s a saying that goes, “It doesn’t matter if they hate it or love it, so long as they’re not bored by it.” If you’re intending to make art, there has to be a bit of disregard for the consumer, even though I’d argue it’s more about the individual consumer than entertainment. Art is as much about the artist as the work. Think late-era Beatles, or Artemisia Gentileschi. I’d guess the phrase “you know it when you see it” – when referring to art – stems from this concept. I don’t want you to read this and think I just mean paintings. It’s ballet. It’s music. It’s wordplay. Art.
That being said, the you can’t have one without the other and have it be truly fantastic. Art has to touch people, otherwise it’s difficult to distinguish from a mess. Entertainment must be beautiful to draw people in, or it feels like schoolwork. That happy place where the two blend where something remarkable sparks – something the consumer can’t quite let go of. That’s the ambition and the curse of the artist.
I’ve always thought of myself as an entertainer first. Yes, I write with myself as a target audience first, but that’s because I write mostly for my own amusement. If I can share it with the world and entertain someone else as I do, awesome! But – excuse me for being selfish – it’s about me, until such a time as it becomes a real job and I need to keep the broader audience in mind. Don’t get me wrong. I would love nothing more than to hear from you and what you’re interested in reading more about. I want to engage you, and for you to care about my characters and the stories I tell. If I fail in that regard, then I consider myself to have failed as a writer. My point is that if I’m bored, I can’t expect you to be entertained by what I do.
I see a lot of people who “don’t care what other people think” of their art. Let’s assume, for the moment, that’s true. Why do it? What is it about creation that we’re drawn to? It’s either practical – which I categorize as more invention than creation – or it’s meant to be shared, to somehow foster a connection between people. A child’s finger painting goes on the fridge. A composer’s opus is useless if it isn’t listened to. A ballet without an audience is just exercise.
Finally, I want to say that I care about you, my audience. I care what you think and how my writing makes you feel. My band conductor used to say to the attendees nearly every concert that “without you, we’d just be a bunch of folks blowing a lot of hot air.” That’s true across the spectrum of the arts, fine or otherwise.
If you want to see something happen in my stories I post most every Friday, or have a question you’d like me to answer during my nonfiction segments, please feel free to comment below and I’ll happily consider it!