01 July 2009

The nature of art and creativity

Is the value of art determined by the number of people it reaches?

Are there legitimate reasons for not sharing one's creativity? If so, what are they?

Does it all come down either to fear or the hope that one will some day profit from what has been withheld?

Please discuss.

A year ago on TTaT: Nobody's faster than Bruce


  1. As an artist with what I'll call a high supply-to-demand ratio (lots of hours put in by me, not so many books bought by the reading public), I have MANY thoughts on this subject.

    I think doing art and showing no one is totally legit if it makes you happy. But I think many people (myself included) make art at least partially as a way to communicate with others. It's a highly inefficient means of communication, so luckily the process is pleasurable. Sometimes making that showing-others leap is scary (because what if you miscommunicate?), so it's tempting to fall back on I-do-it-for-me.

    I was at a PBS press conference years ago in which the president of the (non-)network said, "We're not just interested in how many viewers we reach, but in how deeply we reach them." And (arguably by necessity) that's my attitude. So when one person--even just a friend in my writing group--is genuinely moved by something I've written, it's worth it. Because one is not a lot, but for me, there's a huge difference between one and zero.

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Cheryl!

    "We're not just interested in how many viewers we reach, but in how deeply we reach them."

    Yes, I was thinking about that too. If one has a 100, 1000, or more readers but they all just skim, is that success? Or if you photograph or build stuff and lots of people like it but no one likes it enough to buy it, where is the artist then? Does a piece of art have the same value if no one wants to buy it? What does the commerce actually measure?

    You're right, communication is an integral part as well. If communication weren't an inherent part to blogging, I doubt I would've kept it up for so long. Don't quite have it in me to close comments even if I only get the sporadic few. Stats and hit counts are fine, but it's in comments that connections are seen.

    How do you find your novel writing to be? You do readings, so I guess that would give you some access to your audience. How do you gauge the reaction/impact to non-internet writing? Does it mostly return to a numbers game of how many people bought it?

  3. Because I'm technologically inept, a little lazy and a lot fearful, I don't follow numbers closely. But I know they're low. That's just the reality of publishing with a small press, unfortunately. But I like to think that small presses are the PBS of the book world. I'm glad someone is.

    As for how I gauge reaction, it comes down to things readers say to me (at readings, online, etc.), reviews (when I'm lucky enough to get 'em) and a LOT of blind faith.

  4. Congratulations on your perseverance in a difficult market. Confidence in your work w/out mass affirmation (or even with I'd imagine) seems key for getting through the print publishing process.