At Podcasters Across Borders, I did a presentation about Disruption of the Social Contract. My main point is that every time we create something- a painting, a blog post, a picture, a meal- we do it with an audience in mind. We may be our own audience, or the audience could be our family, friends, or we might want a larger audience to see and appreciate our work.
The thing you create has a relationship or a “contract” with the audience on some level. A meal is expected to nourish and please the senses. If it does neither, it fails and disappoints the audience, essentially breaking the contract- the expectations that were set before the interaction ever began. A blog post is expected to entertain and inform. If I don’t make you giggle or make you think, just a little bit, then I’m probably failing you as a reader, even if I’m meeting my own internal obligation to myself to write and explore new ideas. Similarly, If I make a sweater that itches, doesn’t fit the intended wearer or is made out of something that doesn’t even keep them warm, I’ve failed on everything that was supposed to make that object useful and wanted- breaking the whole contract or expectation created in the making of the object in the first place.
As we create new things and put them out into the world, we hope the audience will be appreciative. For example, I hope my podcasts are helpful to parents and educators on learning disabilities. (Thanks to Anne Martin for recently proving to me that my work is valuable, even when I take it for granted.) Likewise, I hope my children, likewise, will find friends and family who get them and find them worthwhile humans. Most of the time, this seems like its true.
But as we all know, not everything we create will reach a receptive and attentive audience. Sometimes, the audience will hate what you create. Try cooking a new ethnic cuisine for a bunch of kids, and I get looks like border from the “You’re trying to poison me” to “I Trusted you!” to “Really? What made you think I would even try that?” (Of course,then they try the same meal at a friend’s house and report they love it, and ask why I never make it at home….but that’s another blog post on How Not To Kill Your Children or Go Crazy) Sometimes, you spend a lot of time creating something you love, but no one else seems to care. Sometimes, your brilliant idea comes off as mundane and unimportant or insignificant to others. That feeling of disappointment, or being ignored, feels pretty crappy.
What we need to learn to do is figure out, from the get go, who our intended audience is. Is it ourselves? Is it our friends? Family? General public? A specific type of person? If we create our “thing” so that it’s closely tailored to that person’s needs and wants, it’s more likely to be well received, and if we don’t meet their needs and expectations, it will fall flat, or worse. It’s wonderful to create for yourself. But you can’t expect that others will necessary see the beauty you see in your creations or have equal appreciation for the work that it took- it wasn’t made for them, it was made for you. But if you are seeking a larger audience, you do have to think about their wants and needs and try to meet those metrics. Artists may use the term “selling out” when considering creation for commercial intent, but I’ve yet to see an artist really complain when someone wants to buy their work…
At Podcasters Across Borders, a person creating videos for Medicin Sans Frontiere (Doctors without Borders) talked about who the audience was for these documentary style pieces they were doing- moving, important pieces showing the suffering going on all over the world, yet when I asked her whether or not they hooked these pieces up with an “ask” for a donation or information on where to go to help or do more, she told me that fund raising was managed by another department. I thought this was a bit silly, not connecting the motivation to act with the “something to do”, but then I realized I often do the same thing on my creative efforts. I forget to ask people to subscribe to this blog. I forget to ask them to follow me on twitter (@ldpodcast, @whitneyhoffman). I forget to ask people to friend me on Facebook, or send me email, or otherwise take some action-I don’t even ask up front for comments on my blog, even though I love comments.
So for those of you in my audience, who have bothered to read this far, I’d love to interact with you more. Please friend me on Facebook or follow me on twitter. Please comment here- I love comments, as do other bloggers. If you like a book I’ve recommended, please use my Amazon store- I get a few cents commission on the purchase, which will in turn feed my reading habit. I apologize for taking you for granted sometimes, for objectifying you in Google Analytic numbers, or otherwise not meeting your needs in the process. Let me know what you’re thinking and what posts you like best, and I’ll try to do my job better as a writer, to meet those needs in addition to my own.
Thanks for stopping by and reading, and for being an audience for my work.
If you want to know more about this concept of objects and audience, you should check out the excellent documentary, Objectified. (small clip below) It’s available through iTunes and it’s made me think even more about how creativity and audience are more tightly bound than we usually acknowledge.