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The Creative Divide

Ozoneocean at 12:00AM, April 27, 2019

Any creative person knows that the hardest thing can be to find an audience for your work. On one side of the great divide we have the creatives (the writers, artists, fashion designers, architects, musicians, dancers etc), and on the other we have the consumers. Those consumers have a voracious appetite for the products of creative endeavour but none of them seem to have a taste for the dish you're serving… How can this be? How can we tempt them away from the MacDonald's gruel of mainstream populist pap and onto the fine artisan made delicacy that you specialise in? That's the age old question and it's a very difficult one to solve.

But why does this divide exist to start with? Since pretty much everyone is a consumer, even creatives, and we all demand constant stimulation you'd think we wouldn't be that picky… and yet, like little children who crave the bland comfort and simple taste of fast-food, we always turn to the mainstream for sustenance.

The reason for this occurred to me the other day: a comic creator was complaining that people on Reddit didn't take kindly to him advertising his SciFi comic there and yet the people are craving SciFi content and they're ALL consumers. The thing is that our consumption of creative products isn't just a singular experience, it's a cultural one. Work that connects to the wider cultural experience makes us feel bigger and something MORE than ourselves. Mainstream work does that especially, but even small-scale fringe stuff from the 1930s and 50s has a valuable cultural historical connection that enriches us.

At the very basic level humans are a communal, pack species, like a colony of chimpanzees or a herd of wildebeest. What distinguishes us from other animals is the culture that we build on, record and transfer to each other, which is why cultural products that facilitate a connection are so much more appealing: comedy with universally relatable themes, religion, the human condition etc. Besides, as humans we think pretty much the same as each other in many ways so what appeals to one is bound to appeal to others.

For this reason I believe the path to bridging the gap to the consumers is NOT necessarily to ape the mainstream but rather we should look for those universal relatable traits and elements of shared cultural experience and sell our work in those terms.
eg: don't just make a fake version of a MacDonald's burger, you should make your own dish that features looks, tastes and textures you know people will like and find somewhat familiar, but prepared in your own special and individual way. Don't just produce a bowl of purple and green steaming muck with limp tentacles flopping out of it and expect people to develop a taste for it. :)

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Ozoneocean at 12:22AM, April 29, 2019

Yeah, comfort food is nice :) But we've also gotta explain how our weird mess IS sort of a hamburger, or a taco and then people might give it the chance it deserves :)

PaulEberhardt at 5:50AM, April 28, 2019

I like the mainstream-McDonald's analogy. To my mind, part of what causes the creative divide is this: even if you have the choice between a healthy, freshly-cooked three-course meal every day and, say, a ham & cheese sandwich from the local supermarket, you'll still take the sandwich ever so often, simply because you just feel like having something fuss-free today. It's the same with mainstream media. I'll be among the first to nag at the shallow trash modern TV keeps dumping on us, still I watch it often enough, even if I know perfectly well that there's bound to be loads of much better stuff on the web. That's just why the mainstream will never die. It's a good thing, too, else we'd have nothing to set ourselves apart from. As for the grand universal themes, I've always thought they'd get their proper share more or less automatically unless your comic is way to far out. But I guess you're right that it can't hurt to bring them a bit more to the front every now and again.

usedbooks at 11:26AM, April 27, 2019

In my actual job as a park guide/interpreter, we call those "Universal Themes" they are the foundation of every hike/talk/program. It is all about helping the audience connect to the resources. (And my audience at work is very diverse, ages, background, country, sometimes language.) It's a good foundation for writing anyway, even if you are thinking about the work itself, not the audience. It gives you are framework and keeps the writing concise and directed.

Ozoneocean at 10:50AM, April 27, 2019

I think I'm not really talking about changing your work to give it a mainstream appeal, I'm thinking more in terms of what are the themes already in it with a broader cultural resonance that you can focus on- maybe to enhance them or maybe just to use those to market them to people when you advertise your work. Things like love, sex, death, success, failure, justice, injustice, fear, alienation, happiness, patriotism, religion etc: all those sorts of things are pretty simple, elemental and have massive levels of cultural traction.

Ozoneocean at 10:46AM, April 27, 2019

Wow, is that our character limit? XD

usedbooks at 9:07AM, April 27, 2019

Eh. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. By the time I was a teen, I realized that even if I could sell books, the thought of having to rely on creativity to feed myself terrified me. So, I just make things for me. My target audience is me. I make things that I want to (or, more accurately, that want to be made). As a teen, I never let anyone read anything I wrote. It was literally JUST FOR ME. But later, I let someone read something because they asked (I also apologized and disclaimered like crazy), and they liked it. And that was nice. So, now I share. But I still make everything for my own entertainment. I would never feel right charging for things or doing commissions either. I don't think anything I make is worth money.

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