Why should an artist care about sharing work? Surely it is enough to simply engage in the elevated work of creation. Perhaps it is best to take a day job so you need not rely on the art for your bread. Certainly any concern about the public’s attitudes and responses to your work only serves to distract, to suck energy from your process, to compromise your daring originality. Right?
Arguably, artistic creation is not, primarily, customer focused. The artist begins her process with a personal impression, or an emotion, or an idea. The creative process is about transforming these intangibles into concrete forms. This transformation, in turn, hangs on the physical engagement of the artist in his work. There is an inevitability about how the transformation unfolds which talks about the artist – not about the audience. This is not a marketing exercise, after all. We are not selling the idea – we are expressing it.
What role then, if any, does the public, the audience, have in our work, our process? If project conceptualization is the first step in the creative cycle, then we certainly look to approach that step with a clear head. What gives us that clear head? What greases the wheels for clear thinking? For many artists, social interaction and feedback are critical to keeping the mental lights on. Through the process of social engagement, we assert ourselves. Self-assertion in turn facilitates self-discovery. Knowing ourselves is the first step to having definite ideas and feelings about what is outside of ourselves – which is the first step of our creative process! Sounds like a virtuous circle. The socially engaged artist may then take the next step of articulating personal ideas and feelings to others. This is not a validation seeking exercise. It is a clarity seeking exercise. It is about seeking feedback from the other guy, to more fully understand what is essentially and crucially personal in nature.
There is a bit of this in the hard work you do at SEO – search engine optimization. You work very hard to get this robotic spider, this mathematical algorithm, to understand what the hell your website is all about. You discover that the clearer you are on your concept, your idea, your content, the better you are describing it with keywords, and the better that dam spider is indexing your pages and ranking you in search. The spider does not render a judgment on your idea. The spider does tell you, however, if you have any idea at all. Good feedback is like the search engine algorithm. It is non-judgmental. It simply lets you know if there is substance to what you are saying. It lets you know if what your are saying is what you mean.
Fortunately, you have served as a model for understanding in this critical area of soliciting feedback (even though you are deathly afraid of spiders). Your work in developing relevant social networks, in building sharing platforms such as blogs and websites, has paid you back with the gift of clarity. Not only that, but you found a few lovers along the way.