I can’t pretend that high artistic aspirations have ever driven me. I aim for an entertaining story to amuse myself and the audience (such as it is). I would very much like to be the aloof creator who sends their work out to the public and sneers in neglectful disdain at the response.
But I’m not that guy. I want people to like my work, in part because it is too deeply linked to my sense of self. Liking my book=liking me. (By the way, this is an issue I need to get over, because I cannot go hide under a pile of blankets and sob each and every time someone doesn’t like my work.) Other than the routine rejections from various publishers and literary agents, though, there hasn’t been a lot of negative response. And then I wrote an ugly story.
Ugly? Yes, ugly. It is full of bad people doing bad things, to each other and to strangers (I talked about the story in this old post). It’s a good book, the best I’ve written so far, but it is rough. Violent, mean, bloody, gory, offensive, etc. Everything that I have written and foisted onto the public up until this point has been easy to consume and support. This book is not. One advance reader had to put the book down and walk away. Two others struggled to get past the first chapter (but enjoyed the rest of the book once they did).
So now I am caught between Scylla and Charybdis (as an aside, I spelled that correctly the first time and I am super-proud of my self for doing so. Tiny wins!). One one hand, I want people to have fun while reading my books. On the other hand, I have to write the story as it shows up in my mind. If I change it, I open the door to BEING WRONG, and once that door is open, the hateful imp in the back of my mind will insist that EVERYTHING I DO IS WRONG. I really don’t care for that imp.
And there is a small but feisty element of artist’s arrogance in play as well: who the hell are you, audience, to tell me what to do? Buzz off, jerks. I wrote this. It’s mine and I’ll do what I want. This is not an overly…helpful attitude to have. Some confidence is good. Aggressively ignoring feedback is not.
(sidenote: in searching for an image to feature in this post, I stumbled across the cover for the book ‘On Ugliness‘,which looks at humanity’s fascination with ugliness in art. Intriguing. )