Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Power of an Audience

Creators need audiences.

By audiences I don't mean people who happen to pass by, merely glance at your painting and leave just enough time to mumble "how nice" before moving on. I refer specifically to friends, family and peers who loyally read anything you write, appreciate any music you compose, and compliment anything you draw. Without someone to please, it's difficult for the creator to produce anything creative and it's rarely any fun.

In fact -- and perhaps it's a little vain to say it -- I think one of the most important things an aspiring scholar, artist or babbling mad scientist can have is an attentive and loyal audience. 

I'll give you an example from my own life. For several years I've participated in NaNoWriMo, a yearly challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. It's been pretty fulfilling for me -- since my head is always stuffed to bursting with strange lands, silly characters and bad puns -- but I've mostly done it simply to prove to myself that I was determined enough to finish. I've never exactly had a huge audience, if I've ever had one at all. But that all changed one fateful semester in 2012, in my Physical Science 101 class.

It was a class size of hundreds, but by some crazy coincidence I found myself sitting next to my childhood buddy Eric (who, I will mention, has always put up with my goofy comic strips since kindergarten). When we weren't coming up with comical applications of Newton's laws, I would lean over and explain to him my latest story ideas. I had been bursting to explain these plans to someone, anyone, and Eric was kind enough to listen and become interested. He gave me feedback and pondered what I had to say. If it weren't for him religiously following my progress, I might never have finished the novel.

Audiences have great power over creators. They can encourage them on to victory simply by regularly paying attention to them and encouraging them. They can also defeat them with the weapon of apathy.

Another eager audience is my friend Aaron. Aaron has a talent for seeing the good in any idea at all, no matter how half-baked or ridiculous it may seem. Many a time I have proposed outrageous projects, creative whimsies and even thesis statements to him, and he has always responded with optimism and willingness to help bring it about. 

I don't have space to mention them all, but my parents, grandparents and cousins (especially Kenny) have always been supportive of my creative efforts, despite the fact that the eyes in my drawings are always lopsided and I tend to use pronouns way too much.

(You know who you are. Pats on the back for everyone!)

I have needed those audiences. The fact that there is someone to enjoy the fruits of your hard work makes all the blood, sweat and tears worth it.
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Just one more thing before I finish. In Pyramids by Terry Pratchett, there is land modeled on Greece filled with countless philosophers. Naturally, since all philosophers need someone to listen to them, a man named Endos hires himself out as a "Professional Listener" and is paid to simply sit there as they rant, and say encouraging things like "Fascinating!" and "Do go on."

Maybe we can't all be paid to be professional audiences -- at least, not in money. But do us all a favor and listen to your friends' ideas. One day you'll need someone to listen to your crazy propositions. Both giver and receiver will benefit.

Plus, that's what friends do.


  1. You hit the nail on the head with this. The creative process, of course, is fulfilling and fun, but I think we all create with an audience in mind. Whenever I draw something or write something, I immediately want to tell my mom, because she's the only person I can really brag about myself to without shame! This post was fascinating! Do go on!

  2. This is great, Adam. It's awesome that you've had so many supportive and encouraging people in your life to help you develop your ideas. It's definitely important to have a good supportive audience.