Sunday, August 09, 2009

If It Gets Made, Someone Will Like It

I just spent a few days sitting at a table at Wizard World, a comicbook convention. Small compared to ComiCon, it still dwarfed the biggest mystery convention, Bouchercon, the biggest thriller convention, Thrillerfest, the biggest horror convention, World Horror Con, and it even beat Romantic Times in terms of crowd attendance.

Two semi-profound things struck me at this convention, as I watched thousands of people browse hundreds of booths.

1. There are a lot of talented people in the world. The pros, as seen walking through Artists Row and gawking at theiir incredible works on display. And the layman, sporting elaborate costumes that took more time to create than it takes me to write a novel.

2. After someone creates art, someone else, somewhere, somehow, will find it and embrace it.

Fandom is an interesting aspect of human experience. I believe there is a storytelling gene which we're wired into. I also believe that once we identify with something--it could be a mate, our kids, our friends, or something like a TV show, book, or movie--we take ownership of it.

At Wizard World, you could identify fans by sight. These folks dressed to express their love of genre, character, actor, writer, artist, or performer, either by advertising or imitating.

Yes, there were folks dressed as Jedi. And superheroes. But I'd say at least 90% of the attendees also sported tee shirts or outfits that loudly shouted what they liked.

How strange. And how obvious.

Identifying and aligning ourselves with some sort of artistic expression is part of what makes us human. We try something. We accept it. We embrace it. We defend it.

Could be sports. Could be religion. Could be Battlestar Galactica. It's what makes us, us.

Which brings me to creative endeavors.

If Wizard World taught me anything, it's that an audience--and corresponding marketing potential--exists for anything we as humans can dream up.

This is a Good Thing.

It's also a Hard Thing.

As an artist, the desire to express yourself is strong, but the desire to have the masses embrace your expression (and for you to benefit from it) is just as strong.

So how do we decide what to Do? How do we know if what we're Doing will find some sort of universal embrace?

We don't.

Star Wars, Harry Potter, Twilight--these things happened to strike universal chords.

Many artists disregard popular art. They belittle and berate the huge successes.

That's crazy. It's like disregarding your potential audience.

No artist deserves success, and no art is worthy of universal acceptance. But when it happens, it should bear closer examination.

On one hand, if you want to create something truly unique, chances are you'll find some people who will like what you've created.

On the other hand, if you want to reach a large audience, pay attention to the things that reach a large audience.

The point of writing is to be read. It can't hurt to pay attention to what people are reading. And I'm sure it is possible to do this while still being you.