Comic for Thursday, Mar 31, 2022


Posted March 31, 2022 at 12:00 am

This is just something that occurred to me recently, and have wanted to talk about.

The surface level of the distinction between making something for yourself, and something for someone else, is obvious. I want to write a story about hamsters. Someone says I should write about gerbils. I stick to doing what I want to write about, and write about hamsters.


But that's only part of what it means to make something for an audience. As the comic says, if you're just expressing yourself, it's okay to be really hit or miss on whether other people get it.

In some ways, it can be like throwing a kindred spirit test out into the world. If someone actually does get it, that's sorta neat, but a lot of people won't because of how much of a personal expression it is.

And even someone who is a kindred might not realize it based on a still life of a really good sandwich you had one day.

No, if you're making something for an audience, you need to contextualize that art. It has to go through a process that isn't just expressing yourself. It's expressing yourself in a way that a wider audience can understand. How on the nose it has to be can vary, but you're making something for others to understand.

Even without commentary, in a way, you're explaining your art to the audience. It was specifically designed for broad communication. It can still be an expression of something deeply personal, and the way it's expressed can also still be personal, but the key thing here is that there are requirements for communication that can make something less personal. There will be compromises.

What's more, if you're making something for an audience, there may be points that have to be made delicately, or not at all, if you want to keep that audience. You have to worry about offense, and making sure people won't think one thing is another thing.

If the art you're expressing is effectively your job, these are all things that need to be accounted for, and you can't simply do whatever you want. It has to be tailored for the audience, even if all that means is being tactical about how exactly you put things. You know what you mean already, but they don't. You have to be clear.

I don't think all of this is the end of the world or anything, but I do think it's important to go beyond the surface level, and to realize just how much you're compromising for the sake of an audience. With awareness of this, you can better understand what's happening, and choose your battles in terms of personal expression, and satisfying an audience.

Clearly determine what are things that need to be clear, what's there to make your audience happy, and what can be truly personal bits that only kindred spirits might understand.