The artist’s discretion

Image: Trang Nguyen

The advertiser writes exclusively for an audience. The message doesn’t much come from him, it comes from his market research. He doesn’t use many words of his own, he uses trending keywords and hashtags. He bends entirely to the whims of his audience. He gets off on conversion and likes, shares, and viral content. His mouth waters when his work goes viral and he’s disappointed when his message falls flat.

The artist follows her own creative intuition and instinct. The bigger she gets, the more nervous she grows because she knows she’s falling too deep into the status quo. Her discomfort forces her to push her art further towards the edges. This forces out those in her audience towards the middle of the bell curve, but in time, she knows it will grow in other new and interesting areas.

It’s terrifying, this constant tendency to try something new — something untested and unproven.

Reassurance is futile to the artist because it means it’s been tried before. But her audience — not the masses of looky-loos, but her tried-and-true audience — they love this about her. They don’t read her work because of some attention-grabbing clickbait headline or pop-up box. They engage with her work because through it, they connect with her. And through connecting with her, they see the very thing that makes them human. That common thread that entwines us all.

Pure, genuine, authentic work is hard to find in today’s online world where everyone is trying to make it on a “massive” scale.

I get it. We must be our own advertisers these days. We have to have a toe in each of these sides. But we needn’t forfeit our soul for a massive number of clicks or shares. If we stay true to our art while remaining authentic and generous — if we could just face our fears and do our thing in a way that rings true to our higher selves, the internet enables us to find the people who matter.

This is the truly enjoyable work. Work that takes an artist’s discretion. Not just an advertiser’s hunger. This is the work that changes people.

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