If you’re going to write you might as well write something that’ll potentially change the lives of your readers. Otherwise, shelve your words and save them for someone who needs affirmation. When I sit down to write I don’t want to say things that will safely get me sales. In fact, I care about sales only as an indicator for the number of readers I reach. More importantly, I want readers to be knocked back on their heels and say to themselves, “I didn’t know.”
Wake up calls are never pretty and are never comfortable. As artists, we are tasked with the unique calling to help audiences contemplate the worst avenues in their lives. And we have to negotiate the line between being offensive and being helpful.
So how do we handle controversial topics? How do we as artists stand firm in our character and hold the resolve of morality?
In the spaces between the words I write I can seem anti-conservative, anti-liberal, and even at times anti-Native, and I’m Native (Kiowa and Cherokee). Why would I do that? Why would I be so critical? It could mean jeopardizing my readership. Yes, that’s true. But if I didn’t it would mean jeopardizing my own character as an artist. More importantly, we must have faith that our readers are savvy enough to understand constructive criticism versus dismissive criticism. A big part of our development as artists is “trusting” our audience, “trusting” their intelligence and their willingness to engage in art. Our audiences don’t oversimplify anything. In fact, our audiences want complexity. That’s the reason they turn to art, literary or visual, so they can find the intellectual stimulation which entertains and enlightens.
If you are going to straddle the line successfully, you’re must give each character, each painting, each song three dimensions: hero, villain, and victim. I speak about the drama triangle in previous posts (feel free to explore my blog). This will make your most critical thought on an issue or person constructive? If you can find the good in the bad and the bad in the good, then you will make an audience reflect rather than run away. Ultimately, reflection is success as an artist.
(Works Cited: The images used in this post were borrowed from Wikimedia Commons)