This passage is from Show Your Work!, by Austin Kleon. I find it both reassuring and scary.
I feel like most artists dream of the day when our work will simply affect people, glowing with undeniable meaning and force. I worry, though, that much of this dream comes from school lessons, where the great works of the past were presented to us as though their meaning and worth was always obvious to all. We tend to forget how much packaging and outside exposition comes with those great works: it’s often a shock to assign Hemingway’s more opaque short stories to students, for instance, and discover that most of the class doesn’t get the hidden message that everyone who has studied the stories has dutifully learned. So it’s appealing to leave that dream behind. I don’t need to be Hemingway.
However, it’s also a scary thought. If readers didn’t get my story, then maybe Kleon is saying that’s my fault. If they didn’t buy my novel, maybe they would have if it had been presented to them differently. I can’t blame people for not seeking me out and discovering me.
If you truly believed what Kleon says here, what would you do differently? What would you change about your work?
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