Thursday, November 06, 2008

What Survivorman Has in Common with Me

I’m so amped that the new season of “Survivorman” premieres tomorrow! Ah Les, it’s been too long since we got to see you starving and struggling in some new inhospitable environment. Swoon. LOL
So in honor of this auspicious event, I wanted to share with you some very cool Les Stroud lore I discovered in a recent interview. The October Studio Monthly magazine included an article by Les entitled “Backwoods Warrior” that focuses on the filmmaking aspect of his career. (For those of you living under a rock, Les films his show all by himself. But of course, if you’re living under a rock, you really ought to be watching the show for survival tips.) I took particular interest in a paragraph in which Les talked about his motivation in making “Survivorman” as good as it is:

I sat down and meditated (call it whatever you want) on the fact that I had to make this film/this day/this next scene compelling, beautiful and inspirational. There may only be one viewer, but you owe them a great show. When you present a film or any other creative endeavor you take on, you’re asking each audience member to take an hour or more out of his or her life to watch what you did. What right do I have to ask that of them, if I haven’t put everything I possibly could have into this production? Surely they have any number of other things they could be doing with that hour. I owe it to them to put all my passion into what I’m presenting.

Wow, Les, this sums up exactly how I feel about writing romance fiction! Well, writing anything, really, including this blog.

I recently read a blog post on a website for fiction readers that took a very opposite tack. The blog writer took umbrage when an editor suggested some changes to the grammar and structure of one of his posts. His thesis was that his blog was a window into his head, and therefore it ought to be whatever he wanted, without regard to the readers’ interest or understanding.

That attitude kinda frosts my cookies, friends. I have no problem with doing that in my own journal, which is read by no one but me, but when you put writing on a public forum, you thereby invite others to read it. If you don’t care that you may be wasting their time, if you make no effort to be concise and comprehensible, then to me that is putting yourself above others. There’s enough of that in human society without encouraging such an attitude, if you ask me.

I’ve seen that same thing occur recently in other art forms. Case in point: I watched a cake-making competition the other day in which the assignment was to make a haunted house cake. One of the contestants created an ugly abstract mess that she considered “art.” She pooh-poohed the judges’ negative reaction and said they were “unqualified to judge such a contest.”

Hey, sister, guess what? It was their contest! Communication is about the audience, not the “speaker,” and the goal is to get your message across as meaningfully as possible, not to express your individuality at all costs. You’re free to express your individuality in lots of ways—make that cake for yourself if you like. But in art, entertainment, and communication, your efforts are wasted unless at least a portion of the populace gets and enjoys you.

On the flip side, it doesn’t have to be everyone…it simply can’t be, people are too different. That’s the other thing I loved about Les’s statement: Even if there’s only one viewer, even if only one person reads your book or blog post, you owe it to them and to yourself to offer your best work.

I know, due to individual taste, not everyone is going to want to read a vampire romance. But when I wrote Bloodchained I did know that a lot of people like that genre, and that they deserved, in exchange for their reading time, a well-written novel. I kept that charge in mind throughout the process of writing, editing, and publishing the book. I, like Les, consider myself the servant of my readership, not the other way around.

And that’s how the deal works. Artists should never lose touch with the fact that communication is an exchange of currencies: your work for your audience’s money and time. If your ego loses touch with that principle, don’t be surprised if you, like the “cake artist” who came in last, end up with no one watching or listening.

But to end on a more positive note: The nice thing about having Les’s attitude about your work is that it really gets results. “Survivorman” is a moving and beautiful show because Les puts his heart in every episode. I hope you’ll tune in tomorrow night and see what I mean!


Miss Organizized said...

God knows my blog can be insanely boring to 100% of people out there, and when all I have is updates to my 101 List, I'm pretty apologetic. Interestingly enough, when I had more to say, it was usually because I was tortured by a love lost, and that didn't feel good. So like I said in my most recent post, in some cases, no news is good news! I do understand what you're saying though. You shouldn't waste people's time. Luckily I think only four people read my blog!

Diana Laurence said...

And LURVE your blog, Katesi! Your blog is personal, not like this one, which is supposed to be for the general public (or a certain portion thereof). People blogging for their own diary-like purposes are another story. In that case, anything goes. :-)

Miss Organizized said...

Well that's good :) I know that Monica/Tina just commented that they enjoy reading about my updates. I should consider myself lucky that I have the time and energy to keep at all these projects and stuff and thus be proud to update about it all!