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Writers: What I learned from Kevin Smith about AUDIENCE (they don’t own you)

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@RChazzChute

The other day I was feeling feisty and I said something about DIY on Twitter (full of bravado):

Burned bridges with a blog I wrote tonight. Fuck the bridge. I’ll swim. Go indie. Live free or die hard.

Someone shot back with a sarcastic:

Proudly alienate those who are not your fans. Awesome.

Well…yeah. People who don’t get me are not my fans. Why should I chase people who don’t like me for me? I have a particular voice and point of view, in my fiction and non-fiction and my blog, that will appeal to you or it won’t. If it doesn’t, no hard feelings and I hope you find something you do enjoy. However, when I dilute my voice, I lose the little tribe I have and any hope of real fans in the future. I’ve heard the quote attributed to a couple of celebrities, but basically it goes like this:

I don’t know what the secret to success is,

but to guarantee failure, try to please everyone.

Which brings us to my personal icon for all things indie, director Kevin Smith. For years, he argued with people who didn’t love him. If you look at his old tweets, he had a serious anger (and sometimes still does) for media, critics and haters. He would do battle with them and, despite all his success and wealth, would still end up arguing with some loser living in his parents’ basement. People who complained about what he did in his career—sometimes about everything he attempted—really bothered him. (Think on that a second: Some people wouldn’t even give him credit for getting something right once in a while even by accident!) Mr. Smith engaged in flame wars while his lovely wife looked on perplexed saying, “You have a wonderful life and live in a mansion! Why do you care?”

Mr. Smith is more relaxed now. Part of his new attitude is the prodigious amount of weed he smokes, but it’s not just that. He’s been successful for so long that he recognizes the pattern: People who are haters don’t do much else. People who don’t write will tell you how to write. People who can’t do, don’t teach. They snipe and snark.

You don’t find your audience so much as your audience finds you. As you try to build your platform and reach out to express your art, you’re going to dredge up some people who are pissed you aren’t what they’re looking for. We don’t do this with things other than art. You don’t go to the pharmacy and get pissed off because they don’t have coconuts in stock. You go to the grocery store for coconuts instead.

Do what you do. Write what you write. Define your voice through your expression and remember that it is your voice. I think harsh critics think they own your art (even if they haven’t paid a dime for it) because, unlike those coconuts, they take what you write into themselves. That doesn’t mean they own it, though. And they certainly don’t own you. They can react to it. They can criticize it. They can argue with it. They can move on (which makes the most sense.)

People who do nothing but hate think hate is art.

They’re wrong.

Art is a creative force, not a destructive one.

What does matter is your core audience. Now if you write and write and produce and put your stuff out there and very few people are feeling any love for it, that’s a different problem. However, if your core audience can be built big enough, that’s all you need. You don’t have to go chasing after the people who are running away from you. No one gets universal acceptance. Don’t even try for it. Expect obstacles and naysayers and pay little or no attention to them if you can. For everything you love, for everything you think is the best, there are millions of people who sneer and call it shit.

Check the comments on any book you love on Amazon.com. See all those nasty reviews? Now, do you really love that book any less because some guy  you don’t know thinks it’s the worst thing on earth since the rise of Hitler and Pottery Barn?

Great people make you feel like you can be great, too.

Haters don’t do that. They don’t even know how to do that.

Now is the time for all good indies to stand up. You now have the technology in your hands to let your unique voice be heard. You can be read when, just a short time ago, gatekeepers could hold you back. There are no gatekeepers anymore. You don’t have to approach publishing or film or any other art as if you’re going to The Man for a job! You can employ yourself and deploy yourself. You can Crowd Source your financing or  convince a fan of your blogged fiction to spend a few bucks for an e-book that costs nothing to distribute. You can grow your fan base without old media’s distribution system and middle man percentages. You can be the boss if you want to be. Your art doesn’t have to wait and you don’t have to ask permission. Make your art and see who shows up. Whoever shows up and stays is your audience.

Remember Chili Palmer in Get Shorty? Some guy tells him how easy it is to write a screenplay. “We can do this…we can do that…” Chili lights a smoke and says, “It’s really that easy? Then I got one question. What do I need you for?”

Here’s today’s message for you if you’re my core audience:

Not sure how to proceed? Resolve to ask questions, learn and try.

When you mess up, resolve to begin again.

If you’re new here and like it, welcome. I’m Chazz.

If you don’t like it, via con dios, friend. I hope you find what you’re looking for.

If you don’t like it and you choose to stay, well, that’s your own damn fault

because you’re looking for coconuts at the drugstore, you idiot!

Oh, and the person who felt alienated by my Twitter post? I saved her some trouble. I agreed with her.

Then, in honor of Kevin Smith’s fine example, I didn’t just block that bitch. I KA-blocked her.

Filed under: publishing, self-publishing, Twitter, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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