fiction

What Do You Owe?

I haven’t ever mentioned it, but I read a few webcomics, and one in particular has some of the most veracious fans. They sit and camp for new pages every week and nitpick almost everything they see. The comic is set to update once a week and, especially lately, the artists have come up against a lot of delays which generally pushes the pages back. Whenever this happens, the fans get up in arms and it becomes a cycle of complaining about not getting an update to complaining about complainers and lashing out at them.

This seems to beg the question: how much responsibility does an artist and/or writer owe to their fans?

I can’t say I have too many “loyal” fans at this point since my publishing efforts are few and far between so far. Authors with series probably feel a lot more pressure to produce content.

The answer to that question, at least to me, is the minimum amount. Neil Gaiman said it better when addressing a complaint about George R.R. Martin:  George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.

Obviously, if I say I’m going to update a story once a week, then it is my responsibility to update it once a week. If I set a publishing date, I should meet it, but not because fans are beating down my door and demanding new content, but because I made a commitment to myself and others if publishers are involved.  If I can’t meet those deadlines, I either shouldn’t make them or I should change them.

I know what it feels like to wait for new books from authors. I read the Harry Potter series as it was being written. I waited years in between books but I didn’t complain. I knew that the wait would be worth it. I can’t say anything for JKR, but I bet as time went by and the books became more successful, the pressure began to build. I don’t write well under pressure, not knowing that people actually have expectations for something I’m doing. It begins to crush you after a while. Even my own expectations can sometimes become too much.

Sometimes, I feel bad for not producing new content constantly, not even on this blog. What must it be like for someone who has thousands of people waiting for new things? Hanging on their every word? I may not ever get to that point in my career, but I like to think I wouldn’t fold under the pressure. If that happens, there are buffers you have to put up. You have to focus on the deadlines and not the people waiting for them to come. Whatever you’re doing, the content is first and foremost for you, the author or artist. You wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t.

Most of the responsibility is owed to yourself, I think. There are plenty of writers and artists out there, but there are also plenty of people that call themselves such and never finish anything. Finishing is only the beginning, and one of the most important steps to creating art.

In essence, yes, some responsibility is owed to your fans who, after all, are the ones consuming your content, but they don’t dictate when you write things or put up new content. That is something you take on yourself, and if you miss your deadlines, first and foremost, you’re disappointing yourself. And if you can’t satisfy your own goals, how would you ever satisfy those of thousands of other people? Take responsibility for yourself first and then set reasonable goals. What often gets creators in trouble is setting goals they can’t meet, announcing it, and then the expectation builds whereas simply setting one for yourself can be completely different from what you tell the public.

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