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The Audience Question

My dear Planksters,

How are you doing?

Over the last few days I have been pondering on a comment that I read in Tuula Karjalainen’s ‘Tove Jansson, Work and Love’ – a most excellent biography of the incredibly talented Tove Jannson, artist and author, best known for her creation; ‘The Moomins’.

I’m currently only halfway through the book and will devote a blog to it when I’ve finished, but in chapter four, Tuula Karjalainen mentions that Tove was often asked the question ‘Whom do you write for?’ Tuula reports;

“…She replied that in the first instance she wrote more for herself than for children. ‘But if my stories are addressed to any particular kind of reader, then it’s probably a Miffle. I mean those who have trouble fitting in anywhere, those who are on the outside, on the margins […], the fish out of water. The good-for-nothing one has managed to escape from or conceal’.

This caused me to reflect on the question, when you create, be that writing, art, pottery, knitting whatever, who is your intended audience -is it first and foremost for yourself - or maybe your younger self? And how does your intended audience influence your work?

Do you think about the recipients of your creations in the planning stage (if you have a planning stage) or do you only become mindful of them once you start to create? Do you ever edit and change your work at the end when pondering your audience? And what about censoring? – Ever hold back from depicting something because of who might view your work?

When writing, (both ‘published’ and ‘not yet’ writers) how much are you considering what the publishers/agents/current market is looking for? Or do you just remove all shackles during the writing process and allow your uninhibited originality to flow?

(Even as I’m writing this, I’m conscious of you, Planksters – being careful to be general enough so as not to alienate, checking that my recorded ideas are not too ‘out-there' and, that my phrases are palatable…!)

I’ve heard hundreds of artists and writers advise ‘Just be yourself – create work that you enjoy’ – how much would your work change if you followed that advice? Or maybe, like Tove, you’re already living in that hallowed reality!

According to Tuula, Tove’s Moomin books were frowned on initially in Finland;

“The Moomins’ language, their drinking of palm wine and smoking of tobacco gave offence. What’s more, the Moomins often said rude things and even swore at times.”

Apparently, Tove was clear that she wrote:

“…in order to amuse – but not to educate.”

I for one, am very glad that Tove didn’t hold back (or maybe she did!!) and that her publisher, Söderström & Co, was open to writing that was brilliant and original, sharing with the world something that was wonderful and enduring and that we Miffles can relate to.

I’d love to hear your candid thoughts, Planksters. When creating, are you reined in or unrestricted, or, have you managed to carve out a workspace in that finely balanced (and probably more marketable) middle ground?

Sincerely, and with a long glassy stare,

Thalamus Plank

(Incidentally, my ‘sign-offs’ are uninhibited…)

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