As an author one of the smartest things one can do is listen to our readers, yet as an artist listening to our audience might well be the very worst mistake we can make.
Life is full of these little conundrums. Indeed, this entire blog and even this particular post are examples of such.
One of my readers once requested I post further pictures of our dog, Bacon. Like pretty much everyone I know, I really enjoying doing things for other people.
But as an artist whose medium is words and whose canvas is the page, I only ever really do things for myself. Perhaps a defining attribute of art is that it must be selfish? Not only to its creator, the artist, but also to its appreciator. After all, if art doesn’t speak directly with us, in the most intimate of conversations, should it really be considered art?
At risk of sounding foolish let me tell you my writing does precisely that. When I read something I wrote however long ago, it is as though those words were written by a stranger I’ve never met, yet who somehow knows exactly how to press my emotional buttons. It is a terrible, wonderful, and exhilarating feeling to be dragged headlong into an emotional abyss. Yes, I created those words, but to my heart they are always fresh and new. Literally always. I’ve edited Beltamar’s War well over twenty times now, and it invariably reduces me to tears. Yes, I’m a hard hearted old man who would never dream of crying in public, but when I think nobody can see? That might be another story, for another time.
And thus back to Lydia’s request. Bacon, our latest pound hound, also touches my heart every time she meets me at the door. I think this year will be her tenth birthday, yet she never fails to give me an enthusiastic greeting when I arrive home. She is always genuinely happy to see me. Always. She is also incredibly camera shy. Which makes getting an even halfway decent picture of her very difficult. My daughter Julia has managed this feat a couple of times.
I seldom do, but here is one such picture.
In order to take this I called Bacon over to me and was chatting to her as I turned my phone on, set it into camera mode, chose a square image, then ever so slowly slid it up to allow its forward facing camera to focus on her. As soon as she noticed my phone her ears lowered and her eyes asked, “Why are you doing this to me…?”
Look into Bacon’s eyes, where I think you’ll see her question lingers for posterity.