Here’s an observation about art that I find risky to share, something artists don’t want to hear about. As an editor, I would love to hang it over my desk, plaster it all over my website, and repeat it endlessly to every writer I work with. I can’t because it is difficult to accept, and I don’t want to turn people off. Here it is:

Readers don't give a shit.

People, in general, don't give a shit. They have a limited supply of shits to give and an even tighter budget in their fuck hand-out department. People will only give a shit or a fuck when they believe it does something for them.

Take Mona Lisa. The painting in the Louvre is under constant siege by crowds wishing to see it. It is impossible that they go there to appreciate art. Louvre is filled with wonderful art, on par, or greater than Mona Lisa. But that’s not why they’re there. They go to the Louvre so they can later say, “I have seen Mona Lisa with my own eyes.” It has nothing to do with Mona Lisa, and everything to do with status.

Take a look at everything our culture produces. Books, rock concerts, movies, tv-series, comic books, and what have you. People care about things because they get something in return. A sense of belonging (late Game of Thrones adopters), a fulfillment of a fantasy (Fifty Shades), means of escape (Mr. H. Potter), or being able to say “I was one of the first” (early Game of Thrones adopters).

And don’t get me wrong. It’s a good thing! It helps culture spread from one person to another, just because your friend says, “You have to read this thing!”

But it is also something that you, as a creator, need to understand. Your readers aren’t here for you. They don’t owe you anything. You are here for them. You have to put in the effort required to create something they can start caring about.

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