Your Friends May Not Be Your Audience

I was watching an episode of Fresh Off the Boat last night in which Jessica realized her husband had never finished reading the novel she wrote. It reminded me of something my marketing-manager husband once said, “Your friends and family are not your audience.”

He’s not entirely correct, of course. Some of your friends and family might be your audience, and some may support your art just to be nice, even though it’s not really their style. But others may never care all that much about the art you produce.

Because our art feels personal, because it reflects our interests, skills, talents, and views, we assume (or at least hope) those to whom we feel closest will love it the way they love us. Sometimes, it can’t help but feel like a bit of a rejection if they don’t.

But where’s the logic in that, really? Art is subjective. If everyone loved the same art, we’d need only one type of artist. So why shouldn’t some of our friends and relatives reject our art, and why does that have to feel personal?

It’s like when you make a big batch of spaghetti for friends, only to discover one doesn’t like tomato sauce. Do you let that ruin the whole evening? Do you beat yourself up over cooking “the wrong thing?” Do you resent them for “rejecting” your dish? Or do you accept it as truth when they say, “That’s okay, I’m happy to just eat the salad, bread, and dessert.” In other words, “That’s okay. We don’t share the same taste in food, but I’m still happy to be in your company.”

It’s not up to other people to love the things we produce. It’s great if they do, and no big deal if they don’t. Because on the same day your favorite relative confesses he/she doesn’t really “get” your art, some stranger will e-mail to tell you it moved them to tears. Your audience is out there, you just need to find them. And your friends and family are still your friends and family, even if they don’t appreciate your art. This is one hurt you can stop inflicting on yourself.

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