Art is freedom. Big words, but I’ll try and cut my thoughts short, even though I could go on about such a topic in a friendly dispute for hours.
Art is freedom: it has every right to be whatever it wants to be, and there’s no authority to judge it universally good or bad or anything. It stays subjective, and every interpretation of it stays subjective. Audience, readers, viewers, listeners, agents, editors or critics might like it or not, deem it worthy of publishing it or throwing it away, of praising it or damning it – but their opinion remains just that: an opinion. The only time artists have to pay attention to such an opinion is when they want to please the source of the opinion, when they give weight, for some reason (psychological, monetary, whatever) to such an opinion, and form and mold their art into shapes the people behind such a valued opinion expect to see and hear and read. Otherwise art remains what it is: a free expression of human thought and emotion that means something different for each and every member of its audience, includig its own creator (who becomes one of the audience upon finishing the artwork).
So heed opinions only that you as an artist care about for some reason, and accept only the authority of those whom you consider worthy of it – which might, in cases, permit noone at all, not even yourself.
(And drink only when you’re thirsty, and eat when you’re hungry. ;))
I’ve had quite a number of conversations with friends and colleagues and acquaintances touching upon this broad subject recently, and I started to wonder if I would be better off artistically if I could get rid of all the restrictive urges that drive me to please a certain kind of audience. Maybe I would write and paint more, and it would please me and teach me more about myself, focusing and releasing my creative energies – and maybe nobody would like what I write and paint anymore. It would take a huge amount of blind courage to let go and follow only the inner artist and fire the craftsman within who, out of fear of outside criticism and a desire to be popular, tries to abide by all the rules that have been derived from art already dissected and buried under mounds of interpretation. (Yes, derived, mostly by self or money-appointed authorities throughout the centuries who consider their own derived definiton of good the only valid one, with all its repetition and predictability).
Of course, it mustn’t be forgotten either that the inner craftsman can also provide a great deal of help as well – but it has to be kept in check. It might not be allowed to usurp the throne of unbound intuition: it must stay a servant to the inner artist, asking, counseling and recommending, never dominating. Which is, coming to think of it, true of outside sources – authorities authorized by one’s own inner authority as temporarily acceptable authority – as well.
(I think it funny indeed that there are people who consider pursuing one or another art form their “job”, as if inspiration could be forced to take up an unceasing, monotonous daily routine. When forced, the artist inside most probably goes away, taking all the inspiration as well… And what or who remains and tinkers away day by day is the good craftsman with all its well-honed rules and time-tested, yet unoriginal and predictable methods, who will produce reliable and good stuff, but never anything genuine, surprising or deep. And I don’t think anybody with the slightest interest in real creativity would want that, would they?)