The quote “A good sermon is one side of a passionate conversation” by author Marilynne Robinson can be used for a lot more than sermons.
Whenever you are creating something, there is this underlying idea that you are making some sort of statement. That, no matter how important it may be, you are telling your audience something. But while you may think that the statement itself is what truly matters, even in art it’s important to keep one cliche in mind: it’s not what you say, but how you say it. So, this is how to speak to your audience.
No one wants to feel like there is a bullhorn in their face and nobody enjoys art that makes them feel like they’re being preached to. You may be convinced that the heart of your project needs to be heard by everyone, and that you need to tirelessly work on something so that people won’t be able to deny how strong and powerful your declaration is.
But if your audience doesn’t feel like you are hearing them in the first place, they won’t feel the need to listen to you.
It can be very difficult to work in the isolated confines that your art requires while also feeling like you are creating something that someone can relate to. You don’t want to sell out and pander, but if you are treating your audience like you’re bringing them a truth that only you discovered, then you’re going to find a lot of people tuning out.
Good art doesn’t tell people something they don’t know, but rather takes something they’ve always known and presents it in a way that makes them see it in a different or more clear manner. You are taking something they have looked at a hundred times and just turning it slightly to reveal something they never noticed before.
Another cliche to remember is, “There is nothing new under the sun.” As we know, everything is a remix. Someone earlier has, in some way, said the same things you’re saying. What matters is how you say them to make those listening feel like they’re part of the conversation.
Julia Kelleher on the Ten Commandments of Customer Service
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