One of the coolest things that has happened within the past decade or two is that the internet has changed how artists, filmmakers, comic makers, musicians, photographers, non-fiction writers, fiction writers etc… have distributed the things that they create.
Although I’ll talk about how things have changed for the next three paragraphs, I really want to talk about how this changes how we (as artists, writers etc..) see our own work.
Traditionally, the distribution model for writers, musicians etc… was to spend a large amount of time working on a single project (eg: a novel, an album, an issue of a comic etc..) and then to release the whole thing at once. Even artists would either spend months on a single painting or they’d create a collection of paintings or drawings for a single gallery exhibition.
Back in the days before the internet really became popular, this made a lot more sense from the perspective of traditional publishers. After all, it’s easier to print thousands of copies of one novel or press thousands of copies of one CD/ vinyl record every year or two than it is to make and distribute lots of shorter things every few days.
Of course, these days, artists can show off their work online very easily, anyone with a camera can post a couple of online videos a week, artists/writers can post webcomic updates every day, bloggers can post non-fiction articles online several times a week etc…
As someone with a short creative attention span, I think that this is great. Having the ability to create lots of shorter things and to publish them online on a more regular basis is absolutely perfect for me, although it can come with it’s own unusual problems.
The most significant one of these is that nothing ever feels like it’s finished.
When you’re constantly posting new art, comic pages, non-fiction articles etc.. online, there isn’t really any demarcation in the way that there used to be when writers released physical books every year, when artists gave gallery shows, when musicians released albums every few years etc…
If you’re constantly releasing lots of smaller things, then it can feel like your work is part of a never-ending continuum which you’re constantly adding to. You don’t really quite get the satisfaction that, say, a writer might get from finishing a single novel. After a while, this can make you feel like your work is somehow “less” than the things that traditional writers, artists, comic makers etc.. make.
Of course, there are ways that you can lessen this slightly – such as by making themed art series of several similar paintings or drawings, making short comics, adding story arcs to webcomics etc… but these things often still feel like they’re part of a continuum rather than serious stand-alone works.
Although the benefits of releasing things online regularly vastly outweigh this one small problem, I think that I’m having this problem (and I’m probably not the only one) for the simple reason that the internet is still a relatively new medium.
I mean, I’m in my twenties and the modern World Wide Web (but not the internet itself – which began in the 1960s) is younger than I am.
When I grew up, the things that inspired me and shaped my imagination were mostly traditional media and this has probably also shaped how I think about how “serious” creative works are released (eg: in instalments, rather than as part of a continuum).
Who knows, maybe future generations won’t have this problem?
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂