This clip from Aquaman, in the New 52 comic series, inspired me to bring up a topic all artists suffer through in the early stages of craft development and throughout our adult/professional lives: Non-artists always meddle in things they don’t understand and say things like this genius above to Aquaman, butting in to his personal decisions unasked (he wouldn’t bother a non-superhuman (artists); not to say that artists are super-heroes . . .). “I don’t talk to fish” sounds an awful lot like the rebuttals I’ve given to fend off people who would do better not to make pointed remarks about a map/outline I was making or read a line of text over-the-shoulder (that is the WORST!).
I should mention that I use Jo Rowling’s term “Muggle” to mean anyone who isn’t an artist in the context of this post (and likely subsequent ones).
Muggle is a handy term to distinguish non-artists, how they have no idea what it is like to be a writer, composer, actor, a member of any of the arts, and live in a society where we are often treated as outsiders/eccentrics (you know, until one makes millions, then it’s okay . . .). So really this post is targeted to all the Muggles out there in the hopes that you will treat your artist friend, spouse, or co-worker with a more informed manner.
We don’t like it when noses are poked in our work unwarranted or for one to pose a question to make them sound smarter, more informed than they actual are about the creation of our story be them Muggle or artist. Often, people don’t pick the times when we’re doing a final airbrush read through and edits, the best material. They show curiosity when our work is in the early stages, an imperfect material. It drives me crazy and does nothing to demonstrate to the unawares Muggle that writers are willing to socialize or talk to somebody else besides our own self or the characters in our heads. Which we are just not when we’re in the middle of a good flow.
Regarding the Aquaman comic strip clip, the bespectacled Muggle deeply misunderstands the King of Atlantis’ powers, probably only getting his information from the Grapevine or the media. In such instances, it is not the Muggles’ fault for their ignorance. Orin’s abilities are as complex and diverse as the seas he rules. Writers have a similar intricacy with our imaginative occupation; we share similar lifestyles of comprehending the extraordinary worlds of our imagination under our care (Atlantis) and dealing with the distinctly opposite world of reality with Muggles in it (the surface world). It’s such a convenient comparison because Aquaman literally was born in one world with his foot in the other. I find myself in similar situations (one foot in reality, the rest in my own world). I’m sure I’m not alone.
How do we combat this confusion on the part of Muggles? There’s not really a solution. Muggles’ reckless interest in the coils of our creative shells will manifest whenever we attend family gatherings or brave to write in public where friends are likely to be. What is more, they will try to make you feel bad about your creative habits or that you’re wasting your time with stuff that won’t get you a check right off the bat. . . They will try to pull you out from your own world and into theirs, but they will not know the damage they inflict. All that can be done is to grit teeth and amicably wave it off with an “it’s going great” or “yeah, I would love to, but I’m not telling anyone about it right now.”
But there is hope.
You will have that one or small group of people who will understand. Such relationships will likely take a long time to develop or, otherwise, a powerful experience will create the bond. Talking about what you’re writing or thinking of writing is critical to the development of a good story. Whenever I do, I find that I get more confidence out of it than reserving it only for a conversation with the Dumbledore of my mind. There will be someone who says, “he has a relationship with 3/4’s of the world. He understands more than most anyone could about this planet.” You will be glad for this reinforcement because Muggles won’t trust your defense; they will trust one from someone disguised as them.