I read somewhere that in the creative process, the cycle of creativity is not complete until the work has been shared. In other words, when a book finds a reader, or a piece of music finds a listener . . . or a work of visual art finds it's viewer, THAT is when the process is completed.
(I am totally paraphrasing, so my apologies, dear commenter, if I've butchered your statement. If you should happen to stumble upon this post, please claim it as yours and make any clarifications in the comments!)
This idea has been pinging around in my brain ever since. Sometimes faintly in the distance, but recently, with a resounding clamour that I just cannot ignore. The more I surf online and read about how difficult it is for people to get stories out there -- stories that are from traditions not understood, dismissed out of hand, or that are simply unfamiliar to the people who make decisions on whether to acquire them and send them out into the world, the more I try to conjure up alternatives. It is a loss not just to the public at large (which loses out on the beautiful diversity of experiences around us--so many different ways to see the world!), it is also a kind of stunting of growth for the writer.
When that creative force charges through an artist/writer/composer, and she feels compelled to vomit it out (sorry), it's in a rush -- a frantic outpouring of emotion and poetry, both festeringly ugly and painfully beautiful. The artist then shapes that into the best work that they can (after spending however many years learning and honing their craft, reading how-to books, going to conferences, crit groups, etc.) and hurl it with all their might into the ethersphere.
I can speak only as a writer: a lot of writers live in the silence of creation. But if/when a work comes back without an answer, without being read or heard, without making any kind of dent or impact in the lives of other people, and this happens repeatedly, that silence can be unbearable.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it is absolutely necessary for an artist to get their work "out there." It's not just about needing/wanting recognition as some might claim. And if TPTB don't understand the work that is submitted, aren't familiar with it, or, based on values of their own traditions decide that it won't sell or that there is no market for it, many, many artists are having their work returned without finding its audience.
That is the reason women's presses, feminist presses, LGBTQI presses were popping up all over the place during the 70s, 80s, and 90s. It was abundantly obvious that TPTB didn't, and generally were not willing to, open their doors to under-represented voices. Most of these presses didn't close their doors because there was no interest in the stories they were publishing; they ended up closing their doors because the larger publishers started noticing that there were, indeed, untapped profitable markets out there, ready and waiting to be recognized.
When I talk to my husband about this, he puts it within a framework he understands: Hip Hop music. He tells me of how, in the early days of Hip Hop, when no one thought it would sell and that the only market for it would be urban Black youth, Hip Hop artists would sell their CDs out of the backs of cars. They would lug around cardboard boxes full of CDs on the streets of Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and they would develop underground followings that way. Some of these artists would become famous among people who were flocking to the music (which, at the time, was far more politically charged and challenging of the status quo than it is these days) -- it was a music that spoke to them, to their experience, to the silence and suffocation of their lives, as well as to the celebration and joy that unchained them. It was a music born from a tradition; a music that was not yet understood by the corporate powers up in their plush Manhattan offices -- powers that were quick to dismiss a music that, in their eyes, was unmarketable, had no audience, and couldn't possibly turn a profit.
Every time my husband frames it in those terms, I am inspired. I look at the global Hip Hop explosion, and realize that ALL major inroads by people outside of the mainstream have been created that way. They began on the fringes with a few, frustrated voices calling into the wind for change. And when those voices turned away, they decided to create their own change. They knew there was a market for their work. They knew their communities, and knew the language of their families and friends. They created their art, and then they went out and did the call/response that is part of the Circle of Art. The response came back full, and the process created a kind of cypher that has been, to this day, influencing youth, music, fashion, and culture on a global level.