Going back through some of my older posts, I've noticed a few threads that I try to pick up and carry the standard for a little further each time they come up. One of them is something I guess you could call the Creator's Duty, although the way I've stumped for it might make it earn the label Creator's Snobbism instead. It goes something about like this:
If you create something, you owe it to yourself to not have the same kinds of consumption patterns as someone who just consumes. This doesn't mean you can't just kick back and mainline some Phineas & Ferb when the mood arises (and hey, everyone needs a vice), but you do need to be conscious of what putting any particular piece of "entertainment" into you will create.
I slapped some self-admitted scare quotes around "entertainment" (see? I did it again!) because of what I guess could be called Creator's Duty, Second Corollary: Nothing is ever just entertainment; even our entertainments are works of art whether or not we like it. That doesn't mean they're good art, though; but they have the chance to be taken very, very seriously by somebody out there, and odds are you won't have any say in who that is or how they take it.
To that end, you need to be careful, both about what you fill yourself up with, and how you let that diet affect what you create. Again, I'm not stumping here for kicking all the Jim Butcher off the bookshelves and replacing him with Tolstoy (that joyless, insufferable idealist) or even Hans Fallada or whoever. I'm saying you got to be conscious of how you're equipping your own creative senses, and with what — and not let that lead you to tell stories that betray your audience's own good faith. If people come to you with hungry minds and active imaginations, and you serve them up something that only confirms their worst prejudices and sends them back home hungry again, that's a crime against the imagination and the spirit.
I hate having to qualify this every other sentence, but I'm forced to do so out of the way so many lines like this can be ripped out of context and misinterpreted. No, I am not advocating for a Creativity Police; nor am I preparing to draft a manifesto or whip together a branded movement in which these principles will become guidelines for action. For lack of any better way to put it, these are spiritual rules — precepts, not commandments. They're things that someone has to dig into themselves to understand, and realize each in their own way. Nobody, least of all me, can twist your arm, because the minute you try to codify stuff like this into something external, that's when you get into real trouble.
When people toss around lines like you got to do your own thing, this, I think, is what they mean. You gotta come to terms with your own responsibility to the people you're ostensibly trying to connect with.
John Cage, again: "As they say in the sutras: 'This is not idle talk, but the highest of truths.'" Likewise, this may be entertainment, but it's not merely that; it never is. This is our world and our lives, and to someone out there, it's going to be a guiding light. That makes it a responsibility to be lived up to and not just a job to be done.