Some of us have a talent to disappear, and it’s a good one if you can control it. Nurture it, because it comes in handy if you’re an artist.
But not always.
Here’s the dilemma: when you’re reading a book, you want to hear the characters’ voices and remain immersed in the story. What you don’t want is to be shaken awake from the fictive dream once per page and told, “HEY! I’m a book written by FamousAuthor! Keep that in mind!”
The author needs to subsume her own voice into the voice of the narrative and remain submerged for the duration of the novel. It’s an even stronger need in poetry than in fiction, where I’m told the first and only thing the author is allowed to say about the poem is the title.
It happens in other art media as well. When I sang in church choir, for example, it was stressed (in every choir I’ve ever participated in) that we need to sing, to get the people to sing, and not be remembered. That the point was to honor God and not to draw attention to oneself.
At some point, however, the goal changes. Take Thomas Kinkaid. You look at his painting and you know it’s his because he’s stylized it to the point where he’s permanently branded. If he creates a forest painting that isn’t bespeckled with light, everyone will be surprised. “But aren’t you Thomas Kinkaid, Painter of Light?”
The week before Christmas, when I’d finally succumbed to the Christmas music for the sake of my children (even though it was still Advent) I had the misfortune of hearing Whitney Houston’s version of “Do You Hear What I Hear,” which is a song I enjoy. Except she’d Whitney-Houstoned it up to a degree where I could not actually hear the song any longer. And it wasn’t even enjoyable. Okay, so you’re Whitney Houston — and what’s the point?
Tightrope there. In some art, we need to disappear. But after we’ve attained a certain following and branded ourselves to a certain point, we need to show up again. While disappearing.
I’m still at the “disappear” point in my career. In fact, I’d like the opportunity to appear a bit more than I have been! But regardless, it’s an interesting balance. At what point does your branding take over and you become the person you claim to be, as opposed to the creator submerging herself, and her audience, in her work?