Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Creative Life: Do Good Work Then Put It Where People Can See It

Technique Tuesday

Nearly a year ago, I asked this question: As a variation on the philosophical conundrum about noisy trees falling in forests, if a capricious deity were to pluck Mozart out of Vienna and deposit him in the middle of darkest Africa, would he still be a genius?

One of the problems of the creative life, no matter how much we want to believe our art is pure and unsullied by the opinions of others, we need an audience: we need to believe that there is someone else out there, perhaps not even born yet, who will respond to our work.

Audiences, however, are much harder to come by than you might think. As Austin Kleon explains, in item 6 of his presentation, How to Steal Like an Artist, "... most of the world doesn’t necessarily care about what you think. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. As Steven Pressfield said, 'It’s not that people are mean or cruel, they’re just busy.'"

What, then, can you do to build an audience?

Kleon continues:
"If there was a secret formula for getting an audience, or gaining a following, I would give it to you. But there’s only one not-so-secret formula that I know: Do good work and put it where people can see it."
In other words, the only way to build an audience is to provide something they value enough to pay attention to.

So why, as a creative person, do you share?


The word, "validation," carries connotations of dependence, but at a certain, fundamental level we need the reassurance that others will respond favorably and that we are, in fact, not crazy.


One of the simple, yet powerful metaphors in the New Testament is that of a lit candle hid under a basket. It's even more significant if you remember that the metaphor comes from a time when candles weren't cheap or plentiful enough to be squandered on birthday cakes.

A truism of publishing is that the one way to guarantee you'll never get published is to never submit.


But the best reason to share is because we find something fascinating.

I'll give Kleon the final word:
I tell people this, and then they ask me, "What’s the secret of the internet?" Step 1: Wonder at something; Step 2: Invite others to wonder with you.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful post, Deren! As a poet and short fiction writer, I like audiences because they help me know if I'm on the right track with a work. It helps bring a level of confidence in the submitting process to journals and magazines. Receiving acceptance notices for these same works help me gauge the quality of my particular audience, too.


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