Two simple things today:
1) The creator’s continuum
For anyone who intends to discover and grow their creativity, passion, and productive capabilities, for all of life, this is an important idea. Whether you’re an entrepeneur, a visual artist, a statesman, philosopher, composer of music, or a leader in any field at all, there exists a certain tension in your work.
On the one hand, there is the impulse to be understood, to be received well, to be validated by the admiration of others. On the other hand, there is the impulse to express oneself with rawness and purity, to be unfettered by the world’s expectations.
It is folly to choose one or the other of these outright, of course. The idea is to land somewhere in the middle.
Personally, I started out too far to the right, crafting essays and stories as a way to feel admired and approved of by my spectators. Everyone knows this is a quick recipe for depression, as the admiration of the world is always fleeting, always fickle. If we rest our own worth in the affections of others, it will be a cruel and abusive master to us. I’d recommend finding another source of validation in your life.
But more importantly from an artistic perspective, if you ply your craft for the sake of others’ approval, your work will forever be mediocre. All that is required to gain the world’s praise is to cater to their present affinities — but this is no great service to the world, and it is certainly no way to give voice to the deep things of your soul.
So, don’t hang out on the far right. You’ll hate it there.
The other side, though, is troublesome too. A creator who lives on the far left of the graph is committed to their own unique inner voice, to obscure profundity, and to the unfiltered nature of their work. He works his art as a live manifestation of his own heartbeat, and he feels good about it. To be sure, this ethic deserves praise — it requires great courage to take a raw ethereal conviction and somehow force it into a natural medium like light, sound, or words, and to do so without compromising its gravity.
However, if the creator spends too much time on the left, he will be forever inaccessible, and in large part incomprehensible. His work becomes increasingly self-referential, which at bottom is simply a creative flavor of narcissism. The artist who cannot generate a cogent connection with his audience is simply an esoteric chatterbox. He will be appreciated only for his novelty, but his message will be ignored.
So, for anyone who has something to say, something unique to demonstrate … there is a balance to be found. One must search his own depths and not be afraid to challenge the present order of things. But one must also give voice to these depths in a way that can be understood, at least by those who are willing to listen. I can’t help but think that Jesus did this exact thing with his listeners. I hope you will too.
2) What I’m doing about it
This year, I have a new goal to write more seriously. I haven’t tried this for a while, but I’m back. I feel I’m ready to give it another go.
Here’s where I enlist your help. I ask that if you have gained something from my commentary here in these pages, and you’d like to see what else bubbles up from my soul, that you consider supporting me in this work. The way we do this is much simpler and more humble than you might suspect.
I’m using an app called Patreon, and here’s how it works: you choose a pledge amount (say $1) and every time I produce a new piece, your pledge amount gets drafted to me. You also can set a monthly maximum, so that even if I write 56 blogs this month, your donation will cap out at e.g. $10. That is basically all there is to it.
Now, keep in mind, the content on this blog will always be free. I have no intention of locking up my writing behind a pay wall, not here anyway. The only reason you ought to become my patron is to see me grow as a writer … and to provide a little extra impetus for me to keep at it. That’s it.*
This year I want to search the depths a little more. I want to be challenged to find that sweet spot on the continuum, and I want to share better than I have before. I want to start conversations, I want to challenge viewpoints, I want to create. By my reckoning, even a handful of patrons would provide a major incentive for me to keep at it. I will be honored if you choose to help me pursue this goal.
- *Technically there will be other rewards and benefits that patrons will have access to. I haven’t figured these out yet, but if you have an idea, let me know.