When I started out, as a writer, I wrote for myself.
I experimented with voices and styles and topics. It was very much like adolescence when we’re trying to figure out who the hell we are and what we want to be when we grow up. Every thought and idea is new and interesting. (Even when it’s a tired cliché to the world.)
Over time, though, I started figuring out how to write for others.
Eventually I learned to do what author, Seth Godin, teaches. Instead of trying to find readers for my words, I try to find words for my readers.
This shift in orientation is what I look for as I advise other aspiring writers (and even marketing executives).
But, I’ve discovered, it’s still not enough. There are scores of writers writing for their readers (vs. themselves), but very little is distinctive.
One of the biggest obstacles I hear from authors and artists is how to cultivate a unique voice in a sea of stuff.
How can we stand out? How can we stick around?
There are more novels than we’ll ever read.
There are more articles and essays and poems and blog posts than we’ll ever read.
There are more songs than we’ll ever hear.
There are more paintings and photographs and sculptures than we’ll ever see.
And there is more writing, music, art and other creative products being heaped on the pile each and every day.
Here’s an idea that’s working for me: Try to make your creative work relevant to your great grandchildren.
Think about that for a moment.
If the fruits of your idea or story or theme can’t be preserved and passed down, why should you expect it to be distinct?
This should challenge your creative life. And it should change it.
Actually, it should change you.
Which, when you think about it, should be the ultimate outcome of our creative work, right?
I hope this finds you well! Stay the course in your creative endeavors!
From May 2012 to July 2013, I wrote a weekly series of intimate essays for writers and artists seeking a deeper connection with their identity and place as modern creatives. I called this series Root Notes. This was an essay in that series. It was originally published on May 11, 2012.