My English teacher last year said that his class wasn’t an English class; it was a life lessons class. And ever since then, I have tried to find deeper meanings in every minute that I spend or have spent in an English class.
Recently, I listened to a radio interview with Seth Godin on On Being, and he talked about some really intriguing things in regards to production and creation.
Now, my English class is a little (and by “a little”, I mean really) different from others, in that we scrutinize over way more than just age-old novels and poems that we couldn’t care less about. We do more than read and write; we explore and reflect and create.
In fact, while we do write two to three essays each week, we don’t just write essays – we’re writing a book. Each of us are writing a collection of essays that, in groups of up to five people, will be published in a real, honest-to-God book. (And if you’d like to know more about that, my group has a separate WordPress that I’ll link HERE.) It’s a little weird thinking about it, a little nerve-wracking because suddenly the words that I type in my small, cold bedroom will be available for the world to read, whether they or I want them to or not.
And magically, Godin seems to think that we are capable.
“Because one of the things you say is that as a result of this form of change and the demands it places on us and the opportunities it presents to us — we, one of those is that we are all artists now.”
The interviewer picks up on this idea that Godin has that because of technology and because the world has become something very tangible and literally “at our fingertips”, it’s very easy to create things.
He goes back and forth talking about the Industrial Revolution, (it’s a reoccurring subject in his interview) and talks about the factories. Before, people needed literally hundreds of workers, and machinery, and acres of land, and dollars to create something that may or may not have been a success. And with all those people counting on you for their livelihoods, it was very difficult to follow through with your passions, as they often require risk-taking.
“Now one person working by themselves can make an idea, a product, a service, something in the world.”
Now, however, we have everything we need to create right in our bedrooms: a computer, a smart phone, the Internet. We all have the power to create. For me, that’s writing. For me, writing is an art. It’s something that’s very important to me and I work very hard to perfect it because it’s the only way I can communicate. I stutter when I talk and forget half the things I was supposed to say. Writing is my strength.. at least I feel that it is. (This entire blog is a dedicated to my writing, so you can decide for yourself whether you think I’m a writer or not.) I hope it is, though. I probably wouldn’t be able to communicate publicly otherwise.
But Godin also talks about risk-taking, which is definitely not my forte.
So, one of Godin’s ideas in his interview is that the world is rapidly evolving. It is evolving so fast that we can’t even keep up, and yet we somehow manage to do so. There are these trendsetters and predictors who know what technology will be like and what people will be looking for to fulfill themselves and they look for that.
He gives an example about asking questions in a public setting. For example, in school when the teacher asks if there are any questions and there are a few people raise their hand because they think their questions will be worth everyone’s while. These are the “trendsetters” that I mentioned earlier.
“But the people who do ask a question have demonstrated to themselves that they have good enough judgment to be able to put something into the world that hasn’t been said before.”
Again, however, this is creating. This is creating something and contributing something – an act that requires tremendous amount of faith in oneself, in one’s product, and in one’s community that they will take advantage of this “product”.
This is something that I cannot do. For lack of self-confidence maybe? Maybe. Probably. But it’s something I want to do.
You know how everyone says, (or at least adults do), to ask your question because chances are, someone else is wondering the same thing? Well, it’s actually true. Maybe they don’t need it yet. But that’s because they just haven’t realized it.
People don’t know what they need until they are presented with it.
I want to have the self-confidence to present my writing or things that I’ve made or done, and say, “Yes, I made this. And you need to know about it.”
Maybe it’s that I don’t know how people will react, and that I just one person at a time to look at my writing and tell me that it’s good, that it was worth their time.
Maybe I don’t need any of that. Maybe I need to climb out from under my blanket shield and do what I want to do. But that’s something I’ll have to work on: sharing more of my own work and my own opinions (God knows I have plenty).
While I like how eloquent Godin is throughout his interview, and how each of his little stories and anecdotes have points, there is one thing that he says that made me a little angry.
His entire interview seems to be about creating to sell, making things to reach others, marketing.
“What they have figured out how to do is understand the mindset of the person before they even met them.”
There’s a book that I’ve read so many, many times called Life, Libby, and the Pursuit of Happiness by Hope Lyda. (It’s one of my favorite books and I definitely recommend it.) And in it, they too talk about creating, but for a purpose that I think is much more important.
Godin seems to consider everything created as art.
“And so it’s easy to keep track of what art is by what it’s not. Right? It’s not following a manual, reading a dummy’s book, looking for a map. It tends to be people who work with a compass instead. Who have an understanding of true north and are willing to solve a problem in an interesting way.”
Godin clearly regards art as anything different from the ordinary. He talks about anything from a charity to a phone app, and to him, they are all art. If anything is art, why must it be made for the consumer. Why must artists first determine the mind-set of those who they want to reach? When instead, they must create out of honesty and authenticity with genuine intentions, to reach the audience they were meant to reach.
Art is everything and anything you want it to be, and when creating, you must create for yourself. Otherwise, it won’t ever be what you need it to be.