I’ve just seen a video that was so obvious and so simple, yet it held the key to all success, especially artistic success. Here is a link to the video and I think it’s one of the best eighteen minutes you can spend of your life. Take a look: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html
So here’s the main idea: People aren’t interested in what you do, they care about why you do it. So why do you do it?
If you’re like most artists I know, you aren’t in it for the money. Something else drives you. Is it because you want to change the world, one picture at a time? Is it because you have a burning passion to be yourself and you believe everybody should be given the opportunity of living their best life and expressing their best self, unimpeded by anything? I think I might write these posts for the reason I’ve just given. But what is the reason you keep creating your artistic work? What are you a zealot about? If your reason for being an artist and continuing to produce work was a movement, why would anybody be compelled to join in or support you?
It turns out that the human species is hard wired to follow such movements and causes. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s an evolutionary quirk. The result is that we all want to follow a leader, but not for them, for us. If we see an artist struggling and starving, but for a good reason why – good in the sense that we can identify with it and want them to succeed in their mission, then we are more inclined to buy their art, appreciate what they do, spread the word about them or do any of a thousand different little things that might contribute to their success.
So lots of us can readily describe what we do, as artists. You might say, “I’m a painter”. “I sculpt”. “I write music”. “I produce records”. “I write novels”. “I am a software programmer”. “I design insanely great products for ordinary people”. We know what we do.
In some cases, we’ll even be able to articulate our special sauce, our unique proposition or why we are different to all the other people that do what we do. We can say, with precision, how we do what we do and how that might be different. I use a computer to make all my sounds. I paint with acrylic mediums and palette knives, so that I get a unique textured look. I write about starving artists. My songs are written lyrics first and then I embellish with all of the harmonies and instruments I really love the sound of. All of these things are the “how”.
What’s the reason you persist in the work? Why? Why are you doing what you are doing? My reasons for being an artist are complex, but essentially they are humanistic in origin. I believe that human beings are remarkable and that the majority of human beings are coerced into living less than satisfactory lives. I think that the potential that each of us has is never realised fully during our lifetimes and mostly actively suppressed. I believe that if the world was so organized as to permit each person to give of their best, using their most outstanding talents and burning reasons why, we would have a much better world. We would solve many of the problems that we are meant to shrug away as being too intractable today. We would not permit others to dictate how we spend our limited time on earth and embrace what is essential and wholesome, in being a decent human being, rather than seeking profit by whatever heinous, low-life, thieving, scheme we can devise, irrespective of the cost to others. In short, I can change the world with my art and so can you. I write these things because I want you to do that. I want you to succeed in making the world a better place. I want to do my part too. I get up in the morning looking for a way to change the garbage that is, into the beauty that could be.
Why do you do what you do?