If You’re Playing To The Crowd, You’re Playing To No One

Are you caught in the sameness of the echo chamber, or are you brave enough to go it alone and make something meaningful?

Image of a musician playing to the crowd for article by Larry G. Maguire

Photo by Kael Bloom on Unsplash

Are you caught in the sameness of the echo chamber, or are you brave enough to go it alone and make something meaningful?

I realise it comes counter to staple advice in writing quarters, but I don’t write for other people, at least not primarily. I write for others insofar as I publish my take on life, here, on a public platform. But the main thrust of my writing is not to capture your attention – that must come about of its own accord. When you come and read my stuff, it feels good to me that I have written something that resonates. After all, interaction is part of the game. But your attention is not a prerequisite.

It cannot be.

There are rules of the game and I do my best to play by them. There is the craft of telling a story or voicing an opinion that brings readers in and captures their attention — this I attempt to use to write something meaningful. But it first must be meaningful to me otherwise how can I maintain my interest long enough to create something worthwhile?

Because it takes a long time to do that, anything worth a damn, to be worthy of being called art must endure a long hard road. I’ve got to be prepared to write material that you don’t get.

If your responses to my work is my primary motivator, how can I possibly develop the wherewithal to keep going? It’s not going to happen.

Because some days you don’t show up. Sometimes you go missing for days on end, and things I write go unnoticed.

Tumbleweed.

So I must develop in myself an intrinsic motivation to continue with my work. I must be prepared to go into the solitude of my own private space away from the applause and recognition and make whatever it is I choose to make. There must be apparent barren periods where nobody listens or responds because it is in that obscurity that we forge the necessary skill, grit and character to endure.

So I write.

I go to The Reflectionist, and I write. When I do, I think of my three children. If I write for anyone, I write for them. When I have something I want to say to them, something they may read when they are older, I write there. When I’m exploring the psychology of creativity, human behaviour and expertise I write on The Creative Mind. My writing there is more refined, and it has a specific narrow goal with two aspects;

  1. To allow me to explore, learn and refine my understanding of myself and human psychology in general.

  2. To communicate what I have learned and build an audience for my future profession.

If I write with you, the crowd, at the front of my mind, then what I write speaks to no one. If I write with a person in mind, a version of me, for example, then I can make a connection. When I write for the crowd, my work merely becomes an echo of what everyone else is writing, and that just won’t do.

On this platform, there is too much of this. Perhaps this kind of “playing to the crowd” will get more applause than me, and if that is so, then fine. I’m not in a popularity competition. You either like my stuff, or you don’t, and if you don’t, then you haven’t even got this far down the page, so you’re already gone.

No loss.

The work of the artist, the truly creative mind, is to bring the inner world of thought and ideas into the world of other people. It is to express something ultimately unknowable and to make it knowable if only for a brief moment. As soon as it’s made, it’s history — time to move on and create something new.

The problem with giving heed to the crowd over giving heed to ourselves is that together, we create a kind of echo chamber of content devoid of innovation and creativity.

It’s merely old wine in new bottles.

“…the only route to the perfect product is an imperfect process — most often styled in trial and error” — Dean Keith Simonton, Professor of Psychology UCLA

It’s perhaps paradoxical, but to stand out, we must go it alone rather than join the crowd and compete. We must be comfortable in obscurity because that’s where expertise is made. Dean Keith Simonton, says in his book The Genius Checklist, referring to the vast effort creative people invest in their craft without return;

“Behind the scenes, creators are putting in an awesome amount of solitary effort just to produce a single hit on which they’ll try to hang their future reputation. This means hours upon hours in the studio, study, or laboratory with perhaps nothing whatsoever to show for it.”

I don’t agree with this statement entirely. Not everyone, myself included, works for the prospect of notoriety and reputation. Reputation is other people’s opinion of me, and it is fickle. In fact, that is the very thing that can spoil an artist’s chances of material success, in my opinion. But what he does recognise is the time needed alone.

He also points out that we cannot avoid being a part of the creative network. Csikszentmihalyi calls this the creative domain. He calls the field, the people who comprise the domain-this is the space in which we work. And the challenge is to create something new and innovative; it is not to copy and rehash what these others in the field have done before.

That’s not art.

So in sum, my bag is to write on that which I am inspired first and foremost. It is not to write what others crave. I realise my audience (i.e. you, because you made it this far into the article) may be small, but perhaps you are engaged. That’s my bet, and if I’m wrong, I can live with it.

Anything else is to exist on a thin surface where the majority run about trying to beat each other with the same stick. If that’s your bag then fire away, that’s not for me.

I was never one for crowds anyway.

Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. Every morning you’ll find me sharing a new thought on life, art, work, creativity, the self and the nature of reality on The Reflectionist. I also write on The Creative Mind. If you like what I’m creating, join my email list to receive the weekly Sunday Letters