Advice for Creative Writers
Authenticity, creating things that don't scale, writer's block, and self-imposed deadlines
There are writers and there are grifters. There are artists and there are content creators. Music is no exception: pop music all sound similar, using and reusing the same four-chord progression, while baroque compositions are made of tonal geometries no less intricate than the insides of a fine Swiss watch. Don’t get me wrong—pop music can be sensational. But, alas, sensation isn’t the same as beauty. This isn’t about highbrow versus lowbrow art, but rather algorithmic versus authentic creation.
Optimization tends to turn beauty ugly. Another term for optimization is ‘audience capture,’ which is a strategic way of creating content so that the creation becomes a means to another end—fame, clout, money—rather than an end in itself. However, creative works cannot be deeply transformational for your audience if they are not meaningful to you first.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a big fanbase or making money with your talent. In fact, I’d argue that we all have this desire (as a writer, I definitely do). The problem arises when these things become goals in and of themselves. Artistry is the soul of creation, and over-engineering it for the sake of a certain outcome kills that soul. Capturing an audience should be a byproduct, not the objective. I dare say that idolizing email lists and follower counts is a form of blasphemy against your craft. And if you truly care about what you create, you’d be the first to know when your work has been betrayed.