My sister and I were in were in awe of this post by Brené Brown after the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. In such simple and concise language, Brown cuts to the heart of a matter as heavy as suicide.
We wondered, What was her secret? And my sister said, “She’s been writing for 10 years.”
How easily people forget that. Brown was writing long before Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness. For all those years before she became an influential author and public figure, she was doing her research and practicing her craft.
I spent most of the week working on my craft for a piece on intention, meditation, and creativity. I could have spent another week or more on it. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. Like the plum pudding model of the atom, I was missing my nucleus.
I published it anyway because I knew that I wasn’t finished writing about this.
The extraordinary thing about this piece is that it brings together themes that I have been writing about for the past year: authenticity, creating a human connection with your audience, intention, and mental illness.
As I stepped back from editing it, I marveled at how I scratched together these ideas that have been knocking around in my head.
I was connecting the dots on a bigger scale, and this post was merely part of a larger body of work.
It takes patience, perseverance, and effort to build an original body of work. It takes a view of the long game to create something that leaves people in awe.
It’s a lot harder than it sounds. Being original is not always popular.
Take the crazy, abstract feature image you see for this post. These types of images are my thing. While I use conventional photos from time to time, I prefer the abstract images. To me, they’re more aesthetically pleasing.
More than that, I know what it’s like to be on the other side and looking at those images from the perspective of a reader. And this is my experience.
- I’m desensitized to it. I’ve seen it a half a dozen times already because lots of people use Unsplash. It doesn’t make me want to stop scrolling and engage with the content. It doesn’t grab my attention, so I keeping scrolling.
- I’ve already associated it with another writer. So in my mind, I think that this writer is mimicking some other writer. When I add up both of these things, I think,
- This writer has nothing original to say.
Of course, that may not be true, but I’m not going to take the time to find out. I’ve become so jaded by clickbait that it takes a lot for me to click on something. If you want my attention, then you’re going to have to earn it.
Bringing it back to the abstract photography, when you see those images, then you know you’re going to get something different. Because I’m not using the same half dozen images that have already been used, you know you’re going to get an authentic voice. That’s what it takes to be original.
I’m not advocating that you use crazy abstract images. But I am making the point that readers should look at your work and recognize a distinct style. You may borrow influences from other artists. We all do it. But you add your own twist and your own seasoning to it.
Most importantly, you should be willing to risk everything on being original. It doesn’t come with any guarantees. You don’t know what the outcome is going to be.
And there’s no telling what will happen in the next ten years. You don’t know how technology will change and how our culture will evolve. You don’t know when your work will be relevant. You don’t know whether it could hurt you or help you.
I don’t have anywhere near the income, following, and statistics that some of my peers do. I am not writing this from a beach chair in Bali. But what I do have is my voice, and I won’t give that up for all the fame and riches in the world.
None of those things will help you find your unique voice. They aren’t the foundation for a body of work. And they sure as hell don’t define you as an artist.
You don’t have any control over the outcome, but you do have control over your work. You do have control over how you expand, grow, take risks, and push your boundaries.
Invest in the one thing that you can control. Invest in the work, in your voice, and the one thing that only you can offer.
Photo by Lurm on Unsplash