So we live in a time that I feel can best be described as exposed. Things you type on your computer can reach the other side of the world in an instant; you can learn about the lives of strangers with just a quick scroll through their blog. But although technology has made us all more exposed, it has made us all more connected. And when you’re exposed and connected to so many people, you have to take into consideration the narrative you’re putting into the world because that’s how you build up the weird thing we call a “self”.
I was listening to this radio interview with Seth Godin and it was part of a series called A Conversation on Being. Basically, he was talking mostly about the wide range of ways that people express themselves, and in turn how they market themselves. How we are all artists and how we all create, whether we realize it or not.
Godin made sure to say that art isn’t just paint on a canvas; he defined it as doing things with the right intent, for the first time, in a way that has an impact. So the poetry that you wrote in the margins of your notebook? That’s art. The freaking awesome play your theater group put on? That’s art, too. But what about the things we do in class? The things we’re usually assigned and graded on? Is that art? I think it’s art if you look at it and can say you’re proud of it. I think this is more true in English class than any other.
In my English class, we focus a lot on creating. Creating essays, creating blog posts, and ultimately creating a book that is a collection of the essays that we write in class. This is implying that the work we do in class should be something we’re proud enough of to share with other people. This pride in your work is one of the key aspects that Godin says contributes to its value. Another thing Godin insists is essential to marketing yourself well is having the right “tribe”, a group of people who we choose to belong to. I think my English class does a great job of developing these tribes: there’s the people I sit next to that I depend on for feedback on all my essays, and there’s the group of friends I consult with as we start to patch together our book.
Godin wants to redefine marketing as making a story that resonates with the intended audience. The goal is not to effect large numbers of people on a superficial level, but to deeply influence maybe a pocket of people, whom your ideas really speak to. I have a bit of trouble expressing my ideas to people, however small the audience, because I have a fear of my work not being good enough, or my answer being wrong. Godin describes this as the voice in our head that tells us, “You’ve gone too far; don’t show this to anyone.” But obviously, there’s no way you can get a reaction from an audience if you refuse to give them anything, so I’m working on overcoming my fear of being wrong and to instead improve my ideas so that I think they’re ready for public consumption.
The most interesting thing I took from this Conversation on Being was that no matter what you do, there’s a trail you leave behind. Once someone documents it, there’s a sort of immortality to your actions. I do disagree with Godin’s point about how we need to know our audience before we even meet them. Having preconceived notions of whom you’re writing to can be dangerous, especially if it affects the honesty of your writing. It’s good to have an idea of who you want to reach, but you can’t really imagine each individual’s mindset towards your art without letting them react first. I think the best thing to do is to create something you’re proud of and then hope for the best.
I really wish that Godin would’ve expanded more on spinning the narrative of our daily lives. Because I believe that every day we make decisions that affect the people around us, and that’s how we leave our trail.