The Service Element of Creative Work

Writer, artist, and person-I-keep-posting-about Austin Kleon talks to Tina Essmaker at the Great Discontent about his winding career path, taking calculated risks, and why he doesn’t subscribe to Do What You Love. Woo! I liked this a lot:

What advice would you give to a young person starting out?

Sublimate your ego as much as you can. When you’re in college, you have a captive audience. Your professor is getting paid to read your writing and your fellow classmates are paying to read your writing. Once you graduate, you will be faced with the hard reality that nobody gives a shit. Steven Pressfield said, “It’s not that people are mean or cruel, they’re just busy.” You have to understand that it’s not about your ego; it’s about what you can do for the culture at large.

In all creative work, there is a balance between what you want to give the world and what the world needs: if you’re lucky, your work is in the middle. Because of that, I believe that every job has a service element to it. If you want to make creativity your job, you have to think about what your creativity is in service of…

That is so different from how most of us think about art, though. We tend to think about art as therapy or self-expression, but at a certain point, if you’re going to make a go of it, your work has to become something else.



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