Here’s something we really need to talk about.
It’s tough out there, it really is. On my best days, I adore what I do even if it only matters to 5 people.
On my worst days, I despise that my treasured medium has been taken around the corner and pimped out to entrepreneurs to whom “writing” is merely a synonym for “content.”
Content gets traffic, traffic gets sales, and sale gets money. I get it. I really do.
Make no mistake, we are living in a world where you can spend hours perfecting a post, but get no action. In the meantime, someone else can come along with a similar piece which is connected to the right channels, has the right headline, projects the perfect stock photograph, games the system and rockets to the top of the Internet.
If you don’t understand how to play the game yourself, you go off to twiddle your thumbs in the corner, muttering something along the lines of “my mommy thinks I’m special.”
I’m writing this to you though, Artist, because in this sea of vomit manufactured for search engines, you should still bother writing creatively for this reason:
The world needs more art. It does not need more content.
Here’s a little guide to let you know which you’re creating:
Art — is used to touch another person’s heart
Content — is used to touch another person’s wallet
Art — for the soul
Content — for the mind (sometimes)
Art — a list with original thought, ideas, humor, and/or introspection
Content — a list with hyperlinks
Art — stands the test of time
Content — is gone in moments (but don’t worry, another one will come along soon)
Art — the product
Content — the marketing*
*Artist: DO NOT try and sell a product that is content. It will probably work, but it won’t last.*
Art — reaches out to one specific person (even and especially if that person is imaginary)
Content — boils down the subject matter to it is shareable by everyone. (“I want to be seen as productive! Better share 10 Ways to Supercharge Your Work Life”)
Art — is not understood by everyone
Content — is easily understood by the lowest common denominator, thus increasing its likelihood to achieve maximum traffic (remember, traffic = money)
Art — quality matters
Content — quantity matters
Art — is for human beings
Content — is for Google
Now, here’s the curveball.
You need to be able to do both.
There is so much opportunity to sell your talent as an artist to other people, and I recommend you do that. Content is just a part of the game right now.
Instead of whining about how unfair the Internet is, why can’t you just create the best content for people?
I write content at times because it is useful to people. I don’t think I’d be nearly the writer I am without the lists of tools others have come out with.
My plea to you, though, is this:
Do not let your art devolve into content.
Let it stand as it has always stood: in the playground with your 6-year-old self. Because art doesn’t worry about how many copies it will sell. Art doesn’t worry about who thinks what or making the words “consumable.”
Art is its own being, and will always find those who need it.
Without a search engine.
Todd Brison is the author of The Creative’s Curse. If you’re looking for a dose of motivation, encouragement, and instruction on building a creative career, it’s a good place to start.