You’ve heard my little rant on mediocrity. And it recently came to my attention that the word “art” is getting diluted more so now than ever.
With as much technology as we have, we are often using it for the wrong things. My underlying question is
“Are we doing to the Information Age what we did to the Industrial Age?”
Are we streamlining too much and making knowledge too accessible? Are we creating too much and not focusing enough on the “art”?
All questions we need to answer. Let’s explore this a bit.
Back in the Industrial Revolution
It’s my understanding that things were very different at the turn of the century around 1900. I think we can all agree on that. There was no Internet, no smartphone, no real education system or even manufacturing system in place. Pretty much everything was done in small communities or by a single household.
But then came the invention of the assembly line.
This was a huge thing for people back then. It gave them something live for. Something they could be proud to do and allowed for the creation of thousands of jobs. Along with that came the whole concept of getting a steady paycheck and, eventually, benefits. People even had the opportunity to retire.
We get to do it again. I’ve talked about reinventing the way the business world works and I stand by that. It’s an incredible time.
What I haven’t mentioned is the fact that we face many of the same challenges they did back then. Sure, we have the Internet and phones and texting and all that mumbo-jumbo, but the core issues are similar.
Today we have to deal with a changing marketplace. People are struggling to understand how this new economy works, many struggled back then too. We are struggling to figure out how to balance work and family, they did then as well.
I would venture to say we have one struggle that is even more pronounced than the others though. We are living in a time where we are diluting a word that has been at the core of civilizations since as far back as history can recount. We are attempting to streamline something that must be unique and must be left up to the individual.
We are destroying the term “art.”
The Music Industry
I recently heard an interview with a true artist, Derek Webb. (Thank you Erik Fisher for the introduction)
Had I not been able to hear his story, I probably would not be a fan or have even written this article. But when I listened to the way he talked about his music, it sparked something inside of me that I hadn’t realized before.
Music was always a huge part of my life when I was younger, but it has faded over the past several years primarily because the new mainstream artists I come across seem to be just creating to create. Too many of them are dubbed as “sell-outs” and seem to lose their soul at some point. Like anything else, not all do.
When I heard Derek talk about his albums and how all of the songs tell a single story collectively, it reminded me how much of an art music really is. It’s not just about making it sound cool. It’s not just about getting hundreds of gigs or playing for thousands in an arena.
It’s about the story and telling something that needs to be told. I want to thank you Derek for sparking this in me and reminding me what it is to be called an artist. You are a true artist and I trust you will stay true to that and inspire many along the path.
All that said, the industrialization of the music industry has drained the soul from many so-called “artists.” I wonder how long it can continue.
The Writing Industry
I’m not picking on the music industry though. I’m actually picking on my own industry more so than any others.
I never dubbed myself a writer until I came across Jeff Goins. He empowered me to call myself that and I took to it. It’s been a fun journey and one that I have honestly come to place above most other things in my life. It’s my way of sharing my art.
But there’s that word again. And I question whether we are truly continuing to create art or whether we are diluting the term in an effort to get it out to more people. I have nothing against teaching others that they need to share their art, that’s important. But the way we are going about doing it is becoming borderline industrial age thinking.
Take for example all the courses out there you can take to learn to do something better. There are excellent ones and there are terrible ones. There are ones that are truly art in it’s best form and others that should never have been published in the first place. We’re all keenly aware of this.
Art is supposed to be unique and represent the soul and emotion of the creator. It’s supposed to say something that basic words can’t. (But yes, art can be writing) It’s supposed to stir the soul of the one looking upon or reading or listening to. I’m wondering if what we are creating is truly doing that on the deepest level possible.
Or are we simply striving to just create for creation sake?
Is goal of sharing our art with more people affecting the uniqueness of art at it’s core?
I ask you to simply think about the repercussions of sending thousands of people through the same system without much diversity between them. Is it really promoting the learner’s uniqueness or is it doing the same thing the education system is doing across the world right now?
I fear that in our effort to get the idea to more people, we are aiding many in their race to the bottom where differentiation and critical thinking are non-existent.
Most Any Other Industry
We can even take this to any other industry that is attempting to come up with a new model for the new economy. We could talk about the design industry for example.
Crowdsourcing is something that is a hot topic with designers. Many of us hate the fact that people see it as the same as hiring a single designer for a job. It’s cheaper, sure, but you will not get the same results. That’s just the simple facts.
Designers, admittedly, have dug ourselves into this hole we are in because of our lack of professionalism and industry standards. The barrier for entry to be a web designer is incredibly low and starting your own agency is something too many of us try when we’re not ready (myself included here.)
People like Andy Rutledge have made incredible efforts to get people to understand the state of the design industry by writing things like Design Professionalism and forming the Academy of Design Professionals. His effort to help people understand the state of the industry and promote it for the true art that is has been widely recognized. I whole-heartedly support this for any industry and thank Andy for his contribution to quality and true art.
Even industries like fashion are on the verge of being diluted. Now, personally, I know nothing about the fashion industry but what I can tell you is that not every Hollywood star is multi-talented to act, sing, dance, create clothing, perfume and have their own makeup line. Some, maybe, but it seems like most every big name has at least a few of these at their disposal.
Are they diluting art for these industries? I would be willing to bet that boutique artists have something to say about this and it’s detriment to the industry as a whole.
The Stand Continues…
As of this moment, my title stands as “Destroyer of Mediocrity.”
I will no longer stand to have art diluted across the board. I will no longer contribute to the detriment of it or feed the marketplace with anything but what I truly believe to be my best work.
This is not a rant on any particularly industry, person, brand or the like. It’s a realization that we need to understand and pay close attention to as we move into this connection economy further. I pray that you will no longer feel the need to fill what you think is a void in time or space.
There is little need for more content. There is absolutely need for incredible art. (Tweet this)
There is need for the realization that art is the core of our society and that if we dilute it beyond redemption, we’ll be forever in a race to the bottom. The term art needs to be redeemed and it will take a collective effort for us to all do that.
What is your first baby step to help reinstate art for what it truly is?
I consider myself an encourager, and one who makes information easy to digest. I’ve never really fell in-line with art – especially writing. I was always told that what I got out of a piece of art, literature or otherwise was wrong. Yet, that’s how my mind interacted with it.
I definitely wonder where the imagination is. Perhaps that’s what’s lacking in our writing, our dreams, our music, and our films.
Agreed about the lack of imagination to some degree. I think too many people put barriers up that really don’t exist though. It’s important to note that I see online courses as a good idea, we’ve just got to make sure they aren’t churning out a bunch of people that are nothing more than drones from the program.
Thanks for your thoughts and time David. Always appreciated!
This definitely resonated with me. Now I feel like I need to watch my back for the “Destroyer of Mediocrity”!
As a freelance illustrator, I’ve found it hard to label myself as an “artist” vs “image manufacturer” (I settled for “Illustrator” on my business cards since the alternative sounded so cold). I do the best that I can with the limited time I have on projects – and am seldom completely satisfied with what I produce (that could be part of the artist-psyche though). It’s a balance of earning a living while studying/honing my craft – a balance I feel I fail often to pay the bills…
Alternately, I also think that the term “artist” isn’t a self-appointed term – and it could be that the masses definition of “artist” is too broad.
That being said – I do think that cream rises to the top.
It’s okay, I don’t come after awesome people. Just don’t slack off. 😀
I understand not wanting to label yourself that but you really are. As long as you are the professional and not the image manufacturer for the client’s direction, you are an artist.
However, I would disagree that the term artist isn’t self-appointed. Like my friend Jeff Goins says, you must believe what you are before anyone else will. So I tell you, you are an artist. You just have to create.
I wish you the best Josh, thanks for your comment and adding to the conversation!
Got it! No slacking!
Thanks for the thoughts, Jared!
You got it man, anytime 😀
Hmm…you’ve given me much to think about. I agree the world needs less content, there’s plenty of that. I think part of bringing out incredible art can be found in the truth inside us. We need to be true to who we are instead of copying others.
God made each of us unique…we aren’t manufactured. We need to live like the unique individuals we are.
Certainly true about being ourselves and not copying. If you listened to my interview with Chris Brogan he said basically the same thing there. He said to do your own thing in a unique way and stop copying what others are doing. Which again alludes to the point I was making about the online courses. They can be a great framework, I just worry they may be churning out some people that believe too much in the process and not the theory of it.
We are all unique. I love how your writing shares that from time to time. Thanks for adding to the conversation!
Thanks for the compliment!
I agree wholeheartedly with you, many put too much emphasis on the process and lose sight of the real issues.
I think our art should and can help and bring value to other people. The art we create is not only for us but for others. Our desire to share our art should be to impact the people who come in contact with it. Great post and thoughts bro!
That’s very true bro. It’s important that we recognize it’s for others as well as an expression of ourselves. Thanks for your thoughts!
Grat thoughts, Jared. I’ve been challenges with this as of late too. I recently read Godin’s book, Linchpin, which inspired me to look at art & artists in a whole new light.
Ah yes, Seth Godin is a mastermind. 😀 Thanks for sharing that, have a good one!