Your Own Thing

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-05-11 12:00:00 No comments

From an interview with Jon Batiste: (Emphasis mine on all quotes.)

Confidence comes from realizing there will never be another you. You are the only version of you that exists. If you listen to the greats—and there are so many—and you hear how amazingly they approach the craft, and you try to imitate that, you’ll fall short. You can’t sound like Nina Simone or Bach. They got there after a lifetime of searching. It takes a lifetime, and even then, you will never sound like them.

Then you look at your peers and their talents, and it’s natural to feel that their talents are better than yours—because you can’t do what they do. You start to think, “Why can’t I be more like everyone else?”

That’s the entirely wrong path. You should actually be digging into the things about you that you can’t change—because those are the things that will ultimately breed your greatness. Those are the things that only you have access to. You have been the only person who is born in this time with your brain and your family and all your experiences, your names, your ideas, and your whole perspective on everything that’s come before will inform all your built-in wonderful gifts. Ultimately digging into the idea that you’re the only you who will ever exist is what gives confidence. 

It isn’t an easy process. You have to be willing to sound and look bad and fail before you figure out how you’re going to put together these elements. Because there is no model. There are only inspirations. 

"What is it that I have to bring to the table?" is the hardest question any of us can answer, and I think many of us never do in fact answer it. We look at what others are doing, and we think our answer lies in echoing what they do, as a way to ride their success and make it ours.

Too much of what we do on all levels of society is about trying to make it instead of just trying to make something. Those who have made it do indeed have useful lessons to pass on. I mentioned in a previous post how mainstream success stories have useful lessons to impart, just that it's too easy to take the wrong lessons. And one of those is the idea that any work that does not translate into commercial success, or is not devised with that as the endgame, is somehow conceptually flawed. We have to think first about personalizing our work because we can think about universalizing it, because otherwise it will have nothing of its own to universalize in the first place.

The other thing Baptiste notes is the importance of a community:

... you have to connect with those people who multiply your energy. Place your energy where it will be multiplied. Most people, when they see you, they’re seeing you through the filter of their failures or things they couldn’t achieve. Or they’re seeing you through the filter of, “Oh, this is what people like him or her are like.” They don’t realize that you’re the only version.

Right now I'm part of a community of folks who create because they enjoy it, and not necessarily because they expect any worldly gain from it. Some are more ambitious about that than others; most of us just want to have a good time. But we're all conscious of how there are lessons to be learned from worldly success stories that revolve around the self-disciplining of the way we produce our art — not necessarily the ways we market it. The community revolves around what's most important: the making of the thing, and the sustaining of the joy of the making of the thing. Everything else comes in a distant second.

Tags: creativity creators