I’m not sure how I found this blog post about this video of an interview with Moby but I’m so glad I did. The entire video is good and there are a few things in there I’m not touching on, so you should watch it. Emma touched on a few of them as well, but I think I have different points to make and am discussing a few other things that really struck a chord with me.
The points that really hit me were about shallow vs. deep creativity and the act of creating. The digital revolution has change so much in creative industries very quickly and Moby noticed the same things I’ve been thinking about.
What Moby said is in quotes, then my thoughts on them are below. I recommend watching the video first, then reading this post. This is a monster of a post, so if you make it to the end, I applaud you. However, there’s some really good stuff at the end, so I do hope you make it that far!
“Making records has become a lot easier. Distributing records has become easier. Every aspect of it that used to be so difficult is now effortless. Just to get to get to the point where you had a finished piece of electronic music took a long time, a lot of money, a lot of effort, and a lot of understanding of how all these pieces of equipment worked with each other, and now it’s software. Now any kid can buy a version of (music software) and in about 5 minutes do what took 6 months or years, 20 years ago.”
“What’s interesting is in the golden days of 30, 40, 50 years ago, people didn’t make things. People would go to photography exhibits, people would go buy records, and there were professional artists. And now everybody’s a photographer, everybody’s a filmmaker, everybody’s a writer, everybody’s a musician and I think that radically and drastically changes how people think about other people’s creativity.”
“In the old days you would buy a record and think like whoa I have no idea how they did that. And now someone listens to music and they think, oh, they used the same software I have.”
“And so it almost makes people focus more on the art as opposed to the artist and the means and the ways in which it’s produced. Which I personally think is quite healthy.”
I used to think about this in college. I had to take a class on the history of journalism where we learned how they used to have to typeset the entire newspaper. Basically it took f o r e v e r to print the paper pre-computer age. As I was sitting in that class I thought wow, that sucks.
What’s funny is that eleven years ago when I was in that class we all still took notes on paper. Only a few people brought laptops to class because back then it wasn’t normal for every college student to have their own laptop. I didn’t have my own computer until my junior year of college, and I bought it myself on a payment plan of $29/month. Laptops were very heavy 1o years ago. I digress.
I also think about what Moby said because eight years ago when I started my blog I was a designer at Hallmark Cards, so I knew how to use design programs and Photoshop, so I could make my blog and product roundups look really good whereas most people didn’t have that advantage. It was a big advantage I’d say until about 4-5 years ago when other free/easy design programs came out, and now kids grow up using these programs. I still think it’s advantage for me, but the masses have caught up very quickly.
As far as being an artist, the entire reason I ended up getting a journalism degree versus getting a degree in art (or fashion) was because I thought it was too hard to be a real artist. I thought that unless I became famous like Willem de Kooning, then I’d have to be an art teacher or work at a museum, and just make art on the side. That and I also chickened out from going to art school. I thought I was one of the best artists at my high school, but in college, anyone who gets an art degree is usually the best from their high school, and that was intimidating to me. I also felt like I had to go to MIZZOU (both of my parents went there and really wanted me to go there), but they don’t have the best art school, so I thought it might be a waste of a degree. I bounced around thinking I’d do fashion, or international business and Spanish, and ended up realizing that the journalism school would really be the best place for me. And it just so happened to be the best journalism school in the US, so that helped.
Now it’s so much easier for artists to create their own website and use social media to help get the word out about their artwork. If I were in high school now, I have no idea where I would have ended up career-wise. High schoolers have blogs and Instagram accounts — I just have no clue what path I would have taken. Would I have gone the fine art route? Would I still have ended up in journalism school? Would I have started a business and not even gone to college? Who knows.
When Moby says that now everyone’s a photographer, everyone’s a writer, and how that changes how people think about other people’s creativity, I totally agree. But I don’t think it’s necessarily great. I think it’s good in some ways — maybe more people are getting to attempt to do what they are passionate about than ever before. But are they doing that passion and creating something mediocre while sacrificing the time they could be experiencing something really amazing, really elevated, really deep. Something that transports them to another level of thinking? Moby touches on this next.
I think for people who are truly pure artisans, writers, etc. They studied it, have been doing their craft for decades — this new thing where everyone’s a creator, it’s great in some ways for personal memories, but professionally, it just means that there’s a lot of boring shit to wade through to get to the good stuff.
“Culturally, we’re sacrificing rare creativity that has depth, for ubiquitous creativity that is very shallow.”
“Cause if you can make something that’s pretty good with not a lot of effort, it’s hard to push yourself to make something great.”
This is something that bothers me on a deep level. My job — being a blogger — is only possible because of the digital revolution. I didn’t know I was going to be a blogger for a living. When I finally decided on magazine journalism with an emphasis in design in college, I thought I’d go work at a fashion magazine in New York. I didn’t even know what a blog was in college. I think I heard the word a few times. It just wasn’t really a thing back then. Am I aging myself?
Even more crazy is that because I’m a blogger, I ended up being a writer and a photographer and a stylist and an editor and a designer. Lucky for me, journalism school actually trained me for all of that (except the styling, but then I got that experience at Hallmark). So for me it’s not too far off. BUT I didn’t think I’d be doing it all myself. If I had a job at a magazine, those would all be separate jobs.
I do have a photographer shoot a lot of my content, but there are some things I photograph myself, and when I’m traveling I have take my own photos if I can’t bring a photographer with me (which is typically the case). I don’t consider myself a professional photographer at all. I do have to do it, and I think I’m good at it, but I know the difference between me and the photographers I work with, and it’s big.
I also have a really hard time calling myself a writer. Because I went to journalism school with people who are legit writers, all they do is write, I feel guilty calling myself a writer. I’m not a writer like they are. But I am a writer. I have been writing five blog posts a week (on average) for eight years. I’ve written and edited my book The Life Edit, written and edited around 20 books over at The B Bar, and have written posts on The Well for two years. That’s a lot of writing.
So ya, I guess I am a “writer” but I don’t really classify myself as one. I’m not a novelist, I’m not a journalist, I’m not a book author with a publishing company (yet). And I do think there’s a difference.
All of that is leading me to (wow I’m long-winded today) how I constantly think about deepness in general. I think that is another entire post, but I do think it’s less common for people to make things (art, songs, movies, books) that are on that next level. Things that become classics. And I wonder — will I ever be able to do it myself. I’m going to address this in another post but the way Moby said it really captured how I feel about it.
“At the end of the day, make a beautiful movie, write a beautiful book, make a great record, and people will be probably willing to pay for it.“
“People, in general I think are willing to pay for art and culture that they truly love. It doesn’t matter how it’s delivered, it doesn’t matter how it’s marketed, it doesn’t matter how it’s sold, it just matters how that art or music affects the person who’s experiencing it.”
Yes Moby yes! I agree. That’s what I try to do. I do think that perfectionism can hold you back (which is why it took me so long to get The Life Edit out, I just kept editing and editing and editing) so I think there is a point at which you have to decide to put some things out there or else you never will. My creative projects and work is a balance of this. I want everything to be amazing, but I also need to produce things constantly.
“Trying to make a living out of monetizing digital creativity is like building a hotel on quicksand. No matter what you do, the base is always going to be changing. So every aspect of the digital revolution, the way that art is produced, the way it’s consumed, the way it’s sold, the way it’s carried, every aspect of it changes every six months.”
This is true and this is scary for someone who does monetize digital creativity. The hotel on quicksand is the perfect simile for it. It does constantly change. For example, my website is only two years old and I already need a new one! I’m on Snapchat and YouTube, but not Periscope, and I wonder — should I get on Periscope? Drop SnapChat? I don’t know.
More to come on the deep vs shallow creativity topic. It’s something I think about a lot.
I want to know your opinion on all of this? Let me know in the comments.
Photo via Unsplash, graphics added by Meg Biram