Updated: Apr 15, 2019
There are a many reasons why I don't use the platform of this blog more often to talk about tips and techniques, to try to impress potential clients with my expertise. Perhaps I should preface this with the disclaimer that my intent is not to complain, be negative, or bemoan my circumstances. People offer me feedback from time to time, and when it becomes clear there's some kind of persistent question I try to draft something by means of explanation.
There is nearly always a method to my madness, which I'm more than happy to take the time to explain if someone is genuinely interested in an explanation. As Sam Harris (author, philosopher, neuroscientist) says frequently, if you're determined to misunderstand me there's no amount of explanation that will suffice. I disagree with Harris on a number of his ideas, but on that we can agree. Any conversation must start from a presumption of good faith on the part of all parties. So no, there will not be "10 Marketing Tips" in this essay, but I would appreciate you reading anyway.
First and foremost, nearly my entire life story has been defined by having my ideas stolen and used without attribution by people who profitted from them while I did not. As far back as high school, I had to work nights, do chores, and had extracurricular activities mandated by my parents that didn't count academically. I didn't have time for homework and my grades were mediocre because of it. However, I tested extremely well, because of this I usually passed ... just barely. My teachers recognized I conceptually understood all the material and would frequently leave the classroom during tests to allow athletes in class to copy my answers. Presumably, they were under pressure from school administration to keep athlete GPAs high. So I graduated with a horrendous GPA. I had no way of documenting the thousands of hours of independent study I did on my own initiative, the books I read, the extra-curricular activities I was required to do. My classmates who stole my work went on to whatever life had in store for them with GPAs they did not earn, and no conceptual understanding of the material their grades indicated they knew.
This process was repeated throughout college, with group projects that made up a considerable part of our grades and no way to show that my team members didn't participate. By then, I sacrificed sleep, social life, everything to make sure my GPA was high ... only to learn that I was interviewing for jobs against classmates who had artificially inflated GPAs. Maybe they were not as high as mine, but employers don't squint too hard at your GPA as you come out of university in the same way they do on the way in. Again, my intent isn't to complain, I became the man I did because of the challenges I've experienced and the hard work I've put in. This is why I am capable and competent, had I been given the easy path I would not be capable and competent. Any diploma, certification, or credential can be attained without competency. Our nation's recent college admission scandal illustrates this perfectly and irrefutably.
I don't consider myself greedy or materialistic, but I believe if anyone should profit directly from my work it should be me. I really don't mind sharing ideas or helping others improve their craft, but I reached a point where I'm no longer willing to share ideas that would be helpful to anyone competing in the same market unless my work is given the appropriate respect, recognition, and compensation it deserves. The exception to this is ideas that I consider to be good ones, and that by existing forward some objective I am trying to achieve. For example, if I think of an app improvement for Netflix, I don't have any intention of trying to get a job with them or becoming an app developer, so I'm happy to tweet it at them. Having the app feature I want manifest, either because of my idea or because they received enough requests similar to mine that they decided to implement it serves a purpose for me and it's no hardship to not be compensated for it.
On the other hand, if I write a blog article about some of my new ideas for how businesses should be using a specific tool to attract new clients, chances are if my work receives any attention at all it will be another blogger either explicitly plagiarizing my writing or at very least taking my ideas without any attribution. This has happened to me recently, it's frustrating and discouraging. My portfolio is far thinner than it should be, because of the number of clients I've taken on who became hostile, refused to pay, and refused to credit my work. Ultimately, someone has to generate original ideas, and if they all end up gradually starving to death the world will be poorer for it.
The next reason why I don't use this and other platforms to be more creative is because the focus of my life has become addressing the inequities in the system for people like me. While things can be very difficult for myself, I'm lucky enough to have put together the resources to continue to have a voice, and I'm lucky enough to be able to communicate it through more than inarticulate howling. Many creative professionals are not as articulate with the written word, and their frustrations come out in ways that allow their detractors to easily gaslight them and paint them as the problem.
While you reading this may perceive this as my own complaints, much of what I have to say on this subject is in fact what I am passing on from the dozens if not hundreds of creative people I have personally spoken with over the years. When I've related the horror stories these people have told me, the suffering they endure, the cognitive dissonance in most people is astounding. They don't want to believe the circumstances are so grim, or that their own lives inherently make them complicit in this suffering. They tell me creative people must suffer, it drives their creativity. They tell me creative people are mentally unstable. They tell me these creative people must have done something to deserve the ill treatment they receive. This branches from my personal experiences, to the experiences of other people like me, to ideology, to labor rights, to politics, very rapidly and unavoidably. I have been offered a meal ticket over and over again for one price, that I stop talking about what happens to everyone else like me. Their price is my silence.
So to summarize so far, I have been told in no uncertain terms that what I should do is continue to practice my craft without compensation and without speaking to that fact, or to the fact that most people like me practice their craft without compensation. In return, I have received a never ending stream of empty promises, television show deals, fame, fortune, all I have to do is shut up. Except that when I do shut up, nothing happens, I just go back to slowly starving.
Now you may ask yourself, if I'm trying to attract clients why I would use my blog or social media to talk about things that might scare them off? Because those are precisely the clients I do not wish to have. If you aren't similarly driven to help the young, exploited, often fragile and defenseless, emotionally vulnerable, weak, broken creative minds of our society ... I don't genuinely don't care what you think and I'm not trying to impress you. I don't owe you anything, and I made them a promise I would try to help.
Now when I started off along this path, I didn't expect it to be this difficult. I was naive, I underestimated how many people were so heavily invested in the exploitation of our artists, poets, dancers, writers, and musicians. The ontology of the system took long time for me to conceptualize, a pyramid with a base made out of broke and broken dreamers ... fueled almost entirely by their suffering. To those not directly and willingly participating in this exploitation, denial is the norm. It's understandable, if unacceptable. The true horror and their complicity in that horror is enough to drive some to self-destruction.
However, once I did realize how long and hard the path was I became resolved to do it the hard way. I am frequently struck by how many of my seemingly insignificant lessons in my previous life had prepared me for what lay ahead.
I am a deeply spiritual person. I've tried to explain my beliefs, but it usually seems like that comes across as evangelizing. I seek no converts, what works for me works for me and gives me strength. I have no magical secrets I can communicate to anyone else. I believe when they're ready to see they'll see, nothing I can do can change that.
Another easy path to financial success offered to me is to join some church or religion. None I have encountered are compatible with my beliefs. There are aspects of a few traditions that speak to me, but after some fairly vigorous investigation into whether or not joining one of these groups would work for me I've decided against it. Ultimately, it seems that in-group out-group dynamics usually triumph over any supposed value system. In-group members justify any number of atrocities against the dehumanized out-group. I am yet to discover a group of humans that does not suffer from this problem, including "secular humanists."
Despite our ostensibly secular system, the fact is the gates to private, public, and nonprofit organizations are ultimately guarded by the adherents of religious/ideological sects. Sometimes it seems almost unconscious, but you can see a light go out in someone's eyes when they realize you aren't in their particular sect. It might be a job at a fast food restaurant or an interview with a state public agency, but when they ask their veiled probing questions, if you don't answer with the affirmative response, the door closes. While often times the leadership of these organizations are open minded enough to appreciate diversity, the gatekeepers use their authority to ensure members of their sect receive preference in hiring, either consciously or unconsciously. I've never tried to actively hide my somewhat unorthodox spiritual beliefs, but in the era of social media it is easier than ever for a HR staff and hiring manager to screen for individuals who don't share their own personal ideology.
I wear my spiritual beliefs on my sleeve. Some people have stated or implied that I am trying to attract followers, start my own religion or cult. I'd really rather not, but my beliefs are part of who I am and I am unashamed of them. I'm happy to explain, but I owe no explanation. Some of my beliefs inform the way I approach problems and apply solutions. There's no way to explain to someone in a succinct way that you've applied a Taoist principle to a problem at work, no matter how effective it was they either see it as insanity or witchcraft. There is no drop down in the menu of an online job application that adequately explains how I see myself and because I don't fit into a drop down menu the system has no way to accommodate me. In other words, I do not intend on joining anyone else's religion, I do not intend on starting my own, I do not have to hide it, I do not have to be ashamed of it, if anyone is curious I'm happy to talk about it, but what I believe in is not applicable to my abilities to perform tasks and attend to my professional responsibilities ... and thus it is non-negotiable.
I am wholeheartedly committed to the spirit of scientific discovery. While my formal education is not focused on the sciences, I always performed well academically in the sciences, studied them independently from a very young age, and I feel that I have a fairly high degree of comprehension of most scientific concepts. I see no conflict with any of my spiritual beliefs and the current consensus in any scientific field. While I find that most actual scientists are willing to accept me and my spiritual beliefs, I find there is a faction of what I call "science fans" who view anything but hard-core Dawkins-style atheism as literal proof of insanity.
Why is my spirituality or scientific knowledge relevant to being a creative professional? How did we get so far off this garden path? Because the ultimately very tribal nature of society means that to most people if you don't immediately and unequivocally commit to being a member of one of the two main tribes in American society you are immediately designated as a threat and a target. I am not a conservative right-wing Christian, nor am I a left-wing Dawkins style atheist, thus most of my life has been spent dodging attacks from both sides. I regard both positions as revolting compromises of what I genuinely believe in.
The narrative from the left-wing "secular humanist" mob is that anything besides secular humanism is synonymous with extreme far-right reactionary homophobic racist conservative Christianity. So if someone says they're not an atheist, it's ok to slash their tires or punch them in the face. Yes, this is a real problem. Conversely, if someone expresses a concern for climate change or environmental degradation, then to a conservative Christian you've just outed yourself as a member of the globalist cabal of baby eating Satanists, it's ok to slash their tires or punch them in the face. Yes, this is a real problem. I've taken the controversial stance that all these people are assholes, so I get punched in the face more often than I'd like.
Whether it's my spiritual beliefs, my sexuality, my position on specific public policies, everything about who I am is a referendum on whether or not I belong to this or that wing of the American political system. I get the distinct impression, from the direct contact made with me from high-level figures in both parties, that either one would be happy to claim me as one of their own ... if only I would abandon everything that defines me and tow some party line. I cannot in good conscious cosign either party. They're both wrong, they're both pursuing destructive paths.
So that just leaves me here, stuck in the middle between two squabbling and immature parents. Both want to be right and the other wrong. Both define success as the destruction of the other. Both see me only as a means towards destroying the other. Both have armies of street thugs, weapons, hackers, spies. Somehow the message that the entire premise of their respective ideologies are fundamentally flawed is more dangerous to them than the massive bristling armed force of their enemy. Both are willing to threaten, harass, intimidate, blackmail, and extort anyone who won’t join their cause into joining it.
Members of both camps routinely exhort me to call for violence against the other. Any kindergartner can tell you to resolve your problems with words, not violence. I just want to create, I won't be used as a weapon.