Sunday Sparks Issue 9: Practicing Permissionless Creativity and True Fans

Gooooood evening and Happy Sunday!

This week, I've been thinking a lot about what prevents us from exercising our creativity and leaves us in an inspiration rut?

Trapped in the standardized education system for the most plastic, formative years of our cognitive development, we are taught either to conform to the mold set by our school systems or granted the occasional freedom to "wow" or "surprise" our teachers. Neither of these situations is conducive to creativity. Because we internalize the need for permission to create as children, as we grow us, we abstain from even trying our hand at creative work.

This issue is about nurturing and developing our creative sides without the need for permission or evaluation:

You're Already a Filmmaker!

This video is about Joel Haver's journey with producing and directing films independently. Rather than going through the beaten path of making movies by going to film school, spending 20 years kissing other people's asses in Hollywood, and getting piped into the film industry so you get a 5% chance of making an original movie that might or might not be successful, Joel started making and posting his films on YouTube. Through this practice, Joel has 954K subscribers as of this writing. I'd say he's doing pretty well.

The problem with film school, as he puts it, is that at the end, you make a thesis film and are encouraged to submit it to all the well-known film festivals. Of course, you're rejected. However, this results in facing the crippling doubt that your work isn't good enough. The film industry pipeline is set up to discourage people and force them into a lifetime of being a grunt to get a very small chance to make movies in Hollywood.

So many industries prey on our need for validation and as a result, people spend years and years doing unproductive work to get permission to do the work they really want to do. As he says, rather than following this model, creativity arises when we repeatedly ship work—whether it's shitty or not. Over time, the quality of our work naturally improves, and most importantly, we realize that we don't need permission from others to do the things we want to do.

He also has a standing invitation that he'll watch any film you send him that's over 40 minutes long to encourage other independent filmmakers.

Small b blogging

This article addresses the same issue in film making but with blogging. The internet is dominated by big B blogging, which means designing your writing for pageviews and scale. In contrast,

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale. An attempt at genuine connection vs the gloss and polish and mass market of most “content marketing”. And remember that you are your own audience! Small b blogging is writing things that you link back to and reference time and time again. Ideas that can evolve and grow as your thinking and audience grows. As Venkatesh says in the calculus of grit - release work often, reference your own thinking & rework the same ideas again and again. That’s the small b blogging model.

Even though your writing might not reach millions of people, it will help you develop your voice and preserve its integrity. You'll reach hundreds or thousands of hard-core followers who really care about your work rather than millions who vaguely remember your name.

1,000 True Fans

The same principle applies to business too. It's better to have a small number of followers who will read, engage with, and buy everything you make rather than millions who kinda, sorta know your name. This article works out the math of creating a reasonable income serving a small population of hardcore followers.

The takeaway: 1,000 true fans is an alternative path to success other than stardom. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum bestseller hits, blockbusters, and celebrity status, you can aim for direct connection with a thousand true fans. On your way, no matter how many fans you actually succeed in gaining, you’ll be surrounded not by faddish infatuation, but by genuine and true appreciation. It’s a much saner destiny to hope for. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there.

The Doerr Problem

The Doerr problem occurs when we optimize for width metrics (followers, page views, likes, etc) rather than depth metrics (Word of mouth, DMs, Superfans, etc) when creating work online because width metrics are much easier to track.

This thread summarizes the 1000 True Fans article in the context of Twitter and gives us metrics we should be optimizing for so we are more likely to create a loyal audience.

Build your personal self-invention machine

Lastly, this is a practical guide to creating your platform for permissionless creatvity. The article goes through the whys, whats, and hows of creating a platform where you can practice creativity without bounds.


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If you have any thoughts about this issue, I would love to hear them! Reply to this email or find me on Twitter!

Lastly, I want to leave with a question—Do you have a self-invention machine? If so, I'd love to see it!

Until we meet again,