There is freedom to be found in realising that your heroes and influences are NOT your target audience. They are not the people you need to get to take notice of you.
A few years ago, when Florence and the Machine were riding the peak of glory that came from the first album I heard an interview with Florence, in which she said that she’d like to work with Thom Yorke, that she’d never met him, and hadn’t done anything about it yet.
“I think that he’s a really amazing musician, I’d like to do something with him in the future,” Welch told BBC Newsbeat. “I’ve never met him but I’m a big fan of his work. I think it could work – haven’t done anything about it though.”
At the time I remember thinking that she would be lucky if he ever even speaks to her, having announced that sort of thing so publicly, and in that way (I think, I’d like, I’ve never met him, I think it could work). I’m not sure she realised quite how entitled, egocentric and arrogant it sounded, and I’m sure within the swirl of hype and sudden launch to stardom that she was experiencing, it wouldn’t have crossed her mind that it was a bad thing to say and a terrible way to say it. I don’t know if they’ve met now, or worked together – I suspect not, and I haven’t been able to find any info about it online.
The Inspired Us But they Are Not our Ideal Audience
But this is something indicative inside all of us. A desire for the strangers that have moulded us by their influence (without knowing it), to view and adore our work (to be our audience). We can feel intimately attached to our inspirations, and feel a great sense of unrequited attachment that we need to acknowledge so that we can let go of it before letting go of our output. And moreover, without first building a relationship that transcends the work there is no foundation for the kind of growth that an apprentice needs from a master (despite the romantic ideal that films might portray).
But we are free from this need to please our influences. We don’t do what we do in order to gain their approval. We do what we do to pass forward the gift that they gave us, but with our sweat and blood added. And in seeing it like this it would be quite understandable that there would be many times, especially when there is no relationship (but even when there is – Plato and Aristotle for example), that the appreciation might not be mutual, and that ideas, abstractions and output would be very different between parties.
This is good though, it is the foundation of progress.
But just think about it.Someone is influenced by you, they take your ideas and make them their own. It feels like they’re copying, even though it is more out of respect for the way that you have done it. Then they want you to be their audience. They present their stuff to you, or they declare that they are a big fan of your work and think it would be good for you to work together. What are you going to feel about it, especially if you don’t know that person? You’re probably going to feel like they just want to use you further, to piggyback off you. This might be the furthest thing from the reality but is exactly how you might feel.
If we want to be free to truly be ourselves and to create what we are in a unique position to create, then we need to hold very lightly to the desire to attract and impress our influences. Chances are they wont like what we do and we will feel disappointed by their response, but that is fine and it is good. They are not the target audience, they are what what has already been. It is time to pay it forward, to be a positive influence on another generation of little ‘yous’.
Do you have people in your mind who you’d one day love to work with? Have you met them? Have you cold-called/emailed them asking them to look at your work? Before you do, don’t.
Build relationships. Do you have a pre-occupation with pleasing one or a handful of individuals that have inspired you? Is this distracting you from building a thriving community and an audience of people who might actually engage with and understand your vision? Are you ignoring the resources and people who are already around you that can help you achieve your dreams?
Andy Mort is a UK based musician and writer. He is the founder of Sheep Dressed Like Wolves: a Blog and Podcast helping introverts and highly sensitive people recognise and embrace their creativity; and identify what is holding them back from living with the passion, purpose, and meaning they seek in a sometimes overwhelming world.