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July 29, 2016
The Joy Of Having A Fanbase Of 1
May 10, 2016
At the time of writing this I have one Patreon supporter. She came into my life a week ago.
This was about a month after I launched my online project, CANDiGRAM and I actually didn’t realise she existed for a few days because the notification from Patreon went into my junk folder and sat there utterly neglected. It pained me to think that somebody had pledged to support my work and hadn’t received so much as an acknowledgement from me so I immediately sent her a brief but effusive thank you message. When I got home later on that day (it was late in the evening and whatever I had been doing that day had tired me deeply) there was a reply from her waiting for me. I gazed at it through a weary mind and it seemed like the most beautiful thing I had ever read.
She had been watching the live streaming of the premiere of A New Story For Humanity and during the after film discussion she saw this guy stand up and talk about an online project he had just started in the hope of encouraging people to fill each others social media newsfeeds with inspiring and uplifting content as a response to all of the fear-filled items and money-hungry click bait that so many hordes of people seem so intent on producing. Her heart was touched. She went to his website and spent hours catching up with his posts and viewing his videos.
Reading this account in my tired state I tried to connect it with the fact that the man she was talking about was me and the content she had spent hours viewing was CANDiGRAM. It almost wouldn’t compute and I had to consciously slow my mind in order to let it truly sink through to me.
I am 47 years old. I’ve been creative all my life: writing, making music, making art, making films. But, like so many people, I’ve tended towards making art for art’s sake, not because I don’t wish for an audience but more that self promotion doesn’t come naturally to me. This aversion to being seen, born out of insecurity, can be described as the “self saboteur,” the bane of many a creative.
Some people are blessed to be natural self promoters, simply because they don’t feel inhibited when it comes to being seen by others. Other folk are more forced in their self promotion – these are the people who are more career oriented. They have their eye on the numbers and whatever might increase them. These are the people who, when you follow them on twitter, immediately send a request for likes and shares, etc but are too busy in their quest for customers to respond to a direct message, or the responses they do make are clipped, formulaic and shallow.
When an inhibited creative gets frustrated by their self saboteur they can over compensate and swing along the spectrum to the more forced style of self-promotion. Sometimes a pendulum effect can set in as they bounce back and forth between frustration and disappointment. As more and more people become savvy with the marketing mechanisms of social media, recognising the strategies that others are using while simultaneously becoming fatigued by the sheer weight of their presence online, achieving this “sweet spot” of the natural, uninhibited creation of art for art’s sake becomes the Holy Grail – one of those things most easily achieved when you’re not really thinking about the whole business at all; you’re just doing your thing, happy to be seen, just as content to go unseen. What you really care about is the act of creation itself.
It’s not that no thought is given at all to self promotion, but that quest for an audience doesn’t grow in importance to the point where the artistic expression itself is eclipsed and compromised. This is the sweet spot, a place that creatives would probably benefit from dwelling on (and in), if they are aware of its existence at all, whether they be struggling with the self saboteur who fears being seen or the forced self-promoter who fears going unseen. And as we are all expressing ourselves creatively, every moment of our existence, this is relevant to you...
A question you can ask yourself: How often do I do what I do for its own sake, without inhibition, but without the fear of not being noticed?
And clearly I’m wrestling with all of this personally right now.
So meeting my first Patreon supporter last week feels like a special sweet spot to me. When I stood up in front of the live-stream cameras I didn’t do it eagerly, but more in response to me recognising my own reluctance and insecurity and then declining their invitation to sit there unseen. The result: one single person noticing me, responding to what I had to say and how I said it, and then seeking out my work.
Seeking out my work.
Those words are like a balm to my creative soul.
Now it would be disingenuous of me to imply that I only have one person interested in my work. There are almost 50 people on my mailing list and as I post more content I am getting an increasing number of Likes and Shares and site visits. But still, my single Patreon supporter is special to me because she represents that Holy Grail of a person who doesn’t know me, has no connection to me through my immediate friends, family and community, and yet has felt touched by me and my work to the point of enthusiasm.
And that is a priceless gift. For sure, a fanbase of 1 is about as small potatoes as one could get, and yet here’s an interesting mathematical question: if you express it as a percentage, how much more than zero is one? 1%? 100%? Infinity percent? Perhaps it’s an incalculable problem. Personally, I think that infinity percent has a nice ring to it :)
Anyway, I now have my fanbase. I hold true to the idea of my definition of the word “Art” as being no more and no less than: Creative Self Expression. And when we express ourselves creatively who are we expressing ourselves to? I would say that there are two fundamental audiences: ourselves and everybody else. When an artist creates in isolation they are their own audience, they and the void. Once they have a fanbase of 1 or more they have a full compliment of audiences. The distance between zero and one is perhaps one of the greatest and most mysterious distances in existence.