Our world is cluttered. Like the notice boards in old corner shops or the nineteen-eighties corridors of universities, where nobody ever took anything down, the internet suffers an endless layering of information. Not that it’s all bad. Increasingly, we search for things and depend on them being eternally (maybe) available. At other times, however, it seems that the build-up of questionably useful material will never end. At what stage does the world reach an overload of ‘stuff’: a saturation point of posts, pages, photos, videos, news, online books, courses, marketing and the like?
Brian Clark is a US writer, entrepreneur and founder of many companies. I heard him speaking on a podcast the other day. He has a test. He applies this test before he puts anything into the world. Brian Clark asks himself: ‘Does this need to be out there?’ I don’t think there’s a moral or altruistic motive along the lines of cutting down on the internet noise but, rather, more concern about keeping his own presence ‘slim’. He sees value in maintaining output that is essential, valuable and contributory. If the information is not providing a means for advancement, he would err on the side of leaving it on his screen and not letting it loose in the public sphere.
To what extent does this apply to us as artists, writers, bloggers and emailers? ‘Does this need to be out there?’ Are we generating stuff that is merely momentary with an expiration date that renders it useless in a matter of days? And, even if that is the case, perhaps it doesn’t matter anyway.
A recent blog post from Seth Godin reminded us of the editing principle that every sentence needs to serve a purpose. ‘It doesn’t exist to take up space, it exists to … move the reader from here to there.’ I am turning over in my mind, now, how art (and particularly my art) including writing (and particularly my writing) moves the viewer or reader from one place to another.
There’s nothing necessarily serious or stifling about these concepts. Entertainment, distraction, simple enjoyment and the drawing of attention are ‘moving’ processes. It would be an unmitigated disaster if all information had to be making a point, hammering an opinion or whatever.
So, does this blog need to be out there? It certainly needs to be out of my head. Would an old-fashioned notebook or journal be a better, and less world-wide-cluttering, space for the writing? Do the paintings I work on today need to be out there? Maybe a personal sketchbook instead? These questions don’t require answers from anyone else. They are for me to muse on. They are considerations for me to apply to each piece before it’s released. ‘Am I putting out there only the best I can do, only the most important, only the most effective in taking the receiver to some new place?’
Until later and, hopefully, happy journeying,