Seth Godin recently posted a blog entry called The Weird Tail Continues. In it, he states that we’re getting weirder: as options are getting broader, people are opting more for the exotic choices in products and culture. Then he notes your efforts should be directed more toward the outliers near the flat tails of the bell curve than the masses in the center.
He’s right, but that doesn’t necessarily mean what you might think.
Someone posted to a writing forum about Seth Godin’s blog entry, and asked some incisive questions. Is your book weird enough? Are you re-telling someone else’s story or trying to create something new? Have you put conscious thought into differentiating your book from the other books in your genre?
Photographers often think along similar lines and ask similar questions. Are your pictures instantly recognizable? How are you making your work stand out from the crowd? What are you doing to develop a unique style? And so on. In response, photographers often pointedly choose to adopt recognizable eccentricities of technique, equipment choices, or subject matter, for the explicit purpose of differentiation.
In fact, artists in every field seem driven to “weirdify” their work.
“Make your creations weirder” may seem to follow naturally from Godin’s observations. This seemed to be what the forum participant took away from The Weird Tail Continues. I expect many others did, too.
But Godin doesn’t actually say it in the article.
In my opinion, consciously making your creations stranger will usually backfire. Why? Because this kind of oddness is a hollow artifice. It’s an arbitrary gimmick. It’s nothing but weirdness for its own sake. It’s just slapped on so that novelty can be used as a selling point. It’s trite because it lacks an intrinsic and well integrated artistic purpose. This will come across as a deadly combination of inauthenticity and pointlessness.
Instead, the weirdness has to be internally based, not externally. It has to be a natural outgrowth of who you are, not a conscious machination purposely cobbled to your creation because you felt it needed to be queerer. You are already truly and deeply weird. You’re already filled with ideas, inclinations, and idiosyncrasies unlike anyone else’s. You already perceive and understand the world in ways uniquely your own, which can thereby inform your creative expression with a combination of characteristics only you impart. Most people stifle it. Let it flourish. You need to forge your creations in the depths of the full and real you, thereby making them truly your own.
This will result in uniqueness with significance, avoiding affectation.
Don’t just place your art on the altar of empty weirdness worship. It’s a mistake to believe that most people want books (or photos, music, movies … whatever) to merely be different. “Different” is necessary, but not sufficient. Anomaly is the carrier that transports what folks actually want, but it isn’t what they want, in of itself. People want a creation’s peculiarity to be meaningful. They’re really after a new way of perceiving and understanding the world. They want their minds expanded by seeing the world through someone else’s worldview. Give it to them by giving them a glimpse into your being. Funkiness served up as contrived mishmash is no substitute.
Rather than make your art weirder, let it be weirder.