I listened to some good advice from a tree earlier this spring.
It was a magnolia tree. Spring had arrived, and almost out of nowhere sprang these staggeringly beautiful flowers. They were visited by a number of bees and insects, admired by a number of people like me, and then fell to the ground and died. It was all ever so natural.
What do I do with the things I create? I certainly find there’s an automatic compulsion to do something with them. I find that it is generally considered that if a creation is not shared as widely as possible, used to affect or change people, then it is almost pointless. This can lead me to redirect my energy into the anxious task of marketing, away from the blissful mode of making.
I do find marketing quite stressful and deflating because there is already such good stuff out there, and so much noise and busy-ness, so much that has already been done. When I step into that world, all this feels relevant, and there’s so much that needs to be proven and differentiated.
It seems to me that the mainstream marketing mindset can lead to me getting terribly confused and upset.
The tree didn’t market its flower. Yes, it had taken years to slowly grow a magnificent place from which to display its amazing creations, but it didn’t feel the need to go on about it, or get a small army of squirrels to chuck around propaganda. It just sat quietly with the flower, and let those interested find it themselves, and take what benefit they needed for free, and didn’t cling on when it was time to let go. The tree knows that it’s not necessary to cling on because it is in tune with its inherent creativity – it can make endless beautiful flowers. It understands abundance. It doesn’t need to worry that there are other magnolia trees making flowers, it just joins in the magnolia thing. You might call a flower an instrument for reproduction (if you were a good little biology student), or you might see it as a marketable product (if you were a good little business student), or instead you might see it as beautiful, pointless, life-sustaining art.
Will I ever be able to take the advice of the tree? Does it truly matter if 100 rather than 10 people see my own creations, or whether it is seen as good or bad? Only if I am interested in worrying about image or popularity or making fast cash, and wish to spend my time fretting.
My mistake is often to think it is about the flower itself rather than the making of the flower: the invaluable things that are learned and gained by letting go, searching the joy and mischief and grief as I attempt heartfelt art. It changes me; the only change I can hope for.
My mistake is often to think that the flower communicates more than the tree. The cartoon, the spoon, the story, the song, none of these is my real medium – I am. And I communicate very differently if I am loudly marketing rather than silently making, fretting rather than flowing. This is what really matters, what really affects people, and why it’s OK for the flower to fall to the earth.
Ah yes, but how will I ever make money to survive if I don’t market? That sounds to me more and more like fearful, impatient short-sightedness. The answer to that can never be found while thinking that way, so the question is irrelevant.
Our culture is staggeringly less sophisticated than the flowering tree, the hidden bird’s nest, the view from the inaccessible peak. If I were to choose a mentor, I would definitely take Nature over Alan Sugar.