Provocations on Art: Reading Seth Godin`s _The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?_ . . . .Part One (Portfolio Penguin, 2012)

In his blog on April 12, 2013, Seth Godin observes: “Every day, I get letters from people who found The Icarus Deception at just the right moment in their careers. It has opened doors for people or given them the confidence to keep going in the face of external (and internal) resistance. . . . I tried to create a foundation for people willing to do a better (and scarier) sort of work.”

Godin is speaking of many kinds of “creatives,” including freelance copywriters, on whom MarCom executives often rely to promote their products and services.

In his other best-selling books, Godin’s argues that we should treat our work of marketing as art. And by art, he’s not referring to a “gene” or a “specific talent” for original thought, but to an “attitude available to anyone who has a vision that others don’t have, and the guts to do something about it.” He advocates for a different way of working and a different way of thinking about the work that we do.

At this late time in history, he believes that art “is the truly human act of creating something new that matters to another person. The only refuge left, the only safe path, is to be the one who makes art” (xiii). I remember, for instance, English novelist Zadie Smith saying in an interview that she’d rather write novels that are “loose” and “baggy” and maybe not entirely coherent, if they accomplish a new way of speaking to the reader, or of exploring something previously ignored, that the reader finds valuable. Saskatoon-based novelist Alice Kuipers similarly said in a recent interview that she wants to use the format of the novel to ask questions and explore possibilities, without having to be “perfect” or critically acclaimed. As Godin says, “the opposite of coherent is interesting” and “art is almost never coherent.”

An artist has to invest in “creativity, emotional labour and grit.” And only with those efforts, he says, can you stand out and make a difference. It takes “bravery, insight, creativity and boldness” to resist the status quo. And the work of art you may make will not be a definable “result,” but a “journey” that you need to find valuable, if you’re to take it.

One of Canada’s best copywriters similarly shared with me that 20 years ago, when he tackled writing his first annual report, he felt he was flying blind, nervously grasping the information he needed, when his client assumed that he’d already written many such documents. The journey of writing that first report demanded bravery and boldness (Godin’s terms) and was more important for the copywriter’s journey than for the final version of the document that he later submitted.

Godin says that everyone now is an artist, regardless of their field or vocation, because everyone occupying a meeting room must face the “self-induced, systemically amplified, censor that keeps them in line.” We hide behind the feeling that we need to be taught to make art, when what we need is the “permission” to break out and simply do it, instead of (as in the  Industrial Age) seeking instructions that tell us what to do.

In my next posting, I’ll explore some of the central arguments Godin uses to define this creative bravery in The Icarus Deception, focusing on what we as creatives would sometimes rather not see or confront.  To be continued . . .

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