Scenius as an aspect of AUDIENCE

I've been looking ahead to the chapter on AUDIENCE in Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy.  It's one of those unfinished chapters, and I've been just kind of picking at it to see if I could clarify my thoughts enough to not flounder about when it comes time to tackle it for real.

I've also been looking back through all the other books on the creative process that I've read to see if there's anything I could STEAL, and lo! Austin Kleon's Show Your Work gave me a key concept that absolutely solidified my thoughts.

First, one of the issues I've had with trying to clarify AUDIENCE is that the term is really two concepts in one.   The first is the most obvious one,  AUDIENCE as "those people out there."  These are the people who read your book, who come to your show, who drink your cocktail.

They are the people without whom your work is not finished.  They're the ones in the back of your head for whom you are Making the Thing That Is Not.  They're the many-headed monster that once you finally ABANDON your work to their gaze will more often than not get it "wrong."  (That's the meaning of the AUDIENCE graphic, btw.) But they are your AUDIENCE: "those people out there."

The Precept, however, has another aspect, and that is "those people right here."

For me, it is the Lichtenbergian Society.   For J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, it was The Inklings, who met every Thursday night at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford to discuss their work.  It's the Algonquin Round Table, the Bloomsbury Group, Andy Warhol's Factory.

Because—I'm sure you've noticed this—in any creative movement, all the cool kids seemed to know each other and hang out together.  How does that even happen?

Musician Brian Eno also noticed this when he was an art student: he found the "solitary genius" model of Michelangelo/Picasso/et al. a bit off, and so he coined the term scenius, which Austin Kleon tells us denotes an "ecology of talent," "a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas.”

So here was the exact term I was looking for to make my chapter on AUDIENCE make sense.  This, class, is why you STEAL FROM THE BEST.  It's like sitting with the cool kids at lunch.

We will explore scenius some more in the next post.


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