Obscurity is a gift

You have a great idea, you write a blog post in five minutes, you post it.

A friend reads it, they message you and say, “Hey, I know you had the best intentions, did you consider how this could be misinterpreted?” 

Oops, you didn’t. You misspoke, and could be easily misunderstood. No big deal. You take the blog post down, and it was like you never posted it at all. No harm, no foul. 

That’s the gift of obscurity. 

You’re free to do what you like; you don’t have a personal brand to maintain, you don’t have all eyes on you, you don’t have the pressures of living up to a previous reputation or expectation.

Obscurity is one reason why artists make incredible, trailblazing, work in their early years, but eventually make work that sounds more average. It’s not only that the world has caught up with them; it’s that they’re paying for the cost of fame in their creative process. There’s too much at stake for them to take risks. If you’re working in obscurity, you won’t face that challenge.

Obscurity comes with a cost, which is that you’ll have a hard time monetizing your creative hobby. But it also comes with a gift, which is freedom, lightness, and naivite. You’re free to play, to start a new thought, and not be misunderstood and misinterpreted and disliked.

If you’ve already got people following your work, that’s great too. You can tap into the gift of obscurity by writing under a pseudonym—you can make a new fake name every day!—by making something you won’t show anyone else, or by showing a small group of friends before you ship it to the public. (These are prompts from my book, Creative Doing.)

Inspired by Jason Shen, who mentioned Jacques Mattheij’s post on discouraging auto submissions from his blog.

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