An Audience of One

Post date: Mar 11, 2013 7:24:55 PM

It seems I get a burst of inspiration around this time each year. I'm not sure what brings it on, but it's refreshing and invigorating. Yesterday I updated my small video game-focused site, Raroo Moments, and even went so far as to purchase the domain name for it. The focus of the site is to capture (in words) a snapshot of whatever particular game strikes my fancy at the moment. Sometimes simple says a lot more than complex. For instance, I adore well-written haiku and its ability to paint a bigger picture with so few words.

As I was busying myself making new content for Raroo Moments, I began to wonder if anyone will even read and appreciate the site. But then I thought: does that even matter? Are the things I have created during my lifetime truly for anyone other than myself? I believe we live in a time where we are being trained to need constant feedback and validation for our efforts. True, external praise for our work feels good and can provide inspiration, but ultimately the motivation should come from within us. Easier said than done, of course.

When I was in college, I spent a large portion of my free time recording my own music. Almost daily I would rush home from class and sequester myself in my room, using my Tascam 4-Track to lay down album after album of original tunes. I drew, cut, and pasted album covers, dubbed copies of cassettes, and spent what small amount of free money I had to send copies of my albums to independent record labels across the globe. I was never offered a record deal. The few zines I managed to convince to review my albums usually gave lukewarm write-ups, and I was often disappointed and discouraged. I simply didn't understand how so many other bands managed to score recording contacts while I was unsuccessful.

Yet, I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. While at the time it was disheartening to feel like all my efforts were for naught, the truth is that the joy was in the creation, not the end result. I realize now that I wasn't just recording music for the sole purpose of being signed to a record label, but rather it was the thrill that came from thinking up original music and capturing it on tape that mattered most of all. I was so proud when I would finish an album and listen to the end result, thinking anyone that heard it would immediately share my excitement. I didn't want to be signed to a record label for monetary profit, but rather for validation. I believed that if a label were to press and professionally distribute my album, it would mean I had succeeded as a musician. But, honestly, the fact that I made anything at all is the real success.

I’ll be the first to admit that I'm still guilty of searching for validation, and I don't know if doing so is something I can completely escape from. I would love to create strictly for the sake of the happiness that comes from the experience, but it’s hard not to seek reassurance. Perhaps that’s just human nature. My kids, for example, will run to my wife and me and ask us to look at their drawings, waiting for us to tell them what a nice job they did. Nevertheless, I want to train myself to seek motivation internally and not worry about anything else. Should nobody notice my work, what does it matter? The only important thing is spending time wisely and merrily, and the only audience I should worry about pleasing is me.