Monday, January 30, 2012

16546--The Peer Pressure Your Parents Warned You About

No, I'm not the peer pressure.  I'm on your side. 
I’m the guy who encourages you to be yourself.   I’m sure you’ve heard this bold advice before, but I’m going to throw it out into the ether again.

There are many who will tell you to do as they do or to follow the footsteps of others because their success is something that can be replicated by simply doing whatever they did.   That may work well in certain non-creative areas where an individual’s flair doesn’t show through, but that will only take you to certain places.

In movies and television, this sort of imitation is often attempted to try to capitalize on popular trends.   It’s the allure of the dollars, but that’s what studios are in business for, isn’t it?   I’m not going to fault them for that.   Creative people, in contrast, bear an artistic responsibility to themselves.   If you’re one of them, and you’re the only one who should be making that decision, you need to channel your energies into the directions that are your own.

My family recently attended the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus.   For some of us it was the first time.   For me, it was my fourth “greatest show on Earth.”   My first was when I was seven or maybe eight.   My latest was with a family in-tow, which included two boys I was considering encouraging to runaway with the circus.   I warned my wife I was also open to making a trade arrangement: the boys' weight in peanuts and popcorn in exchange for their shoveling an equivalent amount of elephant droppings, for example.   Once he got wind of this, our youngest was quick to assure us that he had no knowledge of shoveling techniques, ironically demonstrating an innate talent for shoveling crap.

Anyway, what I was getting at was that while we enjoyed the show, it was missing something.   I don’t want to be so harsh as to say it was missing heart, because at least some of the performers did seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves.   The circus has lost its way, though, straying from its particular path.   It seems to be trying to merge itself with elements of Cirque du Soleil.   I enjoy Cirque du Soleil.   I’ve seen several of their shows, also, but it’s a different sort of show.   Little boys don’t runaway to join le cirque.   They’re drawn to the greatest show on Earth.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good show.  It certainly entertained and even had a moment or two of getting a genuine, unprompted rise out of the audience.  The clowns, though, were definitely more cirque than circus and there was no trapeze.  Filling three rings with rope climbers and having a couple of them swing around as though in flight isn’t the same as a free-flying triple back somersault executed thirty feet up and ending in a last-second catch.  They’ve offered busy, diffuse and safe activity over risky, death-defying and dramatic acts.  There were three rings of dancing horses and ponies, but not a single one at full gallop with a rider standing on bareback.   There was playing with tigers, but no leaps through rings of fire.

I really would’ve enjoyed seeing a trio of motorcycle riders racing around each other at top speed inside a steel cage.  That’s alright…I enjoy tumbling gymnasts, too.

I understand.  I do.  It’s a new age and Ringling Brothers, etc. has some serious competition that they didn’t have years ago.  To keep pace with what the audiences have shown they enjoy, the circus has changed its product to chase dollars rather than boldly being all the CIRCUS! it can be and drawing audience dollars to the greatest show.

If you’re a singer, don’t try to sound like whoever is topping the Billboard charts.  If you’re a painter, don’t try to copy Leonardo da Vinci.  If you’re a writer, don’t aim at writing another Harry Potter.  Don’t play to trends that appear to be selling.  That’s pandering.  I think it’s still illegal in most places.

It’s fine to learn the essentials of your craft from those who are already accomplished at it, but you must also find your own style of engaging in that craft or your work will never ring true.  You may find an audience that likes you, but the audience that could love what you do and rave about it will never find you.  Don't blunt your own edge.  Put on your own greatest show.


  1. Really enjoyed your post. Thx for sharing!

  2. I really enjoyed your enjoyment :) Thanks for sharing that.