Is it worth sticking around for your later work?
Most of what we “discover” that becomes our favorite books, songs, and movies are not early works by their creators. I recently heard Seth Godin play a few seconds on his podcast of an old Billy Joel demo tape and playfully scorn it as sub-par compared to later hit releases. Of course as a Billy-phile my ears perked and I was transported to a magical place by the youth and vibrancy in the Piano Man’s voice. I immediately craved more so I went in search of every early track the internet had to deliver.
This is a skewed example of the difference between early adopters and mass market popularity. Most of us are happy to enjoy the “greatest hits” and skip the “crap” that didn’t make the grade. But always present are the outliers who recognize greatness in the making. People whose passion for a product, a restaurant, a service… your books… fascinates them so much they can’t help but jump in to support the art on its way up the ladder of success.
These early adopters are the reason the rest of us get to enjoy things like bubble wrap (which was originally created as trendy wallpaper!), smartphones, heated automobile seats, Uber/Lyft, “sleeper” movie hits, and even NY Times bestsellers.
But in almost every case, the creators had to actively reach out to find this eager audience, and they had to keep showing up!
As the angel Mr. Joel sings in the final verse of “The Entertainer”:
Today I am your champion
I may have won your hearts
But I know the game, you’ll forget my name
I won’t be here in another year
If I don’t stay on the charts
So today I encourage you to get about the challenging (but immensely gratifying) business of creating your early work.
There’s no shortcut, and those who’ve traveled the path successfully would tell us they wouldn’t have it any other way. But it doesn’t have to be a lonely path. Write something, and then share it with someone. It’s time to find your early adopters!