What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

How Not to Die in Obscurity (self-promotion and the sensitive artist).

October 11, 2011, 12:00 AM
Graves

(Exclusive, in-studio performance at the end of the article)

 Mea culpa, dear Reader: I may have misled you. This isn't really about fame, or even self-promotion. This one goes out to all the serious artists and innovators languishing in basements, creating for the love of it but fearful of the world's harsh glare. I see you in your monkish cells, locked in the quiet struggle to make something we all need but don't yet know how to articulate. And I ask you: what's it really about? You or the art?

What's the Big Idea? 

Singer-songwriter Josh Ritter admits to being thin-skinned: 
 
I don’t believe most artists have thick skins at all.  I think our job is to listen to whispers.  That’s what makes a writer write.  It’s picking up on whatever is going on around us and shaping that into a story that resembles reality and tells us a little bit about ourselves.  So I think that when there are judgments placed on the work that we do that it will hurt, you know.  But it’s not something that you can really let keep you back.
 
Let's be honest here: you put your work out in the world and some critic's going to savage it. But early in his career, Josh had a liberating realization:  that the songs, once he writes them, are no longer entirely his. Like kids, they have to be nurtured into being, then sent out into the world to make it on their own. Maybe with the option of moving back home for a bit if things get too bouncy out there . . .



Making art, says Josh, is half of the artist’s job. The rest is hustling on its behalf – making sure the world hears it. This means engaging wholeheartedly with the business of art. If you believe in what you’re doing, he says, then you have to commit to sharing it. You have to tour. You have to advertise. You might have to appear on Big Think. Share your work widely enough, and it will surely resonate with somebody, somewhere.

What’s the Significance?

On one end of the spectrum you have professional “artists” whose work is the product of market analysis and a team of executives. They are the Dells of this world as opposed to the Apples – cheap (if lucrative) imitations of what works.  No offense intended to those who rock out to their tunes. On the other end you have the shy, tortured poets whose notebooks may or may not be discovered after their deaths. “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame,” as Shakespeare put it, in a slightly different context.

Somewhere in the middle, there are the sincere, committed creators who have somehow managed to separate themselves sufficiently from their work to share it with the rest of us. Nobody is saying these people are egoless, or that they don’t enjoy the fame, money, and respect their work can bring. But somewhere along the line, they’ve decided that while the art is theirs, it doesn’t fully belong to them. And that by jealously guarding it they’d be doing themselves and the world a disservice. Benefits aside, it’s an act of generosity. Thanks, Josh. Thanks, Paul Simon, Thanks, Shakespeare. Thanks, Steve Jobs.
 
Listen to an exclusive, in-studio performance of At the Right Time, from the album The Animal Years: 

 

 

How Not to Die in Obscurity...

Newsletter: Share: