Client's Disease

Monday, August 13, 2012

A piece about writing by Steven Pressfield, who had once worked in advertising, gives an interesting name to a common affliction of the creative and makes explicit a question it raises:

There's a phenomenon in advertising called Client's Disease. Every client is in love with his own product. The mistake he makes is believing that, because he loves it, everyone else will too.

They won't. The market doesn't know what you're selling and doesn't care. Your potential customers are so busy dealing with the rest of their lives, they haven't got a spare second to give to your product/work of art/business, no matter how worthy or how much you love it.

What's your answer to that?
Pressfield's answer is very insightful:
When you ... understand that nobody wants to read your shit, you develop empathy. You acquire that skill which is indispensable to all artists and entrepreneurs: the ability to switch back and forth in your imagination from your own point of view as writer/painter/seller to the point of view of your imagined reader/gallery-goer/customer. You learn to ask yourself with every sentence and every phrase: Is this interesting? Is this fun or challenging or inventive? Am I giving the reader enough? Is she bored? Is she following where I want to lead her? [bold added]
Pressfield comes to within a hair's breadth of framing the interaction of creator and audience in terms of a trade. Indeed, all of the above questions, as well as the empathy one develops for one's audience flow from the fact that, in so far as one is concerned with an audience, the goal of any creative effort ought to be a mutually beneficial exchange of values, regardless of whether money changes hands. If your audience can't easily tell why it should care, don't expect it to.

-- CAV


Burgess Laughlin said...

A corollary of Client's Disease is what I call "Publisher's Pitfall." This is the automatic, unproven, and mistaken assumption that what one person or organization wants to publish others will want to read.

The classic example is the expensive to produce, slick, full-color corporate brochure. It sits unread in stacks on coffee tables in the lobby of the corporate headquarters. But the corporate leaders feel good about having made their statement.

Gus Van Horn said...

When one does something without asking why he is doing so -- or even to avoid asking such a question -- the result is much different than when one does!