Listen to the radio. Watch television. Surf the Internet. You’ll see a bunch of people copying one another. Why? Because what’s popular sells. And everyone wants to sell you something. So we conform. We follow trends and fads just so we can feel we belong, and just maybe, sell ourselves. But what if I told you that conformity is for the weakhearted?

Well, I’m telling you now. It is. As writers, artists, and musicians, when we conform to norms and follow the crowd, we’re essentially saying we’ve got no guts, no backbone, no heart. Our work, based on other’s rules, tells the world we’re copycats and have no original ideas. It suggests that we’re not brave enough to stand out and do something unique.

As a creative type myself, I’ve followed the trends. I’ve tried to sound like my favorite rock star. I’ve tried to blog like my favorite blog star. I used to think that in order to gain fame and fortune, one had to fit inside the mold set before us. And yes, there are thousands of musicians, writers, artists, and bloggers who get rich and famous by following the formula. Too many. Everything starts to look and sound the same.

If you don’t want to be a conformist, you have to give up the dream of fame and fortune. Instead of trying to be like “them” so you can cash in, just be yourself. Be authentic. Fortune and fame may still come with some hard work.

Your poem doesn’t have to rhyme. Your story doesn’t have to end. Play your music in a minor key, even if it’s not radio-friendly. Make art out of trash. Experiment. Be brave. Treat your life as your art and your art as your life.

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Author: Dan Steven Erickson

Dan Steven Erickson is a great undiscovered American songwriter.