An Audience of One - How to make things worth making
“What would you like to see?”
Whenever I’m struggling with making anything, I end up going back to this simple question. Whether it’s building a feature or product, writing, cooking or making a photograph, the question remains the same. If you were the audience to what you were making, what would you like to see? Since this is Issue #1 of this letter, you should know the idea behind it is rooted in the same question. What would I like to read? What might be helpful to me in my journey? Think of it as a memo to myself, helping me navigate roadblocks that I regularly face in the hope that if you come across similar situations, these words on a page might help you the way they helped me.
Back to the question of what you’d like to see. As a starting point, its as good as any. At the very least, even if there’s no movement on the external barometer of success, the exercise is successful on it’s own accord, since you made something that;
- Might be of use to you (a product, a meal that you like) or give you joy (a photograph, a piece of writing)
- Got the idea out of you and learnt something in the process
And that’s more than enough, because Builders Build. You can’t help it. Building for yourself though is the first step, since if you have any sort of ambitions with what you’re building (monetary, influence or authority), then the next step would be to share it with the world & get feedback. Luckily with the internet, this has become easier than ever. You can launch your product on Product Hunt, tweet your writing, share your photos or videos on Instagram & start a quick feedback loop.
As you build (& share) more, you might find a group of people in some tiny corner of the world who are your people. They’re going through the same things are you are & like to see more of what you want to see. The number of people here is irrelevant, at the moment. What’s important is that you gather & incorporate feedback into what you’re building. This can tweak what you’re building based on the scale of the ambitions that you have with your creations. If you’re building just as a creative outlet & don’t want to incorporate any feedback, that’s fine too. The important thing here is, to just go ahead and build what you really want to. There is no downside.
A close friend who was doing up his house built a lot of the furniture that he needed. He’s pretty nifty with tools & did a great job at building almost everything from book shelves, a TV unit & a motorised standing desk. Because he didn’t have any ambitions with building furniture & is happy with his job, he didn’t share what he’d been building with the world. But, his furniture was so good that whoever visited his house asked about where he got it from. Since then, he’s built furniture for & done up spaces for 2 of his friends & built random pieces of furniture for a few others. I’m pretty sure if he wanted to, he would be able to set up a shop for his work & make a pretty good living out of it. The fact that he doesn’t want to & just wants to do it because he loves doing it is a different matter altogether.
When you build something for yourself, you end up doing things with a level of love, care & detail that you might not have if it was mandated by someone. You know your needs, you’re empathetic with your story & because you’re building with an audience in mind, you end up doing honest, great things because would you as an audience be okay with any less?
The next time you’re stuck while building or at a crossroads looking for an answer, ask yourself, “what would I want to see?” Chances are, you’ll make something worth making.