Modern Love

Recently, I read a blog whose author indicated right off the bat the post to follow was more for them than for the reader. Reading that reminded me of a post rattling around in my brain which never got out into the Ether until now.

This site you are reading. My space. Am I blogging primarily for those of you who read it…or am I really, honestly creating first and foremost for myself?

Neil Gaiman, a legend in the land of comic books and who possesses the brilliant mind behind “The Sandman” , was interviewed earlier this year by the New York Times before the Sandman adaptation series debuted on Netflix. I thought he provided a very interesting take on what audiences want, and how a writer makes a decision to write for oneself, or one’s audience.

“Sandman has been huge, but it was never huge when it was coming out. Since then it has gone on to become this ridiculous steady seller because new people are always finding it when they’re 16, 18, 22 years old. They find it, and it’s their comic. It’s their story. I didn’t get to that by going, “I will please my audience.” But audiences do want more of the last thing that they liked. That’s how audiences work. They say, “Hey, I love this strawberry ice cream. Can I have more?” In response to that, I can do one of two things. I can give them more strawberry ice cream. If I do that, I am doomed to give them strawberry ice cream for as long as I do this thing, and I will hate myself. Or I can go, “Nobody is clamoring for chocolate ice cream. Nobody even knows they like chocolate ice cream. However, I want to do chocolate ice cream next. So why don’t I do chocolate ice cream and keep my own interest up?” It’s how the entirety of my writing career has gone.”

Gaiman went on…“I’ll use another analogy. Years ago, my friend Teresa Nielsen Hayden said some authors are dolphins, and some are otters. You can train a dolphin. Give a dolphin a fish if it does a trick, and it will do that trick again. Otters are untrainable. They’ll do something, and you give them a fish, and then they’ll do something else. Because, why would they do the thing they already did? I tend to be an otter.”

One of the things I hope readers like is when you see there’s a new post here you’ll wonder what I’ve written about this time around. Subjects come to my mind from multiple, unpredictable directions.  In the context of Gaiman’s observations above, I think I am very much Team Otter. My writing is true to my nature, and I am very much creating what I want. Of course, I also hope each of you thinks your time is well-spent…and you’ll enjoy what you find. That’s a cherished bonus.

However, one scenario where I lean into Team Dolphin is with regard to any sports-related posts. I believe a number of readers here have little or no interest in sports. Hell, over the years I’VE started to care less about sports which I never, ever thought I’d type out. But when I do write something about sports these days, I admittedly do try to craft those posts in such a way they will also be amusing and/or informative and/or entertaining to non-sports fans.

A new documentary on the life and times of the late music legend David Bowie is currently playing in theatres titled “Moonage Daydream,” directed by Brett Morgen. Madison Bloom from the website Pitchfork wrote about one segment of this film where Bowie reveals how he felt about the time he had his most lucrative success, following the release of his 1983 album “Let’s Dance.”

“At one point, Morgen slips in early footage of Ziggy Stardust (Bowie) singing “Rock n’ Roll Suicide.” He then splices it with ‘80’s stadium tour footage and clips from Bowie’s Pepsi commercial with Tina Turner, which turned “Modern Love” into an embarrassing jingle for the soft drink. The director is formally commenting on the gross commercial excess of the era, if not foreshadowing Bowie’s hindsight on it. “Even though it was enormously successful, there was no growth going on at all,” Bowie says later in voiceover, admitting that he was confining himself to “what I perceived people wanted.” It is the film’s most honest moment…hearing Bowie confess that he’d betrayed his artistic nature is disarming. Knowing that this resulted in his most lucrative phase is its own meta commentary on art and commerce.”

You have to appreciate the honesty. Bowie is admitting to creating work based on what he believed audiences wanted and in doing so, felt stagnant as an artist. When Bowie released that album…writing most of the songs on it including “Modern Love”…I just assumed back then he had a natural curiosity and passion to write songs and create music within a brand-new space. In reality, it sounds like he was way more invested in writing and creating what he felt others wanted him to do.

These quotes from Gaiman and Bowie made me stop and think for a moment. Do I most often create and write for myself here…or for what I think readers would best respond to…or maybe it’s usually a little of both?

As for “Modern Love,” I hope David Bowie at least got some satisfaction knowing many people enjoyed it…regardless of his motivation.

 

Picture Courtesy Pinstripe Hourglass

77 thoughts on “Modern Love”

  1. Great post. When I started writing way back in the day, I was told to write about what I love, and my passion will shine through and bring others on the journey with me. That’s been my guiding light as a writer and now a blogger. My site is primarily a film review blog, but I throw in a Friday Music Video category. Why? I love watching and discussing this fading art form, especially those classics from the 80s when I was growing up, and MTV was king. It’s now one of my most popular sections. I feel if you enjoy what you’re writing about, no matter the subject, the audience will see the love and be entertained. That’s my two cents!

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  2. I get bored pretty easily, so the fact that a blogger changes up posts from day to day is a big deal to me. That said, some bloggers have so much knowledge and information to pass along on a specific subject that that IS their blog. Both styles are OK with me–but then it’s your blog. It’s up to me to follow or not. Reminds me of that saying, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Well, you get my drift.

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  3. I think I do a little of both in my blog. I have readers who look forward to certain series…News You Can’t Use and Let’s Play… but I’m sure posts about my cat and the ongoing project disasters around our house are more for me. Mostly I blog for entertainment and prefer to keep it light, but it takes all kinds and variety is the spice of life after all.
    😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If someone was asking my opinion on this subject, I’d say “you do you, boo.” Sometimes, I’ll publish a post and have no earthly idea if it will connect with a single soul, but it connected with me and that’s what matters in the end. Those series you mentioned…I love them. There are always surprises within.😉

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  4. When it comes to writing, music, art, photography, blogging, etc. you don’t really want to be “the same as it ever was” in my opinion. But given circumstances, I find I do a lot of the same as it ever was in my posts lately. However, I try to add little twist sand turns where I can. On the other hand, a lot of people seem to like things to be the same or similar. I’ve had conversations with really talented musicians who only do covers. I ask why they don’t do original music. I get the same answer from each one, their audiences want to hear music they are familiar with. I think it’s such a waste of talent. Excellent post. David Bowie was so talented. I’m not familiar with “The Sandman”, but Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” is a fantastic book.

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    1. Tim, glad you like Bowie also. After reading the article about the new documentary on him, it led me to understand better his work with Tin Machine later on in his career. He felt free of the need to cater to the masses as he apparently did with the dance music, and started to create more for himself once again. Your take on cover bands is a great one. Talent is talent. Everybody’s got to make a living, but great cover bands probably could be…great bands period. I’m looking forward to reading “American Gods” once I finish up “The Sandman” comics. Thank you for reminding me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you are familiar with Old Norse mythology and the Sagas, you will really appreciate the mastery of “Amaerican Gods”. One group that is a prime example of who I would like to see do original music is Broken Peach. They do elaborate costumes and videos, but I haven’t made it through one of their videos because they are doing covers of the same old tunes you can hear played multiple times a day on the oldie stations.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I too saw the documentary on David Bowie, I was kind of blown away. The man never stopped fighting for what he wanted and in the end, he achieved his goal. An amazing man, gone before his time.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I loved American Gods as well and have been curious about looking into The Sandman as I keep seeing ads for the series (which I’ve avoided, so far)
      And I’ve felt that you were feeling the need to mix it up, Tim – I like the results, too!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Love the quotes you shared here. Great reminder that we can write to where our readers are . . . or we can write to where we think they will be.

    “I am very much Team Otter. My writing is true to my nature, and I am very much creating what I want. Of course, I also hope each of you thinks your time is well-spent…and you’ll enjoy what you find. That’s a cherished bonus.” ~> This is me too. (And, also, I enjoy what I find here.)

    I write what I want, but try to make it time well spent for anyone who stops by to read. Hence the caveat on the IAN: In A Nutshell post. I wasn’t convinced that anyone would want to read my diary of storm week and I didn’t want any reader to feel bad if they quickly lost interest. 😀

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    1. You found me out, Nancy. That start to your Ian post is what got these Gaiman and Bowie quotes out of my mind and onto a post. I actually became more interested in your post on the hurricane because you indicated up front it was more for you. Didn’t love all the hoops you had to jump through to survive Ian, but loved the post.🙂

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      1. Thanks, Bruce. Some of the hoops felt a bit like high hurdles (rather than hiccups) at the time, but no complaints:

        BFF and I survived the storm. So did our villa. So did our cars. So did our stuff. We have food, clothing, shelter, A/C, refrigeration, connectivity, etc. There are so many other people around the globe who could not say the same right now. And now we get to enjoy the calm after the storm and some fabulous weather. 😀

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      2. Nancy, it has rained here almost non-stop since Saturday. Partly due to Ian. But I’ll tell ya, after seeing those scenes in Florida ain’t no one here complaining about anything. Same for us – the next five days look to be sunny and spectacular!

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  6. What a great topic! I DID notice that when you write about sports you try to make it inclusive in some way to “non-sports” readers, lol. And you have nice variety in your posts. I notice that whenever I talk about race relations, I definitely get less comments. Being mixed race, it’s a pretty big issue with me, but I try not to bring it up TOO too often, ’cause I know people feel hammered over the head with it. I love talking about books and movies, and so does everyone else, but I’ll never stop bringing up any race-relations topic that I feel is important, either.
    In the end, I guess we’re trying NOT to end up like poor Alan Rickman’s character in Galaxy Quest. If you’ve seen it, remember at the start of the movie when the group’s doing some event, and he has to say his famous like…which has now been adapted for product? “By Grabthar’s Hammer…” huge, sad, resentful, resigned pause. “…what a savings.” LOL !! Just like “Modern Love” and Pepsi. We never wanna get there!! lol

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  7. Stacey, I haven’t seen Galaxy Quest in years but I absolutely remembered that scene and just found it on YouTube to watch again. That’s a perfect, spot-on analogy for this subject. He was an awesome actor, and he was also perfect to deliver that line in that scene lol. Thanks for mentioning that.

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  8. I would think most bloggers write primarily for their own satisfaction and if it entertains others, not otters, then all to the good.
    I write sometimes about Underground Rock bands from the late 60s / 70s who were not popular / didn’t make it at the time … so as my wife says, who the hell is interested some 50 / 60 years down the line?
    I AM! And that’ll do for me. 😉 😀

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  9. Enjoyed this post, Bruce. I always liked Bowie and figured he was doing the work he wanted to do. When I hear an artist doesn’t feel fulfilled because of catering to the folks who made him famous and wealthy I pause. But that’s just me. I do my stuff the way I want to so maybe I can’t identify with not doing that. Thanks for sharing

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  10. I started blogging for myself. That hasn’t really changed. I just hope that some trivial, known only to me and my life at the time, overly and likely inaccurately punctuated messages will reach a few people and perhaps in some way resonate with them.

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  11. There comes a time in every blogger’s life when he/she asks him/herself, “Am I writing for me or for the masses?” I don’t think there’s any wrong answer as long as you are staying true to yourself.

    Love the “Modern Love” infographic!

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  12. Hi Bruce, this was an interesting post and a great read. I think you brought up some good questions and I had to pause to think about my own blog for a second 🙂 I also love the diversity of your posts and I’m always interested to see what you’ll write about next!

    When I first started my blog just earlier this year, I was so worried about openly sharing my writing. As someone looking to pursue a career in writing, there was this self-consciousness I possessed that led me to constantly edit and re-edit my first post. I remember I kept thinking, “what would people want to hear?! What do they want to know in a review?!” I was so caught up in writing for other people because I wanted them to enjoy it.

    I feel like I’ve grown a lot since, I now feel very proud of my blog and writing and I’m happy to share my thoughts with my readers. I don’t have any outline I follow for each post, I really just write what I feel like saying. I’ve also really enjoyed writing my “Cathy’s Opinions” posts where I just want to throw my thoughts out into the void. ☺️ My blogging experience has definitely been more fun since I’ve let go and stopped worrying about whether people will like my stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cathy, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here. Since I started following your work, I have really enjoyed your detailed, intelligent takes not only in your regular reviews, but in those “Opinions” posts as well. I know when I first started out I did a couple of rewrites…ok, maybe more than a couple…before hitting the publish button. I think we’ve all been there!

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  13. I’ve heard from the beginning (that being 1983 or so) that Bowie wrote those songs because he thought or was told it was what audiences wanted. That being said, it’s the soundtrack to some very happy memories for me. Blogging for me was about healing, and I had a lot of fun with it. Now I blog about random thoughts and I’m not really pleased with what I’m writing. But I don’t want to give it up. Anyway, I’m rambling here. All good writers write because they feel compelled to do so, and I’m still at my happiest when I’m writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Belinda, Bowie’s “dance era” was a soundtrack to a lot of cool memories for me as well. Random thoughts are kind of where I get most all my ideas! Some of them “stick.” Some don’t. But I too think I have finally gotten it through my head…I’m happiest when writing also.

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  14. Well, this is a post I read twice. It has much thinking and pathways for writers and artists. It is brilliant, raising the thinking bar. Am I an otter or a dolphin? I’m an otter, writing for me and reporting the wonderful things that happen in my classroom…yet that can be dolphin-esque, because parents want to know. It’s complicated.

    I was one of your biggest sports blog fans and still love sports. What a game last Sunday with the Patriots. #1 quarterback is out. #2 get a head injury. Hello #3, and what a great game going into overtime.

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  15. Bowie to me is an enigma. If all of his hit songs were written for the audience then everything else, the deep cuts, the non hits were for him and no one else. I can listen to almost any other artist and enjoy 80% of their output (which would include non hits) but Bowie…dare I say when not composing strictly for his audience pretty much sucked, at least to me.

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    1. I have some friends who didn’t care for the Ziggy Stardust persona at all, but they liked most everything else he did. Others just like the early stuff. And yeah, I have some other friends who would definitely refer to him as an enigma.

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  16. What an interesting post, Bruce. I have to admit I never put any thought into “writing for others” or not. When I started out, I wondered if I had anything to say that would be of interest to anyone. Took a good while.
    And then I fell into the challenges and burnt myself out. It was not playing to the masses, but had become a tedious chore as I am a “good blogger” who participates, i.e. reads and comments on all the participants’ entries. Time suck, big time. Doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy doing them now and again but it cannot become the focus. I lost my joy and even when I try to write something else, I feel I’m waffling.
    That Bowie doc sounds like it’s right up my alley so I needs must find it!
    And I love the Gaiman bit (you really must read American Gods!)
    Great post, Bruce.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dale, I still try to be that “good blogger,” but freely admit my time management skills are sometimes put to the test between writing posts and supporting other bloggers. The return of Avatar to movie theatres kicked the Bowie doc out of my local IMAX theatre, so at this point I’m gonna wait to see when it is available for home view. I do thank you (and Tim) for pushing American Gods. I gotta read that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I hear you. Blogging can be a full-time job! I needs must see Avatar the second. I’ll be looking for the Bowie doc.
        It’s really good. I started watching the series but wasn’t in the mood at the time so I’ll have to try again. I do love Ian McShane…

        Liked by 1 person

  17. I really enjoyed your post. It got me to thinking about my blog; what got me started and continue on after 7 years. I take photographs of things I enjoy and interest me. At the beginning I would often alternate my subjects ( I didn’t want to bore my viewers). Now I post whatever appeals to me and hope it resonates with others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Belinda, I can identify with that desire to post what appeals to you first and foremost. If something becomes or is of interest to me, I will write on it and hope it resonates with others. When I first started, I too felt that “push” to alternate subjects. The variety in subjects here now really comes about because I’m just “all over the place” interest-wise.

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  18. Lulu: “Our Dada started humming this song as soon as he saw the title of your post, so I guess David Bowie must still have been doing something right even when he was selling out …”
    Charlee: “Also, Dada says he remembers that Pepsi commercial!”

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I think you answered your Q ‘am I blogging primarily for those…’ via your title. You do it for one (or more) of the 5-7 forms of love! As to whom/what you love more–words, fans, fellow bloggers, your life, your wife, yourself–only the Sandman knows and connects you to your truth–in dreams!
    What you’re describing Gaiman saying about audiences is part of a technique called MAYA, Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable.
    Though my totem (since age 11) has been the otter, and I’m not really a dolphin, what describes me best is FOX. A famous philosopher named Berlin thought everyone was either a hedgehog or a fox. A hedgehog knew one thing extremely well–a fox knew many things, none extremely well. In that respect are you a hedgehog or a fox?
    As for sports, I’m with Carlin. It’s too bad there’s no I in TEAM. I like skateboarding (no rules) and yoga… dislike the ‘us vs them’ paradigm of sports, speaking the same language, following instructions, getting penalized if rules ignored…
    Kudos for the Bowie diagram, bravo! My take: Date/not date/fate? Can’t stay in, tried. They’re all the same> won’t try goodbye. Charm disarms till I muddle in another puddle… talks of gods puts up alarms > nothing to believe = no one to deceive.
    Thanks for sharing your gift and your time. Your generosity radiates! Oddly enough, in writing Act of Ambition I have my character Chaz struggle with the same dilemma. Did it cost him his life? (shameless plug). IMO, you do what the best of us do, you share your humanity, your doubts and successes around the campfire we now call the Internet. Thanks Pennsylvania!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Jo, first off any shameless plugs are perfectly acceptable here. I found an article about MAYA and will educate myself on that – thank you for pointing me in that direction. It sounds very interesting. I am so Team Fox, as I like to dabble in many things but consider myself a master of none. I’ve always leaned towards versatility versus expert. I bristle at even typing “expert” because that seems to be thrown out there way too much in the last few decades, but perhaps that is a post for another day!

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  21. It’s so easy to lose yourself in the appeal of satisfying a niche of readers. I personally always remind myself that I do this whole blogging/reviewing thing for myself first and whenever I get people actually reading my stuff, I’m overwhelmed with joy knowing that I’m heard (read) out of pure interest, without forcing anyone to do so. Those quotes you’ve shared are perfect. Thanks for sharing, Bruce!

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  22. Wonderful thought-provoking question. I definitely hope I’m an otter. And every time I post, I wonder if anyone will read it (ie, like it) because I only write what’s IN me, not what’s in others. I think writers should write for themselves first and foremost, and that’s what I tell my creative writing students.

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  23. I’d say that most, if not all art starts with the artist’s desires. It’s perhaps, only when an audience gets involved that one has to decide to what degree they will produce for themselves, versus the audience. And hopefully, they’re okay with the results of the decision they make. I imagine that it’s always worth revisiting why one started in the first place, to help them figure out which direction they should lean towards.

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  24. What works for me is just to “talk” via keyboard.

    The stuff I write is stuff I talk about with others during the course of the day/week/month/year. So really, a lot of it gets away before I sit down to write something. Thankfully, most of it comes back to me without much trouble.

    I was always good when it came to public speaking and stuff like that. I shy away from such things not because I’m shy but because I do tend to be more introverted. Which makes the former statement show just what an odd sort I truly am. But that’s okay, I kinda like keeping myself in check that way.

    Writing for me is public speaking then. I kind of like that idea.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It works for me.

        I did one of those open mic story telling events a few years back. It was fun because it was just me doing the opposite of what I do on WP. Instead of writing what I talk about, I was talking what I write about.

        Trippy.

        Liked by 1 person

  25. I think we all start a blog for what we want to see. For me it was a way to find my recipes easily. However, as I got more and more followers they started asking about new recipes and would mention one of theirs that was intriguing to me so I would make it and post it. As the years passed, people commented on the simple and quick recipes the most so now I post mostly those kind. This was a good thought provoking post!

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  26. Back in the day, Bruce, I didn’t think that Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ and Joe Jackson’s ‘Steppin’ Out’ could have made me so happy if they didn’t at least in some sort of way make them happy too, even though they were such departures from their early work ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and ‘Sunday Papers.’ Which drew me to their work in the first place, and I still adore to this day, by the way.
    I read your posts because I feel a connection. That’s how and why I go through my morning WP routine … much like my music plays through my life.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I find as I read on that you and I have similar tastes in a lot of important life topics, Bruce … possibly from being quite close in age and growing up just a few states apart in eastern U.S. of A.

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  27. I write on eclectic topics for myself on my blog which is why I’ve never ended up being part of a niche. That suits me, but I do occasionally wonder what would happen if I wrote exclusively for others, only using prompts and challenges as the catalyst for my posts. Would I be happy? Probably not, but the idea has crossed my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I had a similar conversation with another blogger this week and we wondered who we’d be if we weren’t who we are now? And who would care about us? Rhetorical questions, but did get me thinking about my blogging process.

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  28. I started Blogging in 2016 at age 69, so it was easy at that point to post only what I felt like writing. I had very few likes, only a rare comment, and just my oldest son and a friend following me. I did not know how to search out other Blogs and my unfortunate Suicide Squeeze handle attracted only a couple of readers contemplating suicide. Eventually some other followers found me. They offered good advice like not to just write about myself. But I realized my Blog was only a Journal about the inside of my head, so I just continued doing what I do. If I were younger and thought I could make a profession out of writing, I would be more than willing to write for others.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Otters, dolphins, Neil Gaiman and David Bowie. You’re not writing for yourself. You’ve obviously singled me as a Constant Reader. Great write. I have otter tendencies as well, writing about whatever shiny thing holds my attention for a mayfly moment and content with one “like,” or in some cases none.

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