Derek Sivers

Would you make your art if you were the last person on earth?


Musicians, photographers, writers, and artists of all sorts:

Would you make your art if you were the last person on earth?

For me, it’s an immediate YES — of course! In fact, it might make the experience even better.

A musician friend asked me this question, and was freaked out by my answer. She said she can’t even imagine a world-view like mine. How could I possibly want to make music if there was no one to hear it?

She said, “Ultimately, everything I do is for other people.”

I said, “Ultimately, everything I do is for myself.”

When I’m creating anything, I do it mostly for my own curiosity — to see how I can develop this fun idea in my head. Even when I’m providing a service that seems generous, I’m really doing it because it seemed like a fun system to build. If people like what I’ve made, that’s just a bonus.

This is related to yesterday’s post, “Travel without social praise”. Even despite what I’ve said here, I still have to ask myself if I’m doing something just for the praise.

Is this something I really want to do, or do I just like the image it represents?

If it feels like I’m doing it for the image, is that for my self-identity — how I see myself — the person I’d like to be for my own sake — or is it just being done for others?

One way I try to solve that question is by asking myself if I would do this thing if I was the last person on earth — or at very least, if I never told anyone about it.

( See also: “Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them”. )