In praise of earnest.

Earnest gets a bad rap.

Every cult success is earnest. It plays it to the hilt. No sideways we’re-all-in-on-the-joke eyebrow-raising, fourth-wall-breaking, not-truly-committing-all-the-way, none-of-this-is-for-realsies self-deprecating distance from the work.

Feel free to school me with counter-examples in the comments.

Earnestness has no irony, none of that armour. It commits. It’s vulnerable. Completely unselfconscious.

Painfully earnest.

It’s interesting how that’s the adjective that we most naturally pair with earnest. Painful. Is it the pain of being almost universally rejected we’re referring to? The pain of being so profoundly attached to something, with all the loss and grief and nakedness that comes along with it? Both?

Probably both. The only other one we generally pair with painful is being in love. Are they even different?

I don’t think we can actually make anything brilliant without being earnest. We have to stand up and say, “This thing is important. I don’t care how many of you don’t get it. I believe.”

But so many of us prefer to be ironic and casual and whatever-man about it.

Maybe here’s the problem.

Every wince-inducing audition on a talent show is earnest. They’re committed. Deeply committed. And they suck.

We must remember: talent and commitment are two separate circles on a Venn diagram.

Talent and Earnestness

You can play it to the hilt badly, and most people will mock you. You can play it well and ironically, and most people will ignore you.

Or you can play it with talent AND deep vulnerable sincerity. And we will give you the world.

Can you make something brilliant without being earnest? I’d love your thoughts in the comments.

Love and candles,