Get Small and Tell the Truth (a thought for makers)

Are you a maker looking to create authentic and meaningful work? Do you often feel overwhelmed by the pressure to constantly produce and innovate? One solution to this dilemma is to “get small and tell the truth.” This concept, popularized by author and entrepreneur Seth Godin, encourages makers to focus on creating work that is genuine and true to themselves, rather than getting caught up in the pursuit of success or recognition. In this blog, we will explore the idea of getting small and telling the truth as a powerful mindset shift for makers who are seeking fulfillment and authenticity in their creative pursuits.

Get Small and Tell the Truth (a thought for makers)

A few years ago, I was flicking through Instagram and I came across a black and white image of musician John Mayer in the studio recording. He’s sitting hunched in a plush leather sofa surrounded by mics and holding an acoustic guitar, obviously in the process of trying to birth songs for a new album. And next to the image, he simply wrote, “Get small and tell the truth.” That quote really stuck with me, and I even talked about it in the Meaning in the Making, and it seemed to resonate with a lot of you too. So, I thought what I’d do in this video is talk a little bit about why it struck me, how it helped me take the next stages in my creative journey, and how it might help you as well.

Striving for Simplicity

If you saw my portrait work a few years back, you would have seen a photographer trying every trick and technique in the book to try and make his images stand out. I was using color gels and complicated lighting setups, faking tilt-shift images in Photoshop, and overcomplicating things by stitching multiple images together. The reason I kept hopping from technique to technique is that I had no confidence in the actual portraits I was taking. I was trying to find a trick that would impress people because I was worried that my work didn’t really have any substance to it.

Learning from the Masters

Then I read this quote, “Get small and tell the truth.” It was around this time that I was also going back and trying to look at what the master portrait photographers were doing. I worked out that the best portraits throughout history have been really simply produced, often just one light or natural light, one lens, no fancy tricks in the camera, and no fancy editing techniques. Just a compelling subject and an honest moment.

The Power of Minimalism

I’ve always been impressed by artists who can do a lot with a little – a creative minimalism, if you will. Recently, I’ve been trying my hand at something called Line and Wash. Line and wash describe line art in ink and watercolor paint. Good line art requires less, not more. The trick is learning how to strip it down to its bare essentials.

Even in this medium, I’m learning that less is more to convey the idea of a scene or a mood. You actually need fewer lines on the page, not more.

Message First

I’ve always admired John Mayer’s music because he constructs songs as simply as possible – just the bare bones. It’s not built around fancy production or thumping beats. The music hangs together to communicate the message he wants. For me, this simplicity makes his music more meaningful.

I don’t think the most interesting thing about our work as makers should be the techniques we use. It’s about what we’re trying to say. It’s best done with minimal technique so it’s not distracting.

Telling the Truth in Your Work

Many artists create work out of self-promotion or marketing, rather than a genuine desire to communicate something meaningful. It’s about taking a back seat in our work and ensuring that the message takes the front seat. Making sure that what we create isn’t about our own ego, but about giving something worthwhile to the world.

At some point, you’re going to have to decide why you’re making things. Are you seeking validation and approval, or do you have something important to say? Do you have the courage to tell the truth in your work, even if it’s not well-received?

Telling Important Stories

Many of the artists we respect had the courage to tell the truth and address important themes in their work. Filmmakers like Steven Spielberg used films about sharks and aliens to explore deeper themes like divorce. Painters like Edward Hopper depicted isolation and loneliness in modern society. Photographers like Sebastiao Salgado unflinchingly tell the truth in their work.

By getting small and telling the truth, we can create work that resonates and communicates important ideas to the world.


What is the Get Small and Tell the Truth philosophy?

The Get Small and Tell the Truth philosophy encourages makers to focus on simplicity, honesty, and authenticity in their work. By getting small and concentrating on the essentials, makers can create high-quality products that truly reflect their values.

How can makers apply the Get Small and Tell the Truth philosophy to their work?

Makers can apply this philosophy by taking a minimalist approach to design, being transparent about their process and materials, and prioritizing quality over quantity. By staying true to their vision and values, makers can create meaningful and impactful products.

What are the benefits of following the Get Small and Tell the Truth philosophy?

Following this philosophy can result in products that are more authentic, sustainable, and desirable to consumers. By focusing on simplicity and honesty, makers can build a loyal customer base and create a positive impact on the world.

How can makers stay true to the Get Small and Tell the Truth philosophy in a competitive market?

Even in a competitive market, makers can distinguish themselves by staying true to their values and vision. By prioritizing quality over quantity, and being transparent about their process, makers can attract customers who appreciate their commitment to authenticity.

I hope you find useful my article Get Small and Tell the Truth (a thought for makers), I also recommend you to read my other posts in my blog at this link.

If you need help with anything join the community or do not hesitate to contact me.

Best of luck! and follow your passion.

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