Why You Shouldn’t Share Your Ideas With Everyone
If you’re focusing on your audience, you’re not focusing on your work
By 1501, a 25,000-pound slab of marble had been sitting in a Florentine courtyard for 35 years, a monument to an artist who was unable to turn a commission into a piece of sculpture. Nicknamed “The Giant,” the marble slab became a gossipy piece of local interest when a new artist — a buzzy 27-year-old upstart named Michelangelo — was hired to try to salvage the boondoggle.
Cognizant that his work would draw the 16th-century equivalent of paparazzi, “Michelangelo decided that he needed to carve [his sculpture] in private, so workers came and built a roofless shed around the Giant,” Sam Anderson writes in The New York Times. “For many months, inside his shed, Michelangelo toiled away unseen.” When the shed walls eventually came down, they revealed one of the most iconic pieces of Western sculpture ever carved: “David.”
Michelangelo’s shed is the unsung hero in this story. It’s both deeply satisfying and a little terrifying to think of him in there alone with just his chisels and a truly enormous rock—especially in our overexposed era of constant sharing on social media, collaboration, and crowdsourced everything. The kind of intuitive talent required to look at a giant, awkwardly cut piece of marble and see what it might become, with a few thousand hours of work, may be innate, but without the right conditions, Michelangelo’s full artistic powers could not have been unleashed.
Privacy, and the process of being alone with your project until it takes shape, can be like your very own slingshot, ready to fell the Goliath of your unrealized ambitions. Keeping your eyes on your own work isn’t just a strategy to be better. Research suggests that it’s the best way to complete the work you set out to do.
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