Jack Kerouac on why you should avoid trends, fads and popular opinions.

Written by Cole Schafer


There was a time in history –– not that long ago –– when Hitler, cigarettes and forcing an entire race to work for free was popular.

And, while I’m not placing everything that’s widely adored in the same category as nazis and lung cancer and slavery, I do think it would be wise as a society if we exhibited a little more skepticism where it concerned popular people, practices and movements.

Perhaps, this is what Mark Twain was getting at when he wrote, “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

That being said, Twain’s words are worth considering –– not just by humanity as a whole looking to avoid the next big cluster-fuck –– but by creatives longing to create something profound rather than something popular.

As a twenty-six-year-old navigating this world as both a writer and marketer, I constantly find myself being pulled in these two wildly different directions.

On one hand, when I write a book or create a course or start a newsletter, I want it to be well-received (and/or popular).

But, more than this, I want to create something that will be just as hard-hitting a decade from now, two decades from now and so on (and/or profound).

Which, leads me to question…

Can something be both popular and profound?

A lesson that inevitably comes with spending more time on this planet is that you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

Often times, we must choose between two good things.

For the creative, this choice is so beautifully summed up by another American writer that came after Twain, Jack Kerouac, “Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”

In not so many words, Kerouac is applying pressure to the creative or at the very least making the creative aware of this choice he or she must make: To make something popular or to make something great?

I might be getting too far into the weeds here but I think if creatives strive to create something profound, there is a chance they might make something both profound and popular.

However, if they strictly seek to follow the fads and produce something trendy and popular, they won’t have a snowball’s chance in a microwave at creating something profound.

That was a bit abstract. So, let me give you an example in the form of a conversation I had recently.

We were discussing poetry.

As some of you may know, I moonlight as a poet.

Just the other day one of my long-time readers was messaging me, sharing her stance on something I had written…

“There is a special place in hell for poets who signs their poetry with their Instagram handle.”

I was being a bit facetious, obviously. But, the line struck a nerve with this girl, probably because she’d been signing her poetry with her Instagram handle.

She wrote to me, “I’m not sure what’s wrong with it? What if you’re looking to grow your audience?”

To which I responded with something along the lines of, “One day when you and I are dead and somebody reads the work we’ve left behind, would we want to have signed our names with a social media username?”

While some of us will never create something that’s profound no matter how hard we work and heave and wrestle and fight, I’m not sure creating the profound thing is the beauty in all of this.

I think the beauty is in striving to create something great and knowing in our hearts we never yielded to trends and fads and popular opinion. I think the beauty is in keeping our souls.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer.