Interview! Authenticity and Publicity: A Conversation with Nishant Jain

The Sneaky Artist discusses his writing, art, and ability to promote his work authentically

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More about Nishant

After quitting halfway through a Ph.D. program in Neuroscience, Nishant decided to become a writer. Newly unemployed and looking for inspiration, he walked the streets of Chicago with a sketchbook and fountain pen. In doing this, quite accidentally he became an artist. Today, Nishant draws secret art of his world, making observations about life in urban public spaces that he shares every week on his Substack publication. Sneaky Art has been featured in newspapers and media all over the world. Most recently, he was artist-in-residence on Vancouver's public transit system. Nishant works as an independent writer, artist, and podcaster.

Excerpts from Our Interview

On Making the Decision to Follow One’s Own Path:

“I remember thinking to myself, Oh, I’m also allowed to write, not just read. And I’d been a voracious reader my whole life. Like, you could sit me down with a telephone directory when I was a kid and I would just flip through that and read things because I’m obsessed with words. I’m obsessed with combinations of words and how they come together to spark images, to make stories, to tell us things, to comfort us, to make us laugh.”

On Starting Out:

“[When I first started], it was always a handful of people who would come across my writing and I was just excited by this idea: I can hit that publish button and there it is, and they can see it, and I can set this page up and they will be able to read it. It was just such an incredible thing to not need permission to do something like this.”

On Letting Your Audience Guide You:

“I was always tuned into what I thought my potential audience was. And if I wanted to be ‘successful’ at it, I had to meet them where they were. I couldn’t simply stay with my own idealistic vision of what I wanted to be as a writer. If I wanted an audience, I had to meet them where they were. So suddenly I found myself writing less and I found myself drawing more because people wanted to see drawings. People wanted to see images and pictures. Suddenly from a writer, I shifted towards becoming a cartoonist.”

On Readers’ Attention Spans:

“[Readers] do have a short attention span problem, but it’s a little overstated. What we have today is a short consideration span. How long will they reconsider their decision to keep reading you? Good writing advice nowadays is that you should sort of reinforce the point, the why of your article or your long-form piece. Or you should give them a bit of a break—have a drawing in there so they’re refreshed again and they dive in.

On Publicity:

“If I am going to enjoy the great power of doing whatever I want, I also have the great responsibility of making people care for it and making the case for my work. Why should they, from amongst millions of Instagram accounts come to mine? Why should they, out of all these hundreds of writers, come to me? That is also my job.”

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