How do you monetize something that’s subjective?
Imagine someone paid you for breathing or walking in a particular way? Just because they liked the way you do it.
How do you feel like what you are doing is special and meaningful when it’s something that most people have the ability to do? Yes, you learnt a skill, you defined a way that is your way, but is it really that different from what anyone else could do if they spent the time?
These are the anxieties and insecurities most creatives face at some stage. And the gut response at first is to do two things: overcompensate with gimmick and trend, or take it incredibly seriously. Click To Tweet
The latter is even more predominant when the creative has just begun his journey of turning his work into a business. Suddenly it becomes deadly serious. Deadlines. Respect. Ego.
The nature of the playful, open, discovering artist is gone and the entire process becomes streamlined – they become part of a scene, of a trend, of a movement, and the individuality of the work loses its scope and value by association.
This is partly due to economy. We want to make money doing the thing we love. But the moment we make any money we start compromising what we love. If you are working in a city where creatives get paid less, the compromise increases compared to a city that pays their creatives more.
The same goes for the strength of an economy in general – when your audience has more money, they have more options, and more unique offerings can exist. The less money the people have, the less options the creative has to make money. It becomes seductive to follow trend or groupthink regarding “what’s cool” when you really just want to do the thing you love and survive.
So, I get it. It’s not easy for everyone. And we cannot always choose where we want to work.
What I want to talk about is what might be lost in the process? And why should be really stop taking yourself so seriously?
THIS IS MEANT TO BE FUN
No matter how much stress you think you are under. How badly you need rent. How you need to get things perfect for your next whatever. The truth remains, say it with me:I am doing what I am am good at everyday - and it doesn’t suck. Click To Tweet
Be grateful. And I promise you that if you tried to be a little more grateful that you wouldn’t take things so seriously. But, it’s not working the way you want, it’s not ‘there’ yet, so you need to get it perfect, and everything must be ‘just right’ or else everything will collapse and you will have no one to blame but yourself. And if you have no one to blame but yourself, then you might not be as good at this as you thought you were – and then what?
So we compensate for this fear of inadequacy by being dead serious. Because it has to work, right?
The truth hurts. And the truth is: no one cares.
The only people who might are the people in your scene who will see your failure as a reflection of their own inadequacy. The only people who would really ever be disappointed by you as a creative are those who have followed you and your potential who hated seeing you give it all up for a desk job.
Your audience, the people who will actually buy your work, will get over it. Just like you have gone through hundreds of different creatives work at different stages of your life.
So, if no one cares. Why do you really need to be so serious?
Is it because you desperately need them to care and the only way you can feel certain that the will is if you treat it with the utmost seriousness? Because that’s what I hear when I remind artists just to enjoy it, they say: “If I don’t take this seriously, why should they care?”
They care if they like it. And there is absolutely nothing you can do to guarantee that someone likes what you are doing. So you might as well enjoy the privilege of creating. Click To Tweet
And in all of this seriousness, all that is really happening is that you probably aren’t eating and sleeping very well, you are probably not seeing many people and your relationships are suffering. And slowly, glacially, you are moving inches closer to not enjoying the work you once loved so much that just the idea of waking up to do it for money was a dream.
What do you want?
Do you want to wake up one day still loving the artform that you are working at every day?
Do you want the feeling that even when it was bad that you focused on exploring and expanding your understanding and ability in your medium?
Do you want to look back and have the same great group of friends, be fit and healthy, and have your art be a part of your life, not the entire overwhelming focus of your life at the expense of everything else?
This is meant to be the best possible option for you to share yourself.
Are you really that serious?
WE WORK WITH PEOPLE WE LIKE
Whether you like it or not there are other people who are just as good as you are. The bigger the city you’re in the larger that number gets.
Let me tell you a secret.
The person they give the job to might not be close to your standard of work, but if they are easier to work with, more reliable, friendlier, more professional without feeling like you’re working with your dad – they will get the job over you every single day.
Yes, there are arrogant artists. Artists who no one likes to work with but who are a brand and they can determine everything about their work – these people are very few and far between.
I generally have rule when it comes to assessing the success of someone. If they act like they have something to prove, it probably means they aren’t very good, and if they are great that they will be tough to work with.
If ever there was a world where you really just get to be yourself it is in the arts.
Allow yourself to enjoy it, and for others to enjoy you while you get to do what you love doing for them. Click To Tweet
THE BUBBLE WILL BURST
The wave you are riding will settle and die down one day. That is the nature of anything creative. The public will change their taste, and what was cool five years ago will be passé.
You need to embrace this out of respect for your medium. It is organic and will always adapt.
You have a choice. Keep up with the innovation and adaptation, or stay true to what you do. Both are viable choices, and both can be bad for your credibility as an artist.
If you follow trend it looks as if you have no vision.
If you don’t change with the times you can become irrelevant.
There is a middle road.
You can adapt without losing your core perspective, your way of approaching your work, your vision – it all can remain intact within the idiom of the time.
But you need to make that decision. You get to be the artist who only works within one style that they defined and are known for, and risk that your audience becomes smaller or smaller, or not. Or you can reflect society, and in your own adapting style, remain relevant.
So, taking all of that into consideration, and the likelihood that your bubble or scene will someday burst, the question is: are you holding on too tight?
Because if you are, it’s possible that you aren’t seeing the wave that’s coming next, it definitely means that you won’t be the start of that wave. The moment everyone goes left, the fun place to be is slightly to the right. Where you can still experiment and play and create outside of the expectations of the bubble.
Use the bubble for the force of the wave, for the association, but don’t get drown the vision you have for yourself in the wave. Try and remain in a space where you are creating work that reminds you of yourself and your vision. It allows people the opportunity to fall in love with your work as an artist, not as a part of a movement or a bubble.
Art is subjective, and putting your love for what you do as a second to the taste of strangers is only going to make you miserable.
Instead of taking all of this so seriously and, most likely, feeling like you’re not (insert self-judgement) enough most days, you get to just ne better.
Be better at loving your work for what it is, knowing that it will be even better tomorrow. That you are growing and gaining experience at your craft. Click To Tweet
Feeling entitled to anything, having any expectation of success as an artist only will leave you feeling like you’re not “there” yet.
Your self-esteem is worth more than your success as an artist. Trust me, for most that success last for only half a decade if they are lucky. You have to live with yourself forever. Choose wisely.
Would you rather love what you do for the rest of your life, or feel like a failure?
You need to decide if taking it so seriously is worth it. It’s got nothing to do with your actual art, it only has to do with your sense of entitlement that you should matter more than you do right now.
If creating art is your way of feeling special, of being “respected as an artist” to feel like you are important – you shouldn’t be surprised that you aren’t doing better commercially.
If you are creating art to feel like you matter, it only shows your audience that you believe that you don’t.
It’s lucky that you have your creativity to work through those insecurities and anxieties though, right?
Take that seriously. Take who you are and your work seriously.
Taking the opinions of strangers seriously only sets us up to fail.