Living a life of creative activities, pretty much from as young as I can remember, I've learned a few things in those many years that I rely on today.
One, despite its potential rewards on a lot of emotional levels, it isn't easy being a creative person. I think doing crafts might be more rewarding with less upset as you'd find something you liked, develop the skills, and could keep repeating it without constantly challenging yourself to find something new. Crafts are repeatable. Art not so much.
Writing could be a craft if a person was so inclined. Take a look at what is out there, selling well, figure out its structure and what elements were in it, develop your craft, and just turn out the books. I don't know if they'd sell better, can't say about that, but there'd be less pulling the book out from within, less revealing of yourself through work that was more manufactured and less personal. I think it'd be emotionally easier if you did fail to make sales.
Since I so often write about the upside of being a creative person, I figured it was only fair, at the end of the year to do one post on the down side before again the upside. So what do you do when you put your work out there, your heart of hearts and it fails?
My answer is ask yourself first one question. It comes from a scene in the comedy City Slickers where Curly is telling Billy Crystal's character about the one thing that matters most in life. He holds up his finger and says that one thing makes all the difference in a life and it's what he has learned over a lifetime. He dies before he can reveal what it is, but Crystal's character figures it out-- it's doing what you were meant to do. That's the one thing.
So when failure comes along, were you doing that one thing? Finding it can be the challenge of a lifetime for some and for others it's obvious from childhood. Doing the one thing doesn't guarantee rewards from others but you need to know for yourself. Are you doing that one thing for you?
If you are, comes something you must accept-- it won't always be rewarded by the world. In fact, the world might not even like really creative changes. Do they want a book that is
different than all the others they have read? From the sounds of this
study, they don't.
I have seen this often when readers are reviewing books. If the book had the elements they were expecting, followed the formula with maybe a few minor deviations and surprises, they are wowed. If not, they were disappointed. Naturally if you are trying to make a living at your one thing, you can't ignore what the public is willing to exchange their labor to buy. But if creativity really is your thing, you might have to support it other ways. If it matters more to you to get the praise, maybe you haven't yet found your 'one' thing.
This comes down to another life principle. We can control our actions-- not their consequences. We might be pretty good at guessing what they'll be, but we really can't know. Sometimes we do what seems right, and the world spits in our face. We take a simple drive around the block and five minutes later we're dead. Go shopping and a stranger shoots us. Consequences aren't always under our control.
Bringing it back to writing as an example. You are doing your 'one' thing in writing the book. You take the next step, and this one is a doozy, as you put it out into the world. Nobody cares! You aren't writing the kind of stories they want. You can see someone else being rewarded with prizes and sales, and you're not getting any because what you did didn't meet the criteria of those who are controlling consequences-- in short everybody else.
The answer, at least mine is, keep doing the 'one' thing, but release the expectation it will be appreciated. It's the 'one' thing that is the joy and finding and doing it, that's what it is all about. The rest is either gravy or not but it doesn't have to stop you. There is always the next photograph, the next painting, the next play, the next book.
This doesn't mean ignoring the craft side of what you're doing. That's important to get the 'one' thing out there in a way others can at least understand it. Craft is the bones but creativity is the meat.
Not letting consequences get you down doesn't mean ignoring marketing either. It has no chance to be rewarded (or not) if it's not out there. Creative work, once it goes into the marketplace, is a product, forget the art talk then. It's a product that you are asking someone else to exchange their hard-earned dollars to trade for it. Creating is the art though.
Marketing, if you want it seen, is part of the deal with anything from grass-fed beef and lamb, to technology, to a new computer, to a play, music, or the book you put your lifeblood into.
But was marketing the 'one' thing? It actually could be for some people. They are the ones you need to get interested in your book and let them practice their 'one' thing to get your paintings into important galleries or your photography in a prestigious magazine. Never lose track of your own 'one' thing though.
When we are honestly doing creative work, it has to come from us and our hearts. We cannot mimic what someone else found successful. We tell our story with the best craft we can put out; but in the end, it may just not be what someone else values or needs.
I won't say it doesn't hurt when you've put a year's worth of work into something and it's just not valued by others, maybe they won't even give it a chance; but hey, it's consequences. And it shouldn't stop a person because it's not the 'one' thing. The 'one' thing is to keep on keeping on because that's where the joy is. Getting caught up in the consequences can be heartbreaking and cause a loss of focus.