over the years of being a creative, i've built up a thick skin...

…OK, maybe just a little thicker than when I was getting started. But I did this as a way of protecting my self-worth – and the value of what I make – from being inherently tied to how my art is received.


Sometimes, I feel like I’m pouring my heart out, carefully folding it into a paper airplane and sending it away in hopes that it connects with someone who cares. But guess what? My art doesn’t always find the ideal place to land. 


I’ve been a vendor at a craft fair where I didn’t sell a single thing all day. I’ve toiled over letters to this audience and our community only to be met with crickets. I have a painting that I created years ago that no one bought or probably never will. 


I’ve had to remind myself daily that negative criticismor even a lack of criticismdoesn’t mean that what I’ve created is “bad”.

The way that someone reacts to my art is not a judgement on my art
but rather a statement on how my art fits into what that person needs at that moment.

I want to give you—the audience—what you need but I also want to stay true to myself. That’s one of the conundrums of being an artist.


No matter what your art form iswhether it be painting, baking, writing, etcthere is this push and pull between: the part of you that’s in the flow, the part of you that is creating for the sake of art and immersed in the process, and the part of you that needs something from your viewer. Sometimes that thing is reassurance that you’re ‘doing it right’. Sometimes that thing is them making a purchase so you can pay your bills. When it’s the latter, the stakes are higher.


When the difference between someone purchasing my painting meant I could buy groceries instead of scavenging my kitchen cupboards, I’ve conformed and made what I thought people would buy instead of experimenting with my art. At other points, the pull to the creative flow was too strong, or I was in a less detrimental space and I was able to explore the process of making without knowing how it would turn out or be received.


As creatives, what are we supposed to do? Make what we want without thought of how it will be received? Create what we know (or think) people want or need so we can pay our bills with our creativity?


Yes and yes. When you have the privilege to follow your instincts, do it with abandon. When there’s too much riding on the outcome, let what you know (or think) will work guide you.


Some people may see this last bit as “selling out”. But I’d rather sell out by making a Taylor Swift-inspired sticker for a sale than by having to get a job doing something I hate.


The same way that despite what the fashion industry wants you to think, there is not a one size fits all size for clothing, there is not a one size fits all version of your creative path.


You’re going to make art you hate that people love and art you love that people hate and every scenario in between. The point is to to keep on making and not let the reception your art receives dictate your next step. 


My challenge to you is this: Keep on keeping on. Ignore the haters AND maybe even the lovers, too. Let yourself be your own most trusted critic. Go with the flow. Let your art be ugly. Judge what you make based  on the joy you felt while making it.


Do you have to do this 24/7? NO. Especially if your basic needs are met by selling your art. But even if that is the case, try to take a tiny bit of time (even 30 minutes) to make without thinking about the outcome because that thing, whatever it is that you make, could actually be pretty damn great. And even if it’s not, at least you took the trip, which is way more important than the destination.

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