Our job as artists is to create work.
Our next job is to share that work with the world.
We are in control of these two actions. Your success as an artist is directly related to the frequency and quantity of work you produce and whose hands you try to get it into.
What you can’t control is their reaction or their response.
When we create work it sometimes seems like it gets sucked into a black hole never to be heard from again.
We long for applause, great reviews, pats on the back, awards, fistfuls of money. Any outside manifestation of success. Or even a sense that it has registered on someone’s radar.
Instead, we are sometimes (often?) met with radio silence.
The phone doesn’t ring, no emails ping into your box. Nothing is said on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/etc/etc/etc.
It’s as if the work never really existed at all.
We put our hearts and souls into creating something and we don’t get that critical response that we are dying to receive.
When you were a child and you put on a show, your parents clapped wildly for you and told you how wonderful you were. Even in school and college you get nothing BUT feedback from all of your teachers.
Then you hit the real world and often receive NOTHING AT ALL. NOTHING BUT THE DEADLY SOUND OF SILENCE.
What can this mean?
This way, danger lies. You can make yourself mad wondering what it means. All the things you imagine in your mind are way way way worse (probably) than what is really happening. We imagine that what we have created is awful, that no one likes our talent, that people hate us, that no one appreciates your work, etc. It escalates until the unknown becomes a towering black monster.
In truth, people are busy. They have many things which are clambering for their attention. They are probably all wrapped up in their own dramas. Most people cannot see beyond the end of their own nose – and that includes most artists.
In fact, our obsession with wanting feedback and validation on our work, is our own narcissism at work. You are not seeing beyond the end of your own nose because you want the discussion to be all about you and your work (and I say that with love and respect and hands-up admission that I am one of those self-adsorbed artists too!)
We are all dying to be told we’re good. And the more we crave that, the less likely it is to come.
- Create anyway. Whether you receive feedback or not. Or whether you receive positive feedback or negative feedback, you must just keep on creating. Ignore the feedback. As Rilke says “Live your questions.” You have questions that you are trying to work out through your art. You must just keep living those questions and not look to other people for answers.
- Give to other people. Instead of worrying about feedback to your own work, give yourself freely to others. Go to other people’s shows, give them praise, tell them what you liked about their work, be effusive in sharing your thoughts with other people about their work. Do this with no expectations of receiving anything in return. Karma may mean that some of it comes back your way, though narcissism on your colleagues part may mean that it doesn’t. Either way, it doesn’t matter. It feels good to look beyond our own work to see the work of others. To give openly without any expectation of anything in return.
- Recognise opinions for what they are. Criticism, in any form whether positive, negative or even the absence of, is just one person’s opinion. There is no omnipotent critic out there who knows everything. There are people who shout louder than others and sometimes their opinions are heard, and even taken for fact, but it doesn’t erase the fact that it’s still just their opinion. When you freely give opinions about other people’s work, you start to realise how one sided opinions are and you will never quite take them with the same authority. One of the best things I ever did was to take a job as a theatre reviewer. It made me look at theatre reviews differently from then onwards. I was trying to fill 500 words with my OPINION about a piece, but I was also trying to make something readable, that my editor would like and that would get me hired again. So there are always multiple agendas. Writers of any kind know that they can be easily replaced, so even in criticism they are writing with an eye to keeping their job. Snarky reviews are always better received (by editors and audiences) than glowing reviews. So whatever opinions of your work you encounter, must be taken as such.
But back to the topic at hand, it’s the absence of any response which can be so disheartening. Likewise when you send you work out, when you do auditions, when you give performances, and nothing comes your way. It’s so easy lose your perspective and think about quitting. Surely if I was meant to do this, there would be some kind of sign? Well not really. Do you love it? Does it bring meaning to your life? Then that is enough of a sign. You have to persevere in the face of adversity. That’s what makes an artist. That’s how you earn your stripes.
My acting teacher at Grant MacEwan College, Kenneth Brown, who has had a distinguished career as a playwright and performer, who has created countless shows for himself and others, used to say to us “if no one will hire you to do a show, then you just need to create your own.” He was absolutely right. If no is giving you the opportunities you desire, if your attempts to try and create are met with stony silence, then you need to swallow hard and go off and create your own work. Find a story you want to tell or an issue you want to comment upon an get to work on it.
Your forward motion to create something new will erase any of the chatter in your head which surrounds the radio silence response.
Then once you’ve created it, you need to keep trying to share it with other people. Even if you have to give it away for awhile (or give away a sampler of it – like the people stand in front of restaurants handing out samples of their food). Get out there and share it with people.
Sooner or later, if you keep creating and sharing, you will find an audience who will respond to what you have to say. The creative entrepreneur keeps creating and keeps trying to build her audience no matter what.
Do you have the determination to make it happen? Let us know…..