Valle de la Muerte – Atacama, Chile
(Click on Images to Enlarge)
Creativity: hardwired into our human DNA. Everyone is creative to some degree (even those who think they’re not) but some are more driven by it than others. It’s so easy to get discouraged especially if you’re looking for commercial success (namely fame & fortune). I feel most alive when I’m creative and in that sense creativity is addictive; I like the feeling of the endorphins kicking in. The need for recognition seems to go hand-in-glove with creativity, we all yearn to be recognized and appreciated for our talents whether they lie in the visual arts, written arts, or musical arts (even the scientific arts). Every facet of our lives has the human creative spark.
I would suggest the quest for fame & fortune is not the best expression of our creativity. It’s a bit of a mirage really: ephemeral, elusive (always out of reach) and never seems to quench our creative thirst. Creativity is at the heart of our human essence, it helps define us as an individual person, so it’s hard not to take any criticism (or lack of recognition) personal (it strikes at the very core of who we are). When a creative person shares their work with a larger audience it opens them up to attack, real or imagined (mostly imagined I suspect). I had a beautiful example of this imaginary slight (attack) just this morning.
A big part of my effort to be commercially viable (to make money with my art) is to gather a following of buyers and collectors (those who buy my art either singly or in multiples). Building a following takes years (not days or weeks) and a lot of effort, marketing, and self-promotion. I use the email management tool MailChimp to organize and track my efforts and progress, they tell me when someone subscribes to my newsletter and when someone un-subscribes (the former is good, the latter is bad). Or so it seems. This morning I woke to find that two people had un-subscribed (a first for me since my list has built steadily).
That’s when ego rears his ugly head and gets pissed off: How dare they! Seriously Steve? Are you that damn fragile? Maybe whispers a meek inner voice. Why don’t they like me anymore? Geez, it turns my stomach just writing this stuff (I hate ego—he’s such a baby). I like to think of myself as a pretty evolved self-aware human being, but when negative feelings like those ambush me I begin to wonder anew just how evolved I really am. To take something so mundane (someone un-subscribing) as a personal attack is ludicrous (downright laughable). I don’t know why they un-subscribed (it doesn’t really matter), it just means it wasn’t their cup of tea (no hostile intent involved).
Actually it’s a good thing to have a self-purging list of followers. Instead of wasting my time with those that have no interest, my time can be better spent with those who have expressed an interest (in me, my work, and my lifestyle). Grateful (not pissed off) is a better response and as my juvenile feelings of rejection recede I am. The same goes for Facebook and other social media, to expect adoration from everyone on Facebook is patently ridiculous (some are family, some are friends, but most are just casual acquaintances picked up along the way). Are there lessons to be learned here? I think there are if one is open to them.
Focus on the work and not on fame & fortune. I still want to be commercially viable (I want to sell my work) but I don’t want to be overcome by the negativity and doubt that marketing and self-promotion can often create. My successes have far outstripped my failures, it’s just that perceived failures have a higher profile and emotional impact. Creative people have to have a tough hide and not take things personal (a lesson I continually have to learn over and over). I’ve also had great personal feedback this week (including interest in buying my work) so why do I dwell on the negative (which really isn’t negative at all)? Because like everyone else I’m human. Stay positive my creative friends.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer, World Traveller