Dear Brilliant Creative: Your Gifts Really Do Matter to the World
Or, why it’s time to let the starving artist archetype go
I’m writing this for selfish reasons. I need to hear it as much as you.
You are so gifted. You have so many talents. You are good at anything you decide to do.
So why the hell aren’t you making more money?
And why is it so hard for you to make a living from your creations?
And why are the people who aren’t as good or as talented as you getting more attention for their work than you are?
Why, why, why are you the best-kept secret?
It hurts so much, doesn’t it?
It’s the curse of competency or the my-gifts-are-so-valuable-so-why-do-I-feel-so-worthless syndrome.
I know exactly how it feels. I know what it’s like to hear people tell you “You are one of the best writers I’ve ever read,” and yet to know your traffic stats suck and your email list is barely big enough to fill a small East Village dive. I know what it’s like to hear people describe you as “one of the most creative people I know,” and yet not know how to create $20 pronto so you can go to the grocery store and buy enough food to last until payday. I know what it’s like to have lived your life getting by doing something you’re good at — something that society values — but not get paid to do the thing that you love.
And the end result of all of this is that you don’t value the amazing gifts you have because (pardon my expletives) if I’m so fucking talented, why the hell am I still so broke?
I’m writing all of this today because my heart is raw, and I desperately need to share it with you, fellow creative.
I’ve submitted work to Huffington Post and heard nothing (while learning of others getting published there, seemingly left and right). I’ve put out offers to my community and gotten zero nibbles (or worse, heard the “I love your work, but I can’t afford it” response). I’ve put so much of my heart into my work and I still feel invisible at times.
I’m sharing all this with you NOT so you’ll feel sorry for me.
I’m sharing it because I want you to know five things:
- The fact that you see other people living your dream doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen for you. This is where I insert my favorite French phrase: Au contraire, mon frere. The fact that you see others doing it is a whole lotta MF’ing evidence that your dream is happening. It’s all right there for you. The stars are lining up. Hang tough, or loose, or whatever you need to do. Just hang on and keep believing.
- The fact that people aren’t responding to what you offer doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. It might mean you’re not really aligned with it. Ask yourself, is this really what I want? Am I so excited to offer this I can hardly wait to hit the “PUBLISH” button? If the answer is anything less than a panting, breathless “YES,” then consider aligning yourself with what you’re offering before sending it out.
- You don’t have to keep doing the competent, day-job work forever. Make an exit plan. Work at what pays the bills, ’cause you deserve to eat, my dear. But don’t do it forever. Decide what date you’re going to be out of it — and in the meantime, work on finding a way for it to feed your dream. That might mean you take certain days off just for the dream. Don’t deny what your heart needs for the sake of what your body needs. Both body & heart have merit. Listen to and honor them both.
- You have no idea who is watching you. You might be followed online by someone you really respect. There might be people reading your blog or gazing at your Etsy store longingly, waiting for the right time. Just because you don’t have 1,000 hits a day doesn’t mean you’re invisible. We live in a very connected-but-disconnected society. You are not invisible.
- If you feel alone, I am always here for you. Drop me a note here or tweet me here or connect with me here or join my Facebook group, The Care & Feeding of Creatives, here. Community can cure a whole lot of what ails you. You don’t have to suffer alone.
I believe in you and all of your brilliant gifts. The world needs your voice.
Godspeed to you, Brilliantine.
Originally published at www.tallredpoppy.com on October 13, 2015.