September 1

“I can’t think of anything worse, really, than to try to live up to someone else’s expectations of what you should be. You don’t make art by consensus.” —Tracy Chapman

The expectations of others can be paralyzing, especially when negative feedback hits close to our insecurities. This happens to me all the time, and I’m certain it does to you as well. A particular critique targets an area that you’re already unsure about, and before you know it you are adapting your work to make it more palatable to people who probably don’t care all that much anyway. At least, they don’t really care about you or about the work you do as much as they care about making their own opinion heard.

I was speaking at a conference a few years ago, and one of the other speakers, Seth Godin, said from stage “The moment you are willing to say ‘it’s not for you’, you are freed up to make art.” What he meant is that not everything you make is for everyone who experiences it. You need to deeply understand who you are making things for, and be unashamed about crafting your work with that person in mind. And, if other people simply don’t get it, it’s fine. You can say “it’s not for you”. 

To be clear, that means that your work might not bring you commercial success. But, most of the work that becomes culturally defining began with a specific point of view and an audience for whom it was crafted.

Each day, strive to make something you love for someone who will love it.  

Question: Are you shaping your work around the opinions of people who don’t even care about what you’re really doing?

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