People will tell you they love your work, if you put it out into the world. This made me feel great about myself, until I noticed that people will say they love anyone else’s work too. Even really terrible, unlovable work. It’s easy to find people who will tell you yoru work is great. It’s much harder to find people who love your work enough to actually purchase it, or support you in making it, which I think, really, is what we’re hoping they’re saying when they say they love what we do- that they’ll help.
If they felt love, they’d help, but chances are, they don’t love your work, even if they say they do. It’s more complicated than that.
Being any kind of creative is a fairly pitiless path to choose for yourself. You will probably not be taken care of emotionally, save for by a very precious few, and probably not rewarded financially for a long time. You should know this going in.
You’ll be tempted to find other artists who are struggling too and complain with them about how hard it is, but it’s better if you don’t do that very often. You picked this, and it’s hard. You can choose to move to Iceland then complain about the cold too, but why bother? If it bothers you that much, you can pick someplace easier to live. Less exciting, less fulfilling, but much easier. No path is going to be perfect.
You’re an adult. Complaining suggests that you don’t have any power in this situation, and that’s not true. You have power- to pick something easier, or to push forward on your path. If you’re cold, walking makes you warmer. So walk.
Everyone will *say* they love your work. Most of those people do not in fact love your work. They just like your work as really good friends. Maybe they think it’s cool that someone they know makes stuff, and that may constitute a lot of liking, but it’s not love. It’s easy to get your hopes up based on positive comments people give you, or encouragement. Encouragement isn’t love though.
People downloading your stuff online, or pirating it isn’t love. It’s a crush at best. Or a grope. Love is more.
Loving someone’s work is intimate. Loving someone’s work makes you want to take it inside you, to penetrate it, to posses it, to believe that only you truly understand it, become it. You don’t want to do that with just anybody. And unless you luck out and are naturally a thing that a lot of people crave, finding people to really want you isn’t easy. Until you get famous, then everyone will. But being desired too much is just as terrifying a problem as being desired too little. It’s just hard to see one from the other end of things, when love is hard to find.
If people really love you, they’ll pay for you. That’s not a small thing for them though.
Keep that in mind- the level of commitment and risk involved in loving your work enough to pay for it, to be seen with it? enough to make it some small part of their own identity? that’s a huge thing to give. If someone is willing to take something you drew and have it be the first thing people see when they walk into their house, or wear it on a t-shirt, that’s an enormous level of trust. It’s that person being willing to say “This person speaks for me. This is who I am today. This is my identity.” You don’t get to demand that or expect it from others.
All you can do it push on harder. All you can do is confront your own shit with more honesty, and more courage, until you can see past it, in a way that most people can’t. If you can do that, people will recognize that strength, and want to connect with it. If you can stand tall even if no-one has your back, people will be drawn to that too.
Deep down, we’re all broken. We’re all full of desires, and longing, and need. People aren’t drawn to more need. They have plenty. They’re drawn to those who have pushed through it, and found a way to fill their own needs, and might know the way to heal others. They’re not drawn to those who suffer helplessly, but to those who suffer fiercely, brightly. You can earn that love, but you can’t ask for it. All you can do work to improve yourself to be more worthy of it, or take more risks to expose yourself more completely and find the tribe that understands and can love you. It’s not easy. It’ll kill you, that searching.
It’ll demand you give everything you have and everything you are.
But it’s worth it.
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