Want People to Share Your Art? Follow Your Heart
by: Shannon McNay
Creators of the world often find themselves stuck in a paradox:
Should I make work that satisfies me?
Or should I make work that others will love?
While the inspiration to create often comes from inside of the creator and thus is something that will fulfill them, there’s often an afterthought of, “Will people love it? Will they get it? Or will they think it’s pointless or worthless?”
These doubts swoop in and cloud the judgment of every creator that ever lived. As much as we desire to make whatever it is that we’re making, we can’t help but hope it will also be received well. That people will understand the value of it. That it will resonate with them. That the things that move us can move others as well.
But creating for the sake of pleasing others is dangerous. It can not only ruin the very thing we’re trying to make, it can leave us with a feeling of having sold out. It doesn’t sit well with us, our work suffers, and the people who see/hear/read/use what we made will feel the lack of authenticity. The problem is, creating to please can sometimes be subconscious. So how can we make sure we don’t fall into the trap?
Follow Your Heart
The inspiration from this post came from a recent talk with the great Stephanie Halligan about creativity. (You can see the talk here.) Stephanie is a cartoonist who grew up loving art, put it aside while going to college and then building a “practical” career, picked it back up when she decided to blend her art and her career with a personal finance blog featuring cartoons, and finally came full circle with a daily affirmation newsletter and upcoming book called Art to Self. It was a long and windy journey to get to this point and she gave some great advice on how she got there:
Follow your heart.
Stephanie’s personal finance blog, The Empowered Dollar, is extremely successful. She built up a community of followers who loved gaining financial knowledge through honest and personal narrative coupled with seriously awesome cartoons. But as Stephanie neared the end of the financial milestone that inspired her to start the blog, she started to feel off about her work. She wasn’t speaking to the issue that was most pressing to her life anymore – and the calling to do more with her cartoons got louder and louder.
That’s when Art to Self came along. Stephanie made a goal for herself to make one cartoon a day and shared it with her audience. Through that, she was able to tap into her creativity like never before. Her audience grew, new ideas emerged, and Stephanie felt good about her work again. She was creating from her heart again – and it showed.
In fact, her audience loved her work so much that they asked for a book, which is getting ready to launch next week. So in a matter of 11 months, Stephanie was able to create something that she needed (many of the daily affirmations contained advice that she was trying to give herself!) and in turn touched many other lives.
That’s what happens when you follow your heart. You create something that you crave and that will in turn resonate with others. And in turn they will ask for more.
That doesn’t mean a new audience will grow overnight if you do the same thing (Stephanie had been working for years to cultivate her audience) and it doesn’t mean that all people will respond to what you’re creating. What it means is those who feel your work resonate with them will love it all the more for its truth, its authenticity, and its heart.
You Too Can Follow Your Heart, No Matter Your Art
No matter what your art is, this is a lesson that can apply to you too. Whether you’re drawing, designing, writing, or building products or websites, the making will always be better if you follow your heart.
It’s so easy to get lost in the trap of wondering how you can make something go viral, how you can change something so that it will resonate with the masses, how you can create things that people ask for. Sometimes we know it’s happening (if I had a dollar for everyone who asked me how to get 20,000 Twitter followers…) and sometimes it creeps up on us as we tweak and tweak and get further away from our vision. So how can you recognize the act of making to please?
Listen to your gut.
If your work doesn’t sit well with you, then you’re probably making to please. If you find yourself not really wanting to share the thing you’ve made, then you’re probably making to please. If you cringe when you look at your work (even if people seem to love it), then you probably made it to please.
But if you can’t help but want to share it with the masses, if you feel content with what you made even though it’s not perfect, if you feel energized by your work and motivated to do more, then you probably followed your heart.
The more you understand yourself, the better your art will be. The more you stay true to your desires and curiosities and even the things that bother you, the more likely you’ll make something that speaks to those things or solves those problems. If you’re in tune with yourself, people will feel that and respond to your work.
You don’t have to make anything to please others. Fulfill yourself and your work will most certainly fulfill others as well. If you really want people to share your art, follow your heart.