SUCCESS, or 4K on FB :: an awesome nothingness (artist post #1)

Today, My business reached 4,000 fans on facebook.

FOUR. THOUSAND. FANS.

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whoa. That’s kind of a big deal.

No! It’s a huge deal. I’ve spent years working up to this! 4,000 fans?! OMG!!!! (if anyone cool enough to have like 20,000 fans on facebook is reading this, stop laughing).

It’s crazy. There it is…it’s the proof… I’ve MADE IT.

Right?

Oh wait.

Crap. Reality sets in… and reminds me to ask the question… what does this actually mean?

HUH… Ab-so-lutely NOTHING.

Urban Dictionary’s definition of Internet famous: ‘A limited and perhaps temporary state of notoriety enjoyed by people, groups, works or feats that are made public exclusively (or nearly so) via the internet.’

It’s a level of ego-boosting that is so much more quickly accessible in our generation than any before it. We’re always one youtube video, buzzfeed article, silly photo series or trending tweet away from internet famous. It always feels like it’s juuuuuust outside our grasp, and there is a part of our brain that’s wasting so much precious energy figuring out how WE could become the next trending topic.

What is it really, even if you DO reach that status?

Glorified distraction.

Another friend posted on twitter today…. ‘Based solely on @dribbble, I’m a huge hit in the former USSR.’

Obviously, he knows it doesn’t matter and is even poking fun at his own internet fame. But even when we’re laughing at ourselves, it highlights the fact that we’re a generation that obsesses about these things. Not because we’re weaker than generations before, but because we have the means to be.

I’ve gained a lot from a book called ‘the war of art‘, which deals with something called resistance. Resistance, says author Steven Pressfield, is anything which gets in the way of us creating what we are supposed to create. Anything that keeps us from ‘doing our [creative] work’. This is something I’ll bring up a lot as I continue writing posts for artists. (I started this blog series with this post about a month ago).

One of the greatest forms of resistance, says pressfield, is simply other people’s feedback, and the sense of ego that this feedback either pumps up or destroys. Internet famous is the ultimate result of this sought feedback, but the distraction exists on a much smaller scale for literally any artist with an internet connection.

Me, for instance, and my facebook fans.

How much time have I spent, checking how many fans I have now, or how many ‘likes’ my last picture received, or how many ‘shares’ I got on my last post, or how many views my blog got last week?

If I had kept track of that time, I would be so ashamed. I am, in fact, ashamed even without seeing the hard data… I know that if I put all that time together in one place, I could have used it to like, cure a disease or something (that includes the years of med school). Ok, so not really…

But why is this thing so bad? Just because of the wasted time that could have been spent doing more productive things? That’s one reason, of course. But let’s look at it on a more subtle level. What we are doing, when we put that much energy into how people are responding to our work, is putting our very self worth into their response to us. And there’s no winning in that.

If they respond well… we run the risk of catering to that response the next time we create.                                                            If they respond poorly (or not at all)…. we run the risk of catering to that *lack of* response the next time we create.

Either way… this isn’t going to end well when it comes to the thought of creating out of our hearts and souls, rather than out of the purple people pleaser that dwells in all of us. And creating from that deeper place may not matter to you. If not, then don’t worry about it. But if you know better…

From ‘the War of Art’:

Remember, resistance wants us to cede sovereignty to others. IT wants us to stake our self-worth, our identity, our reason-for-being, on the response of others to our work. Reistance knows we can’t take this. No-one can.

And one more quote:

[the pro] has seated his professional consciousness in a place other than his personal ego. It takes tremendous strength of character to do this, because our deepest instincts can run counter to it.

So how do we respond to this? By ignoring everyone else? By refusing all feedback? Well, let’s not go overboard here… we still need other people, no doubt about it. Some of the best moves I’ve made have been based on feedback. And when it comes down to it, if you’re trying to run a business with your art, then what people think still matters because someone has to like your work well enough to pay for it. (the bittersweet compromise of doing what you love for a living).

The thing to keep in mind, is that there are different types of feedback, and we have to ask ourselves what we’re really looking for when we seek it. And perhaps more importantly, who we are seeking it from.

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Is it close friends? Trusted confidants? Other artists who know what they are talking about? people in our own medium that may be further along than us and have valuable words to help us evaluate and grow our craft? Those sources of feedback aren’t distraction. They are necessary at times, so long as we don’t let them change our work into something untrue to us, something that it shouldn’t be.

Or, are we instead seeking our feedback solely from the crowd? Michael Gungor addresses that in his book ‘the crowd, the critic, and the muse’… “The crowd’s affection, with all its adrenaline-inducing power, is a fickle and shallow drug.” Gungor talks more about that and goes on to say his outlook toward ‘the crowd’ does not mean he’ll turn into a snob and stop signing autographs or performing concerts for said crowd. That crowd also helps fuel us with their appreciation, and after all, most of us are creating something that is meant to be appreciated. What he’s saying is that he doesn’t let their feedback influence the art he’s set out to create.

And we have to be careful there. Because setting the crowd before us to give us accolades- and listening only to them- makes each of us king of a self-created, delusional domain. It weakens us to the truth about our work.

Maybe you are an ok photographer (or writer, or illustrator, or graphic designer). But you know what? Literally ANYONE can start a photography ‘business’, post a couple of photos, and receive praise from new ‘fans’ (and from friends that can’t take as good a photo as you even if it’s crap). It does not mean your work is good. It does not mean your work is not good. Really, it doesn’t mean anything, period. And, even if you want to remove the more emotional aspect of creating ‘true’ art and focus on the financial aspect… well, ‘likes’ and ‘fans’ don’t equal actual currency any more than than they equal truth about art. That’s something I’ve discovered time and time again.

4,000 fans on facebook is a wonderful and humbling thing to happen to me… and don’t get me wrong, I AM appreciative of the positive feedback I get from people and it encourages me. But it doesn’t tell me if I’m actually becoming a better photographer, nor does it mean I’m ‘rolling in it’. In fact, like I said in a previous post, it’s been one of the hardest years I’ve had in a long time. Interesting, eh?

So when it’s time to evaluate if you are actually making progress, improving your craft, and improving your business skills, you can find yourself blinded by the  praise of a virtual crowd.

How do we evaluate how the crowd is influencing us?

I made a set of checklists to help you honestly answer that, or at least to begin. I based it on my own weaknesses in this area, something I still struggle with all the flippin’ time…

the ANTI-CHECKLIST (you’re in trouble, and so am I)

-do you limit the amount of times you check the ‘status’ of your posts/pictures/tweets/e-mails per day?

-do you ever allow uninterrupted time for creative projects in which you do not permit yourself internet access for a set period of time?

-do you ever create something, then only show close friends/family or trusted advisors (rather than posting it online)?

-do you spend a good amount of time comparing your work to the work of competition (while silently cursing yourself)?

-do you frequently post work (or even non-work) solely for the encouragement of positive feedback and let that feedback dictate what is ‘truth’ about the quality of your work?

ok. So if you answered yes to those things, then you might have an issue. So here’s another checklist… one to present yourself every week, or even every day, to make sure you’re spending your social media time wisely…

the social-media-evaluation CHECKLIST: 

-is it helping others? do it.
-is it giving you constructive feedback that you are seeking for the actual improvement of your craft?
-are you putting that time spent on internet presence, in it’s proper place in your schedule?
-is it contributing to tangible success by promoting the sale of your work or establishing your presence among potential buyers of your work?
-is it giving you actual, helpful relationships that help improve yourself, your work, and/or others?
-do you have time for it given everything else you have to do today? If so, how much time do you actually have? Only spend that.

That’s enough rambling for today.

Now, don’t forget to click ‘like’ on this post.

Please?

😉

-Mark

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