Encouragement for creatives presenting their work
What happens when you don’t get any reaction to your art or your words? Have you ever posted your art or a carefully written caption on social media only to hear crickets? Have you ever shown your art at a group show and had nobody show up or nobody wander past your work? Or when they do look at your work, they linger for a second and then continue walking without saying a word?
Does this crush you and make you feel like you’re failing, and nobody likes your art, you’re not unique enough to get attention, you aren’t a real artist, oh no what am I doing with my life, who am I, why did I even try?
Just me? Oh okay…
As a sensitive artist, I know that a lack of reaction from people around you can be just as unpleasant, and sometimes worse than someone coming right out and insulting your work. I’m very good at making up stories in silence. Honestly, silence between me and another human just cranks my insecurities and self-doubt on high. “If they aren’t saying nice things, they must be thinking a buttload of not-so-nice things.”
But this isn’t the case!
You cannot accept silence as a judgment of your work
I know this isn’t easy, but you have to reframe the silence and keep creating. I’ve been here. It’s natural to seek validation from our peers, and it sucks when you don’t get the validation you want–but let’s dive a little deeper into the silence you may be experiencing.
What do YOU do online or in person?
Do you write comments on every photo you see on social media? Do you gush about artists’ work to their faces when you are in public? Or are you a silent observer, thinking oh I like that before you continue scrolling?
As an introvert, I can tell you that ANY social interaction takes work. Work that I don’t often feel like exerting, because my energy is so damn precious to me. Before you interpret silence as judgment, consider just how many reclusive introverts are part of your audience.
What I like to do is pretend that these quiet introverts are screaming at the top of their internal voices “YESSSS! I LOVE THIS! KEEP MAKING MORE!” Because why not interpret the silence as something positive?
Are you expecting your audience to serve you?
Why are you posting your work online or showing at an event? What are you expecting? Obviously, selling your work is one expectation, but what else? Do you want people to praise you? Do you want people to validate you, to stroke your ego, to encourage you to continue creating, to make you feel good?
This is natural, and a lot of us hope for loads of praise when we put one of our creative babies out into the world–but don’t let this be your primary drive.
Instead, what are you doing for your audience? This is what I want you to focus on. What are you giving them? You’re there to serve your audience, and not the other way around. Silence could mean that you’re expecting too much and not giving enough.
There aren’t enough eyes on your work in general.
If you just started an Instagram account for your art and you have 35 followers, and half of them are friends and family–chances are good that you’re going to endure a lot of silence when you share your work. A lot.
Growing a dedicated following takes time and patience. Slow growth or silence don’t mean that your art isn’t valuable. It doesn’t mean that you should stop creating. It means the exact opposite. You should keep creating. Keep putting your work out there. Keep trying new ways to speak to your audience. Keep being you. Keep pushing. You will find your audience.
Musicians are a great example of this persistence and patience. You can ask any touring musician about how many empty rooms they have played to, and they will undoubtedly have tales to tell. Consider the silence as paying your creative dues until you grow your audience.
Don’t get distracted by the silence
Silence sucks. Especially when your confidence is shaky. I’m not going to pretend that silence doesn’t get to me, because oh boy does it make me uncomfortable, but when I hear crickets and feel discouraged, I think about the following questions.
- Why do you create?
- What are you here for?
- What are you giving to those around you?
- What is your message as an artist?
- Do you find joy in the process of creating?
- Does your art have meaning to you?
- Are you showing up and putting in the work?
Knowing the answers to all of these questions gives me fuel to keep pushing no matter what kind of feedback I get. Silence, positive, or negative. The more you push, the more you will attract the right audience who will speak up more. It takes time. Until then, you have to learn to listen to yourself and ignore the outside world when in the midst of the creative process. You can present your work and hope for feedback when you are done, but don’t linger there waiting for someone to pat you on the back.
Post your art, hang it up at a show, but then get right back to work and start creating again. If you keep showing up, people will eventually listen to what you have to say.
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