*The title of this post was brought to you by this wonderful Chuck Wendig post, ARTING HARD LIKE AN ARTFUL MOTHERFUCKER
There is a myth in the creative industries that I always think of as,
“If you build it they will come.”
Which is just a fancy way of saying,
“If you art hard enough eventually people will notice and the transformative powers of capitalism will turn the attention into money.”
This is not a lie but it’s also not true in any useful sense. Let’s look at the problems with it.
- Building it isn’t free.
- People have to know about it in order to come.
- Even when they know about it most of them won’t come.
- Some of the ones that do come will be dicks about it.
- You can’t pay your landlord in exposure.
1. Building it isn’t free: Some of you might be ready to jump in and point out that I’m a writer and writing is free. No it’s not. It is one of the cheapest ways to art but it’s not free. I need food, and a device to write on and electricity to power it and internet access to get whatever I write into the world. Even if I wrote with pen and paper, and stole the pen from Argos, and scavenged the paper from recycling bins, and photographed it on a borrowed phone, and posted it using free wifi; I’d still need food and a roof over my head. Also there’s a limit to how many times you can borrow a phone.
2. People have to know about it in order to come: The internet is full of people trying to get other people to look at stuff. Any budding artist is just one more voice in the cacophony. Maybe you get lucky and a tweet goes viral? Perhaps someone famous happens on your work and boosts it? Or neither of those things happens and the same ten friends see everything you do and nobody else ever knows about it.
3. Even when they know about it most of them won’t come: You’d be amazed at how hard it is to get people to look at your stuff. Even when your stuff is finished. Even when they know and like you. Even if it’s the kind of stuff they like. Even if they’ve said they’ll look at it. Most of them just don’t. Maybe they’re worried that it will suck and then they’ll have to tell you that it sucks or lie to you and watch as you make a fool of yourself. Maybe they’re just busy. Maybe it’s just that tendency to underestimate the people you know because how special can they be if they know you?
4. Some of the ones that do come will be dicks about it: Everyone knows that you should never look at the comments. That’s because people are dicks in the comments. If you do attract the attention of someone other than that same ten friends who look at everything you make then eventually someone is going to be a dick about it. They will complain that you’ve made it badly, or that it’s the wrong sort of thing, or that you’re the wrong person to be making it. And if it’s visual art there’s a good chance someone will steal it. And if it gets stolen and you object they’ll be dicks about that too.
5. You can’t pay your landlord in exposure: I have no idea how to monetise art. Every attempt I’ve made has failed. Some people seem to do it effortlessly. Maybe you should ask one of them. Or better yet ask one of those people that you can see working at it because they have skills rather than privilege. Maybe they’ll have some useful advice. I can’t help. I’m stuck here trying to write better because it’s all I know how to do.
If you have enjoyed this bitter rant on the subject of creativity why not prove me wrong by buying me a coffee with Ko-Fi. Or pop over to the Shop of Doom (only open till May 8th) and buy yourself something nice.