Creative work is hard. It’s often done alone, with ideas we think are wonderful, but with no outside opinion to judge the work until it’s complete or near-complete. Until we get to a complete work (or complete enough to request an opinion), we’ve put so much effort into making it that creative people can be devastated by negative critique, indifference, or, possibly the worst outcome, being completely ignored by any audience.
Often times, creative people mistake work that doesn’t resonate with our audiences right away with failure. This is exacerbated with creative work that is made quickly and released on a regular schedule, like blog writing, selling visual art online, or making videos. The need for new, updated work on such a grueling schedule means that if what wee making doesn’t interest a large enough group of viewers, readers, or customers right away, then we’ve failed.
One of the most consistent ways I’ve seen creative people fail is to simply give up before they truly have given themselves enough time to find and build an audience. If their first novel doesn’t sell, or if their YouTube channels don’t gain a large subscriber base, or if they don’t make any money on their Etsy shop within a few months, they close up operations and decide the work itself isn’t worth the effort.
Part of the reason for this is because there’s no clear-cut plan that will lead to success. Many artists never do take off, and those who do often shoot to stardom right away, making it seem as if your success as a creative person is wrapped up in instant success. But for every overnight star, there are thousands of working artists who toil away at their work and slowly build up an appreciative audience who can be counted on to support the work, spread the word, and give fair criticism when asked.
Everyone knows the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” but I prefer a longer version, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.” The work of being creative isn’t wrapped up in one work, or one day, or even one counting of audience members or sales. The work of being creative lies in laying down the bricks, knowing that eventually, you’ll be able to look back and see an entire city of your work built behind you. There are many ways to succeed, but the only sure way to fail is to give up.