Note: This is part 3 of a 3-part series about creating. I’m using the topic of writing/blogging since that’s what I know, but the lessons can be extrapolated to any form of art. Part 1 covered How To Never Run Out Of Ideas, Part 2 covered How To Extinguish the Fiery Flames of Burnout, and Part 3 is on Validation (today!).
As a blogger (or artist of any sort) you may not get much validation … especially when you’re starting. The little validation you do get will be from people you know … family, friends, maybe co-workers. This kind of validation is empty because you’re not sure if it’s real. (Let’s be honest, it’s probably not.)
The validation most of us want is from random strangers. People we don’t know and who don’t know us. It makes us feel “famous” in a way.
“Somebody from Siberia said they liked my article! I have arrived!”
The Honest Truth About Validation
If you need validation then you’re not creating art.
That’s not to say that what you’re doing isn’t valuable. But the thing about art is this: your art should be valuable to you, first and foremost. Everything else is a bonus.
If your art isn’t valuable to you then you’re not an artist, you’re a factory. And probably unhappy.
What if nobody sees or appreciates what you do? Is it a waste of time putting your heart into something that gets no outside validation? No. Maybe you’re too progressive. Maybe people don’t understand you. Maybe you’re not good enough right now. It happens. If you’re doing it for yourself, none of that matters. You’ll press on.
Ask Steven Pressfield how long it took before he could make a living from his writing. Actually, you don’t need to ask him, just read his blog.
Why did he continue on for 17 years before getting his first paycheck from his writing? Because he’s an artist.
An artist may want the world to see his art, but he does it because he needs to do it and not to seek validation.
When I started writing this blog I didn’t get much traffic, many comments, or many e-mails. I didn’t do a whole lot to change that either. I just wrote. Every day. And then posted articles on my scheduled post days.
It took 3 months to break 100 RSS subscribers. And that’s only because I did a guest post on ZenHabits.net, which brought a flood of traffic and ~1,000 subscribers all at once.
I was going to write anyway, whether I had 0 readers or 5,000+ readers (you rock!).
I committed myself to this blog. I never had plans to turn it into a business.
Amazingly, these days the income from this blog fully supports my lifestyle and then some. Wow, for something I started without any particularly concrete plans (and definitely no plans to make money) I almost don’t know what to think. I feel like thank you isn’t enough, but thank you.
Is Making Money From Your Art Selling Out?
No. Under one condition: if you support things you don’t believe in to make money then you’ve sold out.
For example, I would never accept money from the dairy or beef industries. They could say “Hey Karol, $1 million to advertise on your blog” and I would say “Hey, eat shit.” ;) (I guess they do eat shit if they eat their own products.)
If, on the other hand, a company that made vegan goods contacted me and wanted me to write about their products I may accept and write about them. I wouldn’t accept cash (that’s not my game), but I have no problem reviewing a product that you and I may find useful (especially if it’s travel related!). If that were to ever happen I would be up-front about it with you, of course. And obviously this isn’t a review site, I’m simply making a point.
So, again, is making money selling out? No. Anybody who thinks you shouldn’t make money with your art if you want to is an idiot. If artists don’t get paid we don’t have art.
Well, let me rephrase that slightly: there will always be art and artists. But I want my favorite artists to be exposed to more people and to create more art.
How and Why I Support My Favorite Artists
I want all my favorite artists to be millionaires (or, you know, whatever they want) so they can keep producing their art.
This is why I supported one of my favorite musicians, Jenny Owen Youngs, when she did her KickStarter. Not only does the $38,543 she raised help with her new record, but since she’s not on a label anymore she’ll have 100% creative control. Awesome! (I even drove from Austin, TX to Fort Worth, TX and bought 2 tickets (myself and a friend) to see her last year. That is supporting her art! hehe)
This is also why you see me promote other blogger’s blog posts every Saturday and, every once in a while, their premium products as an affiliate. Yes, it may produce income for me, but that’s secondary. Yes, it was awesome being Corbett’s #1 affiliate for the Affiliate Marketing For Beginners launch last month. And yes, that is validation. But even if none of that was the case, I want to support people who do good work.
The more people who are able to do good work, the better the world becomes.
Artists need this kind of support. Yes, they need you to spread the word and give non-monetary support. But you know what many of them need more than anything? Cash, so they can continue producing art.
Don’t let anybody make you feel bad if you want to make a living from your art.
I Don’t Understand, You Say Artists Don’t Need Validation and You Say They’re Not Sellouts If They Make Money. But If They’re Making Money, That IS Validation. What’s Going On Karol?!
Good question, Karol. (Yes, I did just refer to myself referring to myself. Or something.)
The difference is actually very simple: A true artist will continue with their art whether they receive validation or not.
Whether I make money from my writing or not, I will continue writing.
Whatever you choose to do, I hope that you’ll continue doing it whether you receive validation or not as well. We need more artists. We need more ass-kickers.
I can’t guarantee you will make a living with your art, but I can guarantee we need you anyway.
If you enjoyed this series, would you mind doing me a big favor and supporting my art? Just click the Facebook Like button or Twitter Retweet button below: