When my first book, Bloom was published, I was only 26, and very new to the writing world. That meant I was still naive enough to believe that it would sell millions of copies, top bestseller lists, and catapult me to fame overnight.
Because, why wouldn’t it?
I believed in that book with all of me. The words on those pages came from my heartbeats, and I had given that book everything I had to give. I was proud of my creation, and I deserved to be proud. It was a collection of my best pieces of writing over the period of about a year.
But fame wasn’t what I was hungry for. I was hungry for a book that sold enough copies that allowed me to live comfortably off the royalties, raise my middle finger to the haters who wrote me off, and made me feel like a real “success” – whatever that even means.
Inevitably, I fell short of my towering expectations. And for a little while, I felt like a failure. Imagine that. I’d written a book, got it published, sold thousands of copies to women around the world; and I somehow convinced myself I’d failed.
Of course, I hadn’t failed.
But what if the outcome had been different.
What if I wrote a book that sold no more than a handful of copies – to no one other than my family. Or I designed a dress that was incredibly unflattering on the figure. Or I baked a cake that was supposed to rise in the oven, but didn’t.
Would that make me feel like a failure?
Would that make you feel like a failure?
Here’s what I believe: it’s irrelevant. The outcome of what you create is always irrelevant.
What happens when you hit publish on whatever you made doesn’t matter.
It’s the act of creating that matters. This is the only thing that matters when it comes to your art.
You should make art for you. It should come from your heart and soul, and light you up within. The entire process from conception to birth should bring you joy; even during the challenging moments. Creating something from nothing is about playing, experimenting, following your curiosity and seeing where it leads you. And it’s about having fun. Your art should make you happy, and fuck everyone else. They don’t matter.
And if you do that, if you make art for you, then you’ll begin to see that what happens next doesn’t matter so much. Because you stayed true to who you are, and what you love. Because your heart is content, and your soul feels seen and heard.
Whether it’s deemed successful or not becomes irrelevant. Because you’ve shown up, you’ve been authentic, and you’ve made something you’re proud of.
How the world reacts to what you’ve created is out of your hands, and it’s not your responsibility.
Sometimes you’ll create something that ends up surprising even you with how well it’s received. And other times, you might think for sure that what you’re working on is the best thing you’ve ever done, only to find that people largely disagree.
You can’t control how people think, feel, and respond to your art. You can’t pre-empt it. And you can’t try and make something you think everyone will love.
Because first of all, you can never please everyone. Secondly, this doesn’t allow you to create something that genuinely comes from your heart. And finally, why would you waste precious time wondering what they might think of you and your art?
They’re a bunch of people you’ve never met, and will probably never meet. They’re entitled to their opinions just like you are, but remember, what they believe to be true isn’t truth.
All of art is entirely subjective anyway, which means there is no truth. There are no real masterpieces and great works, only ones that we have collectively deemed to be great.
No one will view any piece of art the same way as someone else. And I think that’s what makes it so unique and interesting and beautiful. But that’s also what makes it so frustrating and unpredictable for the artists.
Would you do things differently, or not do them at all, if there was a possibility you might fail spectacularly?
Because the reality is, there’s always a pretty big chance things won’t work out the way you expected or hoped. As they say, you can’t always get what you want, but you’ll always get what you need.
I think what I needed most after I wrote my first book was to discover what success really looked and felt like to me, and to detach myself from the outcome of what I create.
Creating is something that has brought bundles of magic and wonder to my life since I can remember, and I know I will never stop wanting to make things.
What I needed was to give myself permission to stop worrying about other people, and to make art just for me.
Perhaps that’s what your heart needs, too.
So I invite you to stop doubting, and second guessing yourself. Stop trying to fit into a box, or follow the tried and tested path that others have ventured down.
Make art that gets you excited to jump out of bed in the morning. Art that is personal and special to you. Make the kind of art that only you can make. The kind that you don’t have to think about, because it flows naturally through you with ease and grace. Make art that you’ll look back on ten years from now, and still be proud of, because you spent time birthing things from pure love and passion and play. And you adored every moment of it.
Make art for you. Because this is the art you came here to make.