i loved reading this today. Jeff Goins tackles what he did when one of his blog posts went viral, and then he essentially went “back to zero.” I think it’s easy in today’s world of social networking to get caught up in how many people read your blog, whether or not you’ll get published, if you do get published how many people will read it, how many hits you get, how much money you can make from your art, how many likes you get on Instagram, and so on. But what did you truly start creating for?
No single creative success can be sustained. That’s why you can’t create solely for profit or praise. In the end, the thrill never lasts. If you want to be an artist, there has to be something more than fame that sustains you.
Just ask Elizabeth Gilbert.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was an inexplicable, runaway success. After she wrote the book and it raced up the bestsellers lists, people asked her a cruel question:
“Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to be able to top that?”
The answer, not surprisingly, was: Yes. She worried she’d never be able to write another book that achieved such success. In an amazing TED Talk, she said, “It’s exceedingly likely that my greatest success is behind me.”
This worry held her back, caused her to hesitate and wait years before writing and publishing another book. But eventually she did. And how she did it was unique. Courageous, even.
She went to work, anyway. She treated her life’s work as just that — a job. She started believing in the idea of a Muse, a spirit that indwells artists. She resigned to a more mystical, creative process, and began to understand that “success” wasn’t up to her.
No, her job was to show up.
We must do the same.
No matter how amazing you are today, you have to get up and put the hours in tomorrow. And the next day. And so on.
Because that thing inside of you that causes you to create already forgot yesterday’s successes, it’s hungry. And if you don’t feed it something new, it will eat you alive.
That, my friends, is why artists kill themselves, why they get depressed after a monumental success and never create anything again. After going big with some huge, mega success that plummets them into instant stardom, they seemingly have nowhere left to go.
But that isn’t why they got into the game in the first place. And it’s not why you and I are in it, either. At least, I hope not.
Fame is not enough.
Doing creative work for mass consumption is not fulfilling. Sure, it’s a nice byproduct, but it can’t be the focus.
This is why I write (and often) every day. Not for the fans and followers. But for me. Because if I do not, I feel like something is missing. The accolades never seem to completely satisfy. Only creating can fulfill you after the fanfare fades.
So do something creative today. Scribble a note in your notebook. Snap a photo. Bang out a few chords on the guitar. Hit “publish” on that blog post you’ve been stalling to write.
Show up and do your work.
Whatever you do, please, don’t live in the past. And don’t wait for the future. Now is all you have. So, artist, create. It’s what you were made to do.