You read artists’ blogs and interviews in which they assert the importance of following your own path, listening to your muse, finding your unique inspiration and developing your voice and not paying attention to the critics and people who don’t understand and appreciate your work. Great advice, right? But then you see, over and over, on websites and blogs and, especially, on Facebook, the pleas for “likes,” as in Facebook likes, as in “like my post” and “like my page.”
Maybe you’re like me and are wondering exactly how these fit together: how you can find your own voice and follow your own muse at the same time you’re supposed to be getting people to like everything you do. Aren’t the two antithetical? If you’re worried about gathering kudos and public affirmation, how can you focus inward to see what you’re really supposed to be creating?
My short answer would be: forget being liked. But I know that’s not an option for most people in the 21st century, when you’re trying to find a niche and sell your work or get a book contract or find some teaching gigs. When, in short, you’re trying to make a living and Facebook “likes” are a part of the currency. I know that, no matter how much so many of us wish it weren’t the case.
What I’m thinking of are the people who have gone public before they were ready, who opened an Etsy shop before they had any idea what they were going to create to put in it or started a business page on Facebook before they had decided what, exactly, their business was going to be. You know how it goes, with the workshops on How To Build Your Brand Through Your Blog and tutorials on how to gain more followers, the temptation is to jump in there and find out what’s popular and let that guide whatever you choose to do next. And if what you want to do is to get your name out there and sell some random somethings in an online shop, that might be just what works for you. But if what you’re doing is finding your own true voice and amassing a body of work you hope one day to share publicly, it’s probably not how you want to go about it. It’s like showing your jewelry before you’ve buffed it or photographing your doll before it’s been wigged and costumed or having your client wear the coat before you’ve put in the hem. If it’s not ready, it’s not ready, and you need to wait until it is. Don’t open an Etsy shop for your art until you’ve found what it is that grabs you and that you want to follow and explore. Don’t make a page on Facebook before you have a business and a plan of where you want to go. Don’t jump in and then test the waters by seeing who “likes” what and letting that be your guide. Find your own voice, then speak up.
For more about being staying true to you, take a look at The Artist Unique by Carmen Torbus.
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