Hi and Welcome to the A & J PEI Treasures E Jean Simpson Author Blog Post and Podcast. I’m your host, Jean coming to you from the beautiful Island Province of Prince Edward Island, Canada! Today I’m going to talk about the importance of setting powerful goals in your artistic work. If you want to learn more, stay tuned….
I think that often, people make the mistake of taking man made goals and inserting them as their goals as an artist or as a person in general. In the arts, this can take the form of making reviews one of the main goals. This is a wonderful goal in some ways, when you’ve been at it for a while. It’s more a lovely form of validation if you get it…but also most discouraging when followed too closely. It can result in removing your motivation or trying to meet an ever changing definition of who you are as an artist, so you never find your true self or voice as an artist. It might actually detract from the creative process as you are always trying to be someone whom everyone likes. Good luck with that but I doubt it will bring you a lot of happiness. You’ll burn out before you get very far. Make your goals attainable for yourself. Make your goals in line with why you started to write, or draw or paint or insert here whatever it is that you are doing. Make your essential goals a part of who you are so that they are a part of you rather than some outside force. I’m not saying reviews are bad. They can good…but if we determine what we read or what we create solely on being reviewed, well, some really great books would never have been written and some really great art never would have been created.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. If you look through history of literature, art, music, almost any of the arts, you will find many examples of people who created their art despite lack of positive reviews and often despite very poor reviews. I remember seeing an old newspaper review shared about the famous rock group KISS. It was from their early days and it wasn’t a positive one. Now it stands as a running joke for KISS fans, but if they had listened, there would be no KISS Army. Closer to home, at least for me, famously it is said that Lucy Maude Montgomery had her first attempt at getting published turned down by every publisher she went to. There are many examples of modern day artists who were told essentially not to quit their day job and went on to gain fame including the author of Harry Potter. So, reviews, though nice and might help sell books, may not be the best thing to aspire to or make into an author goal as such. They likely are best to be thought of as secondary to the need to create and be creative. I mean no disrespect to reviews or reviewers, they can be very useful and helpful. They can also be damaging if one is only chasing that illusive critical acclaim. What are the chances that this will happen? Well, I looked at some of the stats…I’m sure if you are interested, a Google search will be enough to discourage many…so I will not go that route. It is sufficient to say that it’s not an everyday occurrence. So, this is the other question you need to ask yourself. When you create, and there is no slap on the back or praise forthcoming for your work, what will result? Will you keep your drive to create? Will you grow despondent and stop working on your projects? So, it is not as cut and dried as you need reviews at least if history holds true. If it were that cut and dried, there are sites online that will do this for you. Some even do reviews of your books for free with some caveats. Everyone wants or likes to have them, but when that becomes the goal, then you cease to create for yourself or to add to the art. You fail to create because you see a goal or a mission or a career or even a lifestyle and you start to try to please others and not find your own distinctive voice nor your own niche. We need to become people who are the artist because it is part of who we are and we want to add to the art first and foremost. We also need to be the artist that believes in ourselves and our art. The artist that sees the sun set and lets their mind roam free without having to consider whether or not it will result in reviews or acclaim.
So, my message isn’t that reviews are bad, in fact, yes, they can be good for sales and helpful to the author. It is more that reviews, as an artist, are not your worry…you aren’t writing your own. It is, in effect, a goal you have very little control over, unlike your art. They do not make a worthwhile goal because acclaim is fleeting and ever changing. Sure, it’s great if people like your work. Sad if they don’t. But reviews aren’t the artist’s goal. Creativity needs to be the goal. Creating something with the aspiration to inspire, to teach, to further art or even to shock or get people thinking. We can’t all be Nobel Prize winning authors. But, we can be the best author or artist that we can be. We can create and be inspired. We can show the beauty that the world has to offer or the depths of darkness and everything in between.
I think my message to authors and other artists is that it is more important to be yourself and less about being who people think you should be. There is no point to art if it is important to be someone that you aren’t. Be yourself! Be Proud to be Creative! Put your work out there. I’d rather fail while being me than succeed trying to be someone else. Each person has to make the choice of what is important to them. Make it a wise choice for the sake of your art.
I’m sure there are a lot of people who will find my stance strange. I’m not the first artist who believed that it was more important to be artistically true to themselves first. Some will think they are challenging themselves to be the best they can be by trying to meet some review goal. As Kenny Loggins said “It’s hard enough doing something bold without jumping into your bad reviews.” … and you do know there is possibility there will be bad reviews. No one will always get good reviews. Any longer term author has gotten poor ones and you will too if you stick with it for any time. There will be good reviews as well as bad reviews. This is reality. If you are going to let them control how you do your art or if you are going to be up for good ones and down for bad ones and let it interfere with your art, then it is not the best method of setting a goal. I think it depends on what you are looking for from life and from your art.
So, be realistically unrealistic. Make sure the goals you set for yourself are goals that will help you continue with your art. Make sure they are goals that inspire you and help you keep walking the path of being the best you can be. It is great if you have fans. But it’s not the goal of art. The art/authorship is an end in itself. It is what makes you feel alive. It is what you would do whether people loved it or not. Monet was never popular in his lifetime. Lucy Maude Montgomery didn’t succeed at her first attempt. Make sure you select goals so that you are able to continue whether or not anyone thinks you are worth a chance. If you don’t, you will have a shorter career and the world will be short one more artist. That said, it is not terrible to decide to move on to something else. It’s up to each person what a good fit is for them. If it feels forced, then it is likely you will want to move on and there is no shame in that either. Find what fits for your life. You’re the one that has to live it. Not reviewers, not other artists, not anyone else. Remember that the most important and powerful goals come from inside of you, not the outside world. Outside world goals may burn you out. The intrinsic goals are the ones you internalize. They will be the ones that will put you on the path to lasting in the chosen field or fields of art.
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