I am doing Meredith Lewis daily creative prompt challenge for the month of December. Today she encourages us to answer the question:
“How important are the following questions to you when you assign values of success or failure to your work?”
Here goes. This is TOUGH to answer but these are questions I have often reflected upon over the years and here’s my honest answers.
Get ready. It could get ugly.
Your feelings about your work? Is it important for you to feel happy or inspired or confident or stimulated by your work? Or do you think you should suffer in the name of creating Great Art? If the latter, where did this belief come from? Is it necessary?
It’s important for me to feel INSPIRED. People, stories, ideas INSPIRE me. Once I’m inspired, I’m likely to go like a bull in a china shop because I have so many different ideas, connections, my head goes immediately into PLANNING mode.
For me, it’s not about confidence in the beginning because I know I can deliver on it. I know the steps that need to make it happen. I know the people I need to talk to. Where I start to lack confidence is when others don’t believe in my ideas, put me down or worse, ignore or belittle my work. That’s when I start to wonder, “Well why am I doing this? Why would I even bother to keep going with it?”
Then it’s rapidly downhill from that as my mind goes into free fall until I find an encouraging word or support again.
The amount of ‘audience’ take-up, for example number of tickets sold to your show, number of shares for your Instagram posts, number of views on your YouTube channel or downloads of your podcast, number of books sold?
Pfft. Not even important to me.
I believe if you do great work, people will come to you. They’ll be the ones who will share your work, sponsor your work, promote you. If you’re constantly running around trying to measure your downloads or numbers, then you’re focussing on the wrong thing. Yes, I know that you’re trying to run a business but that’s how you’re measuring MY success based on YOUR metrics.
Just because I have 150 subscribers on my YouTube channel does not mean that I offer anything less than someone who has 1M+ subscribers.
Maybe I’m offering something of value to a small group of people who had a great experience instead. Or who believe in what I create and share. I’d much rather work with people who value my work and my creations rather than base their perception of me on the number of followers I have!
Or, the quality or type of your audience’s response
You know when I have my aha moment that what I share is actually of value?
When someone SHARES my work.
When someone ACKNOWLEDGES my work.
When someone sends me a personal message that simply says, THANK YOU.
You have no idea how incredible this little action is. It could be the difference between someone just giving up everything or continuing to slog it out.
The amount of money you make. Professional artists need to make a living and may be under pressure to make sales. Other people who make creative work for recreational, therapeutic, or other personal reasons may not care about this as much (if they put a price on their work at all).
I didn’t want to put a price on my work. I wanted people to see MY VALUE and then ask me to WORK with them and together to devise something that would be unique for them. I wanted us to co-create, co-design.
Instead, many people want a number. They want templates. They want specifics.
Everything else is too nebulous and conceptual for them.
Money has and will never be a driver for me. I think it will come based on what is CREATED and the STORY of how it came about and the EXPERIENCES that people go through together. Instead, what I find are that people are focussed on the HERE and NOW. They don’t want to dream anymore – they want transactional relationships.
Transactional relationships restrict freedom to create something new. They force me to provide you with products that are copy and pasted with every other client.
As such, I have made my peace that I do not want to do this. I want the experience over the transaction.
Your sense that you learnt something from a project, that you progressed in your skill, craft, or sense of confidence.
This is integral to everything I do and also the type of projects I want to be on.
If I have done it before, I get bored.
If the company provides it lip service, I don’t want to do it.
If there’s no opportunity to put my own stamp on it – meh, not interested.
If you’re asking me to follow a pattern of how it’s been done before – I’m outta there.
Everything must have a personal or professional development aspect to it for me. This is how I breathe – this is my life – I need to be continually learning. I need to see connections.
If you are collaborating, did you feel a sense of harmony with your co-creators? Or is this less important to you than ending up with a kick-arse outcome (and the two are not mutually exclusive, by the way).
Collaboration is HUGE for me.
I’ve often written in this blog how I would love to be part of something like I had some years back with CNT News where we created our own fake news channel with a team of people. Previously, I was a member of an intergenerational film crew where we made a short movie for cinema.
I LOVE TEAM COLLABORATIONS however, I see that many people HATE them despite having to be in teams at work because they’re competing for attention, for each other.
Internal politics, competition destroys the trust in people and that’s why I have never really experienced the kind of team harmony collaborating with people in the corporate world as I had in the Navy many years ago. Oh, there were instances of these in my work such as writing the co-written Teams book which I loved!
However, the Navy seemed to have a knack of being able to bond together people from all different backgrounds and be part of something bigger than ourselves. I missed that in corporate life. I chased these collaborations outside of work such as my different projects, helping people write their own books, or my years in Rotary where I had an opportunity to plan and lead different vocational projects and got internationally recognised. I was more interested in the creation of the solution than the award.
Today, I’m mindful that although we say that we have ‘great teamwork’, scratch the surface and see that it’s either one person doing the most work; someone else getting the kudos, people moving on. The ‘experience’ leaves you a bit empty.
It doesn’t help that your entire team could also be working virtually. You can say what you like but unless people meet in person, together, in a same shared environment to go through a shared experience – and then to RECALL THAT EXPERIENCE AS SOMETHING THAT HAS SHAPED THEM AS A PERSON – you haven’t got real teamwork.
Acclaim from your peers or industry gatekeepers. Are you a lone wolf or do you crave endorsement from your fellow creatives? Do you sweat over getting good reviews?
For me, it’s not acclaim from peers or industry gatekeepers nor endorsement from fellow creatives (after all, they get it).
It comes down to ENDORSEMENT by people above me and my peers – those who rely on me for my work, creations and ideas.
I don’t care about good reviews. I care about getting ANY review.
No review, no feedback, no acknowledgement, no endorsement basically means “why are you even working?” You may as well pack up your bongos and go somewhere where your work or craft is appreciated.
The generation of other opportunities. Do you have a ‘eureka’ moment if other people, upon experiencing your work, ask you to work with them or are you content to forge on alone?
Truth is, I prefer to work with others however, if there’s one thing I learned about myself is that sometimes my ideas are too much for people. They’re a bit out there. People have their own ideas and things they want to do and that’s okay.
As a result, I have always ended up working alone. It annoys me no end. I don’t like to. I constantly crave having to be part of a team, to be across what people are doing and how they’re doing it so that I can see connections, offer ideas, come up with new project ideas….
When I see that I end up working alone invariably I make a pact with myself…
“Helen, are you happy to just continue with the status quo?” If yes, wait this out and hope that something will come that will alter this direction.
If no, you’ll usually see my becoming quieter, retreating, biding time.
If I feel very strongly about it, I walk away. I have been known to submit resignations, stop work immediately and walk away because I know I always fall on my feet and become inspired again with a new direction. However, this only happens when someone or something impacts my moral or ethical standards. I don’t do this willy nilly!