This week, I am scheduled to pull down my exhibition of paintings from the art centre in town. I haven’t sold any paintings, and I knew it might not have been a great time to hold an exhibition, but it is still disappointing. Facing the fact that the event cost me time and money, without any apparent benefit, is somewhat disappointing. You may know the feeling; the lump that sits in the bottom of your stomach like a rock. You might be smiling on the outside, but on the inside, you feel like crap.
Maybe your article didn’t get the views you thought it should? Maybe, you didn’t even get it published? Whatever the reason, we all face moments of disappointment. Your writing has let you down and you are not where you want to be. It’s not the situation that is important, it is whether you can overcome this momentary setback and keep moving forward.
Comparison is not your friend.
What makes it worse, is seeing somebody else on Facebook bragging about how well they are doing, or reading those dam articles about how many thousands of dollars someone has made in their first three months on Medium. It’s probably rubbish anyway. Comparing your achievements to someone else will not help you, and it can be soul-destroying.
You may not be where you want to be, but you are not where you use to be. Just don’t give up.
Don’t take it personally.
As creative people, your identity can be deeply connected to your creative expression, and when someone doesn’t like your article or buy your paintings, you can feel deeply rejected. In reality, it’s not all about you. Perhaps your article wasn’t a good fit for the publication; maybe there were too many submitted in a similar theme; Or perhaps, your paintings are so amazing the general public can’t handle the brilliance. Yeah, probably not.
The reason for your disappointment is not a reflection of your worth as a person. Try not to take it personally; it just wasn’t your day. There are so many examples of famous people who had some gut-wrenching setbacks on their journey to greatness.
Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because his editor felt he “lacked imagination.” JK Rowling had such a hard time having her manuscript published that by the time she had finished her first Harry Potter book, she was divorced and on welfare with a child to support. 12 major publishers rejected her stories on her way to becoming a billionaire. Dr Seuss was rejected 28 times with his first manuscript, by the end of his life he had sold over 600 million copies of his books. Don’t throw in the towel too soon.
“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try” — Dr. Seuss
Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime, so I shouldn’t feel too deflated; after all, I haven’t yet sliced off any body parts in a fit of rage.
What Can You do?
You are in charge of your own destiny. If you aren’t receiving the views or appreciation that you want, then what can you do about it?
- Work harder — maybe you need to write more, establish a publishing schedule, or take on a 30-day challenge?
- Get help — Perhaps you should enlist the help of a mentor or coach? Sign up with a professional writer, or at least someone with more skills than you. That is the fastest way to improve.
- Diversify your topics — Make your world bigger to include a broader audience. Write about more topics or find new ways to write about your current themes.
For me, I can only pack up the beautiful paintings and bring them home. I have found from previous experience, that I often sell artwork after the initial show. This, however, is rather an anti-climax. Why can’t I be one of the cool kids that sell paintings on the spot?
“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire, the size of your dream, and how you handle disappointment along the way.” — Robert Kiyosaki
Don’t let your writing or art consume your entire world.
I tend to be rather an obsessive artist, painting is my first love, and it consumes me. This is great for creative productivity, but not so good for personal relationships, and I don’t live a balanced lifestyle. The problem with this kind of fixation is that when a painting hasn’t worked well, I obsess over the failure. Don’t come near me; I am likely to stab you with my brushes. I have been known to rip the painting to shreds in disgust.
Take a step back from your article or disappointing review. One event will not reflect your entire body of work. Everybody has ideas that flop. Go for a walk, sit in the sun and grab a coffee. Do what you need to do to revive your sensors and regain your strength. Spend time with your family or friends and remember that life is more than your next published piece. Take a minute to breathe.
Focus on what is working.
Recently, I realised that I have a superfan. This person reads all my articles, highlights and leaves great comments on them. She has been inspired by my writings on the creative process and loves my paintings. What more could I ask for? This has been so incredibly encouraging for my newly developing writing practice, and where there is one, there will be more, right?
Focus on what is working. Which articles are you proud of, regardless of stat numbers or money earned? What do you consider to be your greatest achievements? Read the article again and congratulate yourself. You have to be your own superfan.
Write to make yourself happy.
I was feeling crap this morning about my lack of painting sales. I had intended to write an article about a different topic, but I couldn’t rally the enthusiasm. So I thought about how I could change my perspective. I’m writing this for myself, and I hope it can help you too. Write to make yourself happy.
Why do you write? Do you enjoy it, or is it only for the money? If you are the creative type that enjoys this expressive medium, then write for yourself, at least for today. I intend to go into the studio and paint, all afternoon, with no concern for sales and with no other agenda than the pure adrenaline of creating art.
We all fail; sometimes, we all fall short from where we want to be. Don’t waste time sulking and feeling sorry for yourself, don’t compare your journey with someone else’s achievements. Pick yourself back up and push on. I tell my kids all the time, you can be a victim, or you can be a conqueror, but you can’t be both. Don’t take disappointment personally; your self worth is not reliant on your creative output. Take a step back, breathe for a moment, enjoy the sunshine and embrace some love.
Have another go tomorrow, and maybe the outcome will be better.
“Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.” — Bruce Garrabrandt
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I’ve been a visual artist for over 25 years, and now I tell my stories you can see my art on my website or visit Medium for more writing.