No one cares about your project.
Your book that you’re writing? That album you’re slaving away at? The recital next weekend? Your costume for the next convention? Nope. No one cares about it.
…until they do.
You know this part of the story all too well. The fame, the haters, the coattail-riding, the accolades, the interviews, the legions of newbies ripping it off… You know this part of the story because it’s MARKETABLE. It sells, and what sells gets the attention — because those giving the attention either a) have bills to pay through advertising and stick to the top of the bestsellers / trends / Spotify plays / subscriber lists, or b) wants to be in that top spot themselves.
What you have to understand is that sometimes the best stuff doesn’t get the attention. Sometimes the easily sellable / marketable stuff does, because people who talk about other people’s art are paid based on how many people they get to pay attention. So the thing they talk about needs to be not just good, but broadly appealing.
(And of course, it helps if you know those people already and can ask them for help and favors…)
By and large, though, the vast majority of books ever written go unread. The vast majority of music ever made goes unheard. The vast majority of sports games played go unwatched.
These are facts. And that’s why you have to love this shit so much, you do it without being paid for it. You have to love it so much that it’s as good as it’s going to be before even the first person checks it out, nevermind any crowds or best seller lists or whoever.
Nobody cares. And that’s freedom. You have zero expectations. Zero bars to try to raise. Zero people to please besides your own self. You have unlimited freedom to pick any direction you want your art to go and then walk it there, jog with it, full-on sprint if you want… no one is watching…
…until they are. And that’s when the boundaries start showing up. That’s when the goalposts start moving. That’s when the expectations form and the lines for people to get their say about what you’ve done.
It’s no wonder that some of the most impactful, amazing, truly wonderous art comes from out of nowhere. Of course, the person making it usually has been dreaming of it and slaving over it for years, but hey, it’s new to us.
Suddenly we care, because the artist in question made us care. Their work was undeniable. It struck a chord. It rang our bell.
(Yes, there are famous people in various art worlds who strike no chords and ring no bells… being famous is not the same as being an artist, never ever get that twisted)
These days, it’s far easier to make people care. Streaming your drawing, or holding live book editing sessions on a feed, or giving away some of your art to people interested in checking it out… there are a billion other ways to let folks in on your process if you want, and show them what you’re up to, and build a following of people who have been along for the ride with you.
This will be a small audience. The people who care before lists or other curators tell them they should, those are your REAL supporters. They care about not only your work, but that YOU are the one making it. They may take some time to find, and you may be shocked at who shows up (and even more shocked at who doesn’t…).
But by and large, no one cares. And that can either be a cry of pain or a prayer of thanks, depending on your perspective. I flutter between the two pretty regularly. Today, I’m choosing to be thankful, because along with the freedom from expectations and demands for what people WANT, comes the freedom to go wherever I want with this story, and tell the story I want to tell (which is much bigger than than just a genre story, or just an action story, or just another cyberpunk story).
The music we make for the books? We are free to change formats to match what happens in each novel. We can go anywhere our hearts take us.
Now, there’s “freedom to go anywhere” and then there’s “a sloppy, uncohesive disjointed mess” — there’s still rules and structure that should be put in place and adhered to if we want to actually communicate anything to someone else. But we get to decide those rules and define that structure.
No one cares about your thing, until you make them. And that, my fellow creative friends, is the ultimate artistic freedom.
(For more on this topic, I HIGHLY recommend Steven Pressfield’s Nobody Wants To Read Your Shit — it’s a fantastic, and believe it or not, uplifting book)