As a creative, your goal is to share your work.
It isn’t for that work to be revered or liked. It’s simply to share it to the widest audience you’re capable of reaching.
The hope is that people like it, appreciate it or agree with it in some way.
The fear is that they do not.
But what if I told you that you didn’t have to be scared. That people who disagree with you and people who discourage you aren’t the same.
I don’t like Brussels sprouts. Not because of their religion, political stance or colour. I just don’t like them.
Some people do.
But halfway through painting my protest banner for my hate campaign against them, I decided that I could just carry on living my life instead.
What if, through some crazy Buddhist effort, I channelled my rage for sprouts? What if nobody knew that I didn’t like them and I allowed others to have their opinions of them?
How much better would the world be if I just promoted my love of Broccoli instead, telling every waiter possible that I’m so glad they offer tenderstem as a side-dish?
The unfortunate thing about the internet is that it thrives on negativity. Facebook groups start Witch-trials, youtube comments spread racist views and Instagram selfies inspire private ridicule.
“Did you see how fat he looks in that shirt?”
Hate is everywhere.
I actually glanced across at someone on a plane as they were reading a women’s magazine. The image was zoomed-in on Radio DJ Fearne Cotton’s underarms for a feature they called ‘Celebrity Sweat Patch’.
A page dedicated to showing how disgusting perfect little celebrities are for sweating. A natural biological occurrence we’ve all experienced.
No context was provided, and in that moment I realised the price for popularity.
Are you sure you want to pay it?
YOU NEED EXPOSURE
In 2015 they held an exhibition for forgotten french impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte. Ever heard of him? No. Me neither.
Caillebotte rose to fame at quarter past never… because he was a rich heir to a textiles business and only painted for fun. He didn’t attempt to sell his art.
Monet, who I’m sure you’ve all heard of had about 2,500 paintings, pastels and drawings attributed to him, but in the 19th Century he wasn’t as popular as we all know him to be now.
Monet sold his paintings and put a price on his work. Exposing himself to the snobbish art community in France who didn’t give his impressionist works the attention they get now. One of Monet’s paintings has sold for $78million since.
However, the two men are both great painters. What sets them apart?
Controversy was the secret to Monet’s success.
Caillebotte had about 16 canvases by Monet (as well as other artists) and donated them to the Musée de Luxembourg in Paris.
The French government were furious that Caillebotte would be so presumptuous that his collection be worthy of display, and the media reported on the tension. Adding more exposure the works he had collected. Most of which being Monet’s work.
Why am I telling you this?
Because even then, it took controversy to promote an artist’s work.
The more eyes reading about the works of Monet, Renoir and others that were donated, the more eyes on those paintings.
Popularity is enjoyable repeated exposure. See something enough times and that familiarity begins to feel comforting.
Caillebotte might be just as good as Monet, but he didn’t put himself out there. Instead his dying wish cemented the iconic French painters that he held in such high regard.
Consider yourself in all of this when you sit back and judge the work of others.
“I’m better than him/her, why are they more popular than me?”
The answer is exposure.
Putting yourself out there. Displaying your creativity to the largest audience possible.
THE DROPPED STARBURST
Have you ever dropped a starburst/a piece of candy on the floor and picked it up to find skin flakes, hair and dust particles clinging to it.
The floor is a metaphor for the world. The ground in which we all equally stand on.
I just made this up, work with me here…
The Starburst is the popular figure we all look up to, regardless of how high up the ladder of success they’ve climbed.
The minging bits that stick to it are the ‘haters’. I dislike that word as it tries to trivialise its own existence.
‘Haters’ as a word sounds comical and insignificant, but the type of person it describes is a far more complex creature.
The starburst drops, momentarily and immediately it picks up haters.
Any accidental slip of the tongue, misplaced joke or ill-advised outfit someone wears is condemned instantly. Blown immensely out of proportion and used to pigeon-hole that person’s every action.
Their character comes under attack by the dust of society.
The appeal of that starburst is compromised.
Social Media has equalised that process. You can criticise anyone, anywhere, anytime… and it’s revealed a disturbing feature of human behaviour.
THE KEYBOARD WARRIOR
If a Trump supporter falls in the woods, and nobody is around to kick them while they’re screaming for help on the floor, did they still make a noise?
My guess is that they do, but anti-trump protestors are causing so much noise on the internet, nobody would hear them anyway.
The Trump-phenomenon as it’s been called, was actually so popular that TV shows chose not to air, through fear of low ratings.
The negativity towards Donald Trump running for office was suffocating. You couldn’t buy a cup of coffee without someone talking about it in line. Each status on Facebook was about his latest faux-pas. I burped my baby and that even sounded like ‘Trump’.
Okay okay! I don’t have a baby, but you get the idea.
Negativity rose to the top of the everyday media as the overwhelming opinion, while those in support of his views kept quiet through fear of persecution.
In private, their opinions were allowed to be realised and Trump sailed on the sea of bigotry he created, docking at some big White House that the news loves showing.
There was a protest in my City of Cardiff in the United Kingdom against Trump when he was sworn in. Outside H&M on a Saturday night.
It had zero impact on the political decisions of a man 3,538 miles away. He won despite the homemade banners and hand-holding of strangers.
He knew that what people publicly say and what they truly believe are two different things.
The type of person Trump was attracting wasn’t the type of person to publicly admit it, through fear.
I’m not a Trump supporter, I’m not a Hilary supporter. I had literally no opinion, but it was an interesting spectacle to observe human behaviour.
Why is it that the person with the loudest opinion is assumed to be correct?
It’s because nobody offers an opposing view to someone who’s aggressively pursuing their opinion. They keep it to themselves.
People don’t value others opinions if they don’t align with their own, and nowhere is that more true than social media.
Every little video, picture or comment you post is being judged privately by your friends, but they’ll post a condescending ‘cute’ on your performance video to make you think they’re being nice.
Before you agree to a life of creative endeavours, I’m giving you fair warning that the most explicit opinions on your work will always be the ones that hate it.
It only takes one knife to wound.
YOU NEED TO RISE ABOVE IT
The price you pay for popularity is constant ridicule.
An audience of 10 might contain 1 brash, opinionated opposer.
When you show your work, whether that be photography, fashion design, magic performances or marketing blogs, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable for attack.
But why do people attack instead of ignoring it?
They could just go on living their lives instead, knowing they disagree with you, but being happy to just spend their time on things they enjoy.
These toxic people are internally upset. Upset with their own mediocre lives, terrible decisions and lack of work ethic.
Everything is someone else’s fault… or luck.
They attack you to remind you that you’re not better than them. Bringing you down simultaneously elevates them.
Your demise is their ascent.
You did something wrong, they didn’t. So they must be better than you.
This flawed logic dictates their insatiable hunger for more negativity towards you. You just offered them a free tutorial on an original move, but your video has interlaced frames. They never make such easy mistakes.
So from their bedroom they complain about that, rather than thanking you for flying to Toronto to film and give away your intellectual property for free.
Your intention was to help them. Their intention is to denounce you.
From whatever perceived success I’ve gained, I have an intimate audience of mostly supportive people. Like you.
However, as my work gets more attention it inevitably attracts more resentment from a wider audience.
Newcomers are closely followed by gloomy, pessimistic readers whose sole intention is to look to find fault in everything I have to offer.
Knowing that the same applies to you, you have to be brave to share your work. To bare your creativity to the world.
Petty bitching in this industry is an irrational response to the hard work of others.
I’ve experienced comments about where I grew up, my job and my previous 3 minute TV appearance a doorman in an attempt to drag me down emotionally.
Dislike my work, but don’t disparage it.
To me, it’s important social commentary that negativity is more popular than anything else posted.
Why not build people up? Why not encourage the success of others?
There’s a fine line between disagreeing with someone and discouraging someone… a few people we all know have crossed that line.
I’m proud of the work I see from others. Anyone putting themselves out there deserves my respect. Even if I didn’t like it personally.
What makes you great isn’t that others are wrong, or worse than you, or doing something you don’t enjoy.
What makes you great are your views. Your product. Your efforts.
Don’t look for personal ways to knock people down in order to build yourself up.
People will magnify your mistakes to belittle your success. As your new job only highlights the fact they don’t have one. Your new video only highlights the fact that haven’t created anything today and your constant drive only reminds them that they have none.
The price for popularity, in whatever amounts you receive it, is constant ridicule.
But the benefits are worth far more.
You’ll inspire people, change their lives and enable them to realise their own potential.
Leaving the ones who go out of their way to bring people down by the wayside.
Their punishment is their life.
( Photo credit: Charlie Neibergall / AP )