Recently an experience reminded of a very valuable lesson in creativity. It’s something I had known conceptually, but this experienced allowed me to see it in a multi-dimensional array of it’s application and meaning.
The experience was this: I had been asked to perform a spoken word and I instead suggested that I write my own version of the piece and perform it instead (I prefer doing my originals versus covers…it’s probably a Hip-Hop thing, definitely a Hip-Hop thing). They were very gracious and allowed me a shot at it, but in the end they wanted to go with the original and not my piece.
At first I was DEVESTATED . I spent SO MUCH TIME working on this piece. It was just as good, if not better than the original. How could they not see that?!? I even asked if they would give me feedback about parts that could be better when I submitted it. They just weren’t feeling it.
Then I realized why…
They reached out to me because they wanted me to perform the cover of the song, NOT to write an original. Because this was what they envisioned, there is not a version I could have written that would have come up with that would have swayed them. They were wanting one thing and I was trying to give them another. It would be like me calling Pizza Hut for pepperoni pizza and the guy on the phone suggesting I try one with chicken.
I don’t think Pizza Hut makes terrible pizzas, nor do I question the pizza making ability of the pizza person, it’s just when I called I had been craving a pepperoni pizza not chicken. I love chicken, but I just don’t want it on my pizza at this particular time.
I was the pizza person on the phone in that analogy and the group contracting me for the spoken word were the people calling the pizza place. It’s not that they think that I’m a horrible spoken word artist (in fact they extremely pleased with the spoken word piece I created for them on a past occasion) nor do they doubt my skills as an artist, they simply just wanted something different than what I was offering. It was void of any element that I could take personally.
When I realized this a shift happened.
It’s one of the most essential shifts a creative can make.
The art is yours to create, but you have to divorce yourself from it’s reception.
I used to get so hung up on putting something out, and people not liking it, it not getting the shares/likes/plays that I thought it should. It would really weigh me down. I realized that once you put it out, you have no control over how it is perceived. People may love it, and that’s what every creative wants, but the reality is some people wont. It’s possible that a lot of people wont.
Your job as a creative is to pour all of yourself into the offering, and then divorce yourself from the results. If it’s received well, be grateful and move on. If it’s not received well, do your best to understand/appreciate why and move on. It’s poisonous to allow the reception of a single work to validate/invalidate your perception of your ability/talent as a creative. NEVER DO THAT. Sometimes, it’s ahead of it’s time, sometimes we didn’t execute well, other times the audience had a taste for something else. Just remember, sometimes you won’t know why right away or ever.
The not knowing why/taking it too personally as well as trying to make sure they create something that will be as successful as their last big success keeps artists chained to a moment in their creative journey. They become imprisoned never growing past that success, or failure. You may never know why, but divorcing yourself from the result allows you to continue moving and growing.
Sometimes we forget that when it comes to art/creativity…
there is no wrong way to do it.
There are no rules.
You can do whatever you want. It’s art.
I once asked one of my friends/mentors MegaRan, who happens to be an amazing Nerdcore rapper, how he would handle a song that wasn’t received. I’ll never forget his answer:
“I just keep creating and think ‘I’ll get them on the next one’”
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