There is that wonderful scene in the movie Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner is urged to “build it and they will come”. A baseball field in the middle of a cornfield starts to attract great players from the past.
Many people in the personal development field have latched onto this mantra. Build it, they say, and the rest will come. They will quote you examples of people who have achieved this, despite impossible odds. You get inspired, pumped up and you decide to go for it. What the hell, who wants to lead a life of regret?
So you start to create. You build. It takes a lot of toil. You are scared to death, not knowing how your creation will be received. “Build it and they will come” keeps ringing in your ears.
Your efforts take twice as long as you thought, are twice as hard and probably cost you in physical, emotional or financial ways.
The day arrives. Your creation is finished. It is built. You proudly put it out there to the world.
And you wait for them to come.
And they don’t.
The album flops. The blog post gets only a handful of reads. Nobody understands your painting. The stack of unsold books will remain forever in the cupboard under your stairs.
You are crushed. What now?
You’re crushed. You’ve worked so hard on this creation. You have put your heart and soul into it.
You thought it was good. You thought that you are offering something wonderful to the world. But the world isn’t that bothered.
You have two options. The first is to withdraw, hurt and damaged, and vow never to create anything again.
The second option is to lick your wounds, learn from the experience and continue to follow your heart.
Let’s concentrate on the option two as it’s a much better choice than the first one.
The life of an artist is about continual work, not one piece
Norwegian artist Edvard Munch painted almost 1,800 paintings in his 81 years of life but he is well known for just one: The Scream. However, all of those paintings contributed to his artistic skill and his voice. The well known one would not have existed without the others.
Creativity is a continuous process. We may dream of the hit or the best-seller but those achievements come about about from consistent learning and production.
You have to learn not to burden your creativity with too much expectation. Your creativity owes you nothing apart from the sheer joy of speaking your truth. Write the next book, come up with the next song, move on to the next blank canvas.
Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, (a must read for anyone wanting to follow creative pursuits) talks about getting to the end of his first novel and his writing mentor saying, “That’s great. Now get started on the next one.”
Rejection is inevitable
Rejection is part of the creative process. It is what you do next that matters. Meryl Streep was 27 when she auditioned for the lead role in the 1976 King Kong movie. She was rejected because they said she was too ugly for the part. Imagine if she had given up because of those comments.
Rejection is a sign that you are making progress. You finished something and put it out into the world. You can’t control the outcome but you can control what you put into the equation.
It isn’t always a personal thing. Perhaps your article wasn’t what the publication was looking for. Perhaps there were so many submissions that you got lost in the crowd. In these situations it isn’t a reflection of your work, only that it didn’t conform to someone else’s arbitrary opinions.
Maybe your piece wasn’t good enough and that’s why it got rejected. The best remedy for this is to keep practising your craft so that you get better.
Not everything that you create will be “successful”
I once did a story structure course with John Truby, a Hollywood script consultant, who said that whatever happens, once your story is written you will definitely be a changed person. Nothing else is guaranteed.
One of the biggest lessons that I have learned since starting to blog three years ago is that you can’t control how your work is received, you can only control what goes into it. Therefore you have to develop what I call internal motivation, because you may never get the external affirmation which you crave.
It might take longer than you think
I am a big fan of the author and coach, Michael Neill. On one of his weekly emails I remembering him saying that one of the biggest reasons that people fail at their goals is that they don’t give it long enough.
We have an expectation that it will take a certain amount of time to accomplish our desires and if we haven’t done it by then, we have failed. I have learned the hard way that this is bullshit. Creativity has its own rhythm. You can’t control how long something will take. You can’t control what will happen at the end of it. You can only control what you put into the process.
If you build it and they don’t come — keep creating.
Keep learning. Keep producing. Keep showing up. Keep expressing your truth.
Get the The Gentle Creative Manifesto — 28 tips to help you slay your creative demons, make time to create and enjoy your creative journey.