Being Appreciated as a Creator

If you’re a creative artist, how important is it for your work to be appreciated by the people you serve?

I’d say that it’s pretty important to be appreciated as an artist. This isn’t about needing validation from other people. This is about serving people who will receive your work with gratitude.

If you are appreciated, it’s probably because you’re providing something of value to people, something that resonates with them and that they care about. You’ve earned that appreciation. I don’t think this needs to be your main reason for creating art, but it’s healthy to incorporate this into your big picture mindset of your life of an artist. When you create and share your art, you’re inviting people to experience and appreciate what you’re sharing. So can you allow yourself to be appreciated?

If someone doesn’t appreciate my work, what sense would it make for them to visit my website or to enroll in my courses? What sense would it make for me to try to serve them? It doesn’t make sense to serve people who don’t appreciate your work. So focus your attention as an artist on people who WILL appreciate your work. Think of your audience as consistent only of the appreciative people.

Remember that you aren’t creating for everyone. You’re just creating for the appreciative people. That’s one reason you needn’t worry about critics. If a critic shows up, and they don’t appreciate your work, then clearly they’re lost. The critic showed up where they don’t belong. So you can simply nudge them out, or direct them to something they may actually appreciate.

It may take some time to calibrate yourself to the right audience, but you want to keep investing where the appreciation is. If you aren’t building an audience of appreciative people, then you’re building an audience of unappreciative people? What sense does that make?

For me appreciation is a given. If my work isn’t appreciated by someone, then that person isn’t in my audience. Maybe they’re lost and need directions elsewhere.

It’s certainly in my mind, for instance, that I’m creating the new Amplify course for the people who will appreciate it. This course is for creative people who want to be more productive since those people are very likely to appreciate how the course will help them. For those that wouldn’t appreciate it, it’s not for them.

I don’t create just to create. I always create for people, often for people that I’ve met. When I wrote my very first article five years before I started blogging, it was for a specific audience. I wrote that article for a software trade association that I was a member of, and the article was published in their newsletter. I didn’t write an article into a void and hope someone out there would read it. I’ve always written articles for real human beings that I felt would appreciate reading what I wrote.

When I started my blog in 2004, I already had a small audience for it because I’d been writing articles on the side for the five previous years. So I started my blog to share more with the people I was already writing for. The audience grew a lot from there, but I didn’t start a blog with zero readers. What would be the point in creating for no one in particular, hoping that someday people might show up? I think I would have found that demotivating.

What if you have no audience? Yeah, don’t do that. Always have an audience, even it’s just one person.

With my computer games business, I had no audience to start with before I wrote my first game, right? Wrong. My first audience was just a handful of people. This included my girlfriend, my sister, and a few friends that I’d invite to my apartment to playtest the games I was writing.

Whenever I tried to create something with no audience of real people in mind, that project would never see the light of day. That was a fantastically reliable recipe for failure.

As tempting as it can be for creative artists who are first starting out, I encourage you to drop this idea of creating into a void and hoping to find an audience later. Find your starting audience before you create anything. A one-person audience is totally fine – plenty of room to grow.

I’ll also say that the audience is more important than the projects. Serve the people who will appreciate your work, and they can encourage and support you across many different projects. They can send such an avalanche of help your way if you serve them personally. I’m still serving some people who’ve been reading my work since 1999. They appreciate me, and I appreciate them. Our long-term, trust-based relationship is way more important than any one project.

If I want a project to succeed, I know I must create it for real human beings from the start. And if I begin with this intention, my creative work will also end up serving people I didn’t know and wasn’t thinking about at the time, so the appreciation and support will grow.

Sometimes I write articles with just one person in mind. Sometimes I write articles with certain types of people in mind – still including real people that I know. On rare occasions I’ll write an article with myself as the audience in mind, but usually I reserve that kind of writing for private journaling. But the intended audience always consists of at least one real human being.

What’s definition of art? Here’s one:

art: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

Note the phrase “producing works to be appreciated.” That implies that the work must be created for someone to appreciate.

So if you’re not creating work to be appreciated, are you still creating art? Nah. I don’t know what you’re creating, but it isn’t art. Art is social. Art is created for people to appreciate.

Now that doesn’t have to be the only reason for creating. You can create for a wide variety of reasons, but consider that appreciation had better be one of those reasons.

I think we can also grant you a pretty wide latitude for what you consider to be appreciation. You can create art that challenges people, that upsets people, that makes people curse aloud, and yet on some level they may still appreciate those experiences. Even for work you consider deplorable, there’s a good chance that someone actually appreciates it. So this really isn’t a very difficult standard to meet. If you simply bother to aim for it, you’ll probably meet this standard fairly easily.

But if there’s zero appreciation, then I don’t think you can claim that you’ve created art. And that usually stems from a failure to include appreciation (on a personal level, as felt by a real human being) as part of your original intention.

Don’t think that it’s vain to create for appreciation. Think instead that it’s lame and pointless to create for no appreciation. If no one appreciates what you’re creating, then you are indeed just wasting your time. But an easy way to avoid that is to create with appreciation in mind. Make appreciation part of your intention for creating. If you do that, you’ll probably receive plenty of it.

I hope you appreciated this article. I wrote it for you. 😉