The other night I went to bed earlier than normal.
I wanted to wake up at least two hours before work so I could write this very post.
Once I publish this, either many of you will like it, or very few of you will. That's the life of an artist. When you share something, your reception is either pretty bad or pretty good.
But there was a time when I would become disappointed with myself if I shared something that didn't receive an outstanding response. I'd complain that something I wrote "only got 10 likes", making it virtually useless in my mind. Sometimes I'd be so distraught that I'd take long breaks from creating anything.
Most of us know we shouldn't let social media negatively influence our creative process, but I think few of us have actually internalized it. Especially as artists, it's incredibly difficult not to tie your self-worth to the amount of likes and shares your art receives. It feels so unfair when you pour your heart and soul into something for hours, days, weeks, or even longer, only to receive a lackluster response. As if the world is saying, "I know you've worked so hard to make this, but no one cares."
I read a wonderful quote recently by the poet Sarah Kay that resonated with me: "There's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it's sent away."
How perfectly that should describe the relationship of your art and the people you share it with. That no matter what, you promise to return each day with something you took the time to make. That, despite the risk of criticism, embarrassment, or even no response at all, you will show up and present the world with your gift anyway.
When you think of making art in this way -- when you reject the idea of validating your worth through the response of others -- suddenly you're no longer a prisoner. You're free to make your contribution to the world, with no expectation of receiving anything in return.