I just read a very insightful journal entry by DanielMartin about “Writing and making things that come from the heart that maybe no body will like or things that lots of people will enjoy which is cheap and crappy but earns you more money?”

I wanted to write him a comment and found that I had more to say about it than I originally thought (and I hope this is helpful to all). Thank you, Daniel, for such a thought invoking query! Here is my response:

I find that wiritng form the heart means “being true to one’s heart” and, thusly, true to one’s self. There are a lot of artists out there who create only for profit because money makes the world go round. And, sometimes, rightly so. I know and have lived through and seen the cost of “Bohemian lifestyles” and what a toll it takes on one’s life and the lives of those who care about them in order for one to be “All about the art” and live and breathe “Only art from the heart” (shoot, I am living that life right now at this moment…and it is bittersweet). I have battled with this concept as well and will admit that I have thought about just giving in and producing what will make the most money. But, I haven’t…yet.

I have always just produced what I liked and hoped others would like it too. I too have felt that some pieces were unpopular and that popular pieces are those that “sell out” because the artist/author is pandering to the masses and not being true to their own voice. But, maybe some of those creatives aren’t always “selling out”; maybe, they have just figured out the formula and have solved a very simple/complex equation.

Lately, I have been trying to find a certain place in my work: producing what I like and what is from the heart and, at the same time, making it what people want (and by “want”, I mean “buy”). I am slowly beginning to learn that what people want is actually to buy something from someone who believes so much so in their own work that others have no alternative but to see it as if it has come from their own hearts as well, and thusly want to buy it.

What peope want is passion – passion for the creation process, passion for the sales process, and passion for the way the peice speaks to the world (or what it says about that world). A photo is just a photo, a poem is just a poem, a graphic is just a graphic, until someone (meaning us creatives) shapes and molds it, and gives it meaning and purpose. Every piece we produce should evoke some sort of human emotion (other than boredom). If a piece makes someone happy…or sad…or enraged…or inspired…or ready to fight for a cause…or…you get the point… Then, we have done our jobs as creatives. It is when we get no response that we have failed (this does not literally mean “no response in our comments sections”, but rather if the peice evoked no inner response from the viewer/reader).

This is why it is so important for us creatives to offer constructive feedback and honest responses to our fellow creative comrades. To comment on someone’s work with “Excellent” or “Wow” or “Lovely” (you get the idea), might actually do us all more harm than good. Think about it. These words are filler words. I, myself, have been guilty of using them from time to time when in a rush. But they are just adjectives and they do nothing to show the workings of the inner self. Some of the best comments a creative can receive (and, I am sure most of you can attest to this) are those that give some insight into how the piece affected the viewer.

For example, these are some comments I have received which exemplify my point. I first must say, that I appreciate ANY and ALL comments on my work, even constructive criticisms. These are not necessarily my most favorite comments (though some of them very well may be), however, I randomly selected them because I feel they illustrate my above point and are very good examples:

Now, I did not mean to leave anyone out, so please do not be offended if your comment is not shown here as an example. There are just so many comments and these just popped up at me as ones that would help to make my point. If you notice, they all share a common thread: they let the creator of the piece know how their pieced affected that particular viewer. And, for an artist/writer, knowing how a piece affects another human being is worth its weight in gold. So, take this into consideration the next time you leave someone comments. I know I will try to. I am not saying to not leave the standard “Awesome” or “Excellent”, but maybe follow that up with a few words about how the piece made you feel or react. It only takes another few seconds from your busy life, but gives a world of knowledge to the person for whom you are leaving the comment. Ask yourself:

  • How did this piece make me feel/react?
  • Is the comment telling/showing how this piece made me feel/react?
  • Am I leaving this particular comment because I have nothing else to say about it?
  • Is my comment truly constructive?
  • How will this comment help the creator of the piece?
  • Am I being honest? Or, am I using filler to hide the fact that the piece caused an emotion in me that I think is not too positive (i.e. scared, afraid, creeped out, angry, enraged, turned off, sick to your stomach, etc.). [If this is the case, you can always send a private message to the creator of the piece letting them know how you feel. Remeber, there is always a way to express a negative emotion in a positive way.]

So, why did I go off on this tangent about leaving comments? Because, your simple act of leaving a comment can help that artist/writer to discover what it is about their work that makes others tick. Is their work inspirational? Does it scare the viewer? Is it shocking? Does it induce fond memories? Does it convey the original emotions/feelings the artist originally intended on delivering?

How are we supposed to know these things unless we tell each other? And, most of us here are creative types, so why not use each other as tools? After all, one of the best tools of our trade is feedback. And, as artists and writers, we can take that feedback and learn to solve that ever popular equation:

What we love + What they want = Art that does not fail

What I mean by “art that does not fail”, is art that is both from the heart & soul and that also touches the hearts and souls of others. Creative pieces should accomplish both of those tasks. And keep in mind

  • If a few people think a piece is boring or it evokes no inner response…choc it up to a difference in taste
  • If A LOT of people (especially people whose opinions you highly value) think it is boring or that it evokes no inner response…try looking at your work from outside your own box and getting honest, helpful criticisms (and appreciate those criticisms, which so many of us tend NOT to do).
  • If you’re piece evokes less-positive responses, ask yourself if that was your intent. Did you mean for the peice to scare people? Were they suppsoed to get grossed out, or offended, or angered? If the piece upset someone or caused them to loathe what you created. Ask yourself “why?” Because, if that was the intent of your piece…then a job wll done!
  • Re-examine your work often and update it (especially if it has had no response).
  • First recognize how that work makes you feel/react and then ask people if it does the same for them; if not, re-examine it and try again.
  • Ask yourself if your piece contains personal reflections that no other person, except those involved, would “get”? If so, try to re-imagine the piece so that anyone, anywhere, and at anytime can be involved with your piece and understand its meaning and relevenace.
  • Read/view other works of art and keep in mind what others are saying about those pieces. Remember, the best writers are readers; the best artists are connoisseurs.
  • Remember that you should be the biggest fan of your work. If you don’t love it, then how can you expect others to? If you are not “moved” by it, then how are others expected to be?
  • And, remember, we artists and writers cannot please everyone. So, don’t even try. Just please yourself…umm…that came out bad…I mean…just know that if you build it, they will come…okay, so I went from smut to cheese, but you get the point!

Artists. Writers. Photographers. Illustrators. Poets. Sculpturers. Designers. Architects. Songwriters. Graphic Artists. Webmasters. Screenwritiers. Painters. Chefs. Sketchers. Filmmakers. Assemblers. Decorators. Bakers. Playwrights. Crafters. Creators. And, “Smiths” of all kinds… The equation is OURS to solve.

Anybody got a calculator?

© Copyright Brian Jaime and bchrsidesigns, 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Note: I am posting this to ALL of my groups as it is about art/writing in general and I hope all of my fellow creative comrades will be inspired by it. Cheers! ~ b.chris

Note: This update originally appeared in the BCD Red Bubble Journal.