[ 4 min read ]
My Author Journey, Saturday, August 5, 2017
# 959 (countdown)
I took this photo today. It is not my favorite photo. My idea for this photo was different but this time I wasn't fast enough.
But I decided that I’ll share it anyway because most creatives can’t predict which of their pieces of work will be embraced by people. Or to put it another way, which of their work will go viral.
Will the photo become people's pick (the most famous photo I’ve ever taken)? I doubt it. I think it’s mediocre at best.
But before something becomes people's pick people need to care enough about my photos to take notice.
Will I be as bad at predicting which photos people will like as I am at guessing which of my blog posts will gain traction? I guess so. I don’t know why this rule shouldn’t be true of my photos. Most artists are bad at predicting people’s reactions.
Artists like Vivian Maier never ask themselves such questions because they don’t share their work. They do it because they enjoy it and because they want to create something beautiful, but they keep it for themselves.
Was Vivian Maier too shy to show her photos? Or was this it about something else?
Maybe she was just a weirdo / outcast? Or felt like one?
Maybe not caring about the conventional success, not chasing the same version of success most people in this world are chasing causes you to question your own sanity?
Like with every other aspect of our lives. Whenever we see more people picking a certain option (going in one direction, chasing after a certain goal, caring about a certain thing) we tend to assume that they can’t be wrong.
So many people can’t be wrong. If it was wrong we wouldn’t see so many people doing it. And if they are right, who is wrong? Someone must be wrong when someone else is right, most of us erroneously assume.
We end up either picking the same thing (because of this social proof - there is a history of people picking it), or feeling bad about having a different opinion / lifestyle / philosophy / goal in life etc. (also because of this social proof - there is a history of people picking it and we dared to think about something else).
Same thing that had been holding Nicolaus Copernicus back for at least 10 years from publishing his book. About 1532 he had basically completed his work on the manuscript but despite urging by his closest friends, he resisted openly publishing his views, not wishing—as he supposedly confessed—to risk the scorn to which he would expose himself on account of the novelty and incomprehensibility of his theses.
And what about those who do share but nothing happens? Or it happens very late or even too late?
Vincent van Gogh (a quintessential misunderstood genius as they call him) was 37 when he shot himself in the chest and died 30 hours later.
Wikipedia says van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime, and was considered a madman and a failure. He attained widespread critical, commercial and popular success in the 20th century.
To me to say that van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime is a misguided information. It is based on an erroneous assumption that there is only one measure of success and that van Gogh’s definition of success was identical with the definition of a conventional success and thus he couldn’t have been considered a successful person by any other measure of success.
By my own measure van Gogh was a successful person during his lifetime. The fact that someone didn’t attain widespread critical, commercial and popular success doesn’t mean he / she couldn’t have attained another version of success.
If painting was something he loved doing (and I think it was) and he did it each day for most of his life (which he did) he was a successful person.
He died as a young person. Way too soon.
Sure, he might have been pissed off that nobody wanted his paintings (too dark, and not in keeping with the bright style of Impressionism), that in his family was an artist who was “successful” (his cousin Anton Mauve), that his art was misunderstood by people.
Had he lived to be 100 years old he would have seen a massive success of his. He would have realized that his cousin’s early conventional success (whom he envied) paled in comparison with his own conventional success. He lacked patience, I guess.
To me van Gogh was a successful artist for a yet another reason. He didn’t stop. He continued to paint his paintings despite the fact that nobody wanted to buy them and he didn’t care about other people’s opinions about his style. I guess it was because he had a passion for it.
Successful artists continue to create. Isn’t it fair to say that we couldn’t marvel at his paintings today if he only had wished he could paint or if he had painted only if people had bought his paintings?
Progress on my second book. 1,5 hour of editing.
My today’s answers on Quora:
Music for this writing session:by KoKo (on soundcloud, on repeat). Then by (on soundcloud, on repeat) Then by (on spotify, on repeat). Then from The Kingdom (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (on spotify, on repeat). Then selected tracks by (on soundcloud, on repeat).