Being Creative When You Don't Go Viral

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the work I do and its impact. From writing, to art, to this blog—what kind of lasting imprint do they leave, if any? When I started to show my work via social media and blog about it, I admit I thought it would be easier to connect with other people, but the Internet is nothing if not saturated. We are constantly inundated with content, not to mention the additional stuff we receive via email. All in all, it can be completely overwhelming.

When realizing my work will only reach a fraction of people, and that an even smaller fraction will engage, I sort of shut down. The prolific creator I wanted to be is not the creator I am, and it felt pointless to continue if I couldn’t reach anybody. (Except you…hi there. *waves vigorously while trying not to appear creepy*)

My overactive brain desperately needed answers to this question: How do I create without the need for anyone to see it? Then I stumbled onto this gem from my hero, Austin Kleon:

Figure out what your little daily chunk of work is, and every day, no matter what, make sure it gets done. If you fail, the sun comes up tomorrow, and you get another chance. If you succeed, you’re still going to have to get up tomorrow and do something else.

The full blog post is totally worth a read, but this quote reminded me that making work to change the world is a fool’s errand. The work is not really about anyone else…it’s about me. It’s about how it impacts my life, how it improves it, how it gives me an outlet for my creativity. I also use it as a little shield against stress, anxiety, life’s ups and downs, and the onslaught of advertisements that say I’ll only be happy if I’m young, rich, and thin.

My daily chunk of work is ever-changing. Sometimes it’s writing, sometimes it’s art, sometimes it’s a blog post or dreaming about things I might do. Sometimes it’s just wandering around, seeking inspiration. Parts of it I’ll share, and parts of it I won’t.

What I do share probably won’t go viral, but for me, it is like a friendly virus that infects and spreads. Instead of sapping energy, it fuels me, giving me a sense of wonder and purpose.

In a world where we have so much access to other people, it’s easy to believe your work has to make an impact. But, in fact, it doesn’t have to do anything other than be created. We are not failures if no one ever applauds what we do—quite the opposite. We are hugely successful at being creators who express ourselves. When we do that, we’re able to shine bright. Isn’t that an amazing impact?