When I graduated college in 2002, I didn’t have a website. There was no Instagram. I didn’t even have a portfolio. Sometimes it felt like I was creating into a void.
Now we have endless ways to connect with other artists and art lovers in the online space. And yet now it feels like we’re shouting into a void. Is anyone seeing this? Does anyone care? Are these likes genuine, or are they the result of someone simply double tapping every item in their feed?
You can drive yourself crazy with these questions. I have been driving myself crazy with these questions.
In May my husband surprised me with tickets to see David Sedaris. Just minutes before we were to leave, I pulled out one of my drawings from #the100dayproject to give to David. (We are on a first name basis because he drew my butt one time – a long story that was written on my old blog, but trust me, it’s a good one.)
This idea terrified me for two reasons.
One: I was going to have to present it to him, which means I’d have to say words, and anyone who has met me personally knows that I am much better in writing than I am in person (this is why I am a writer in my day job and also why I am the only person in the world who does not have a podcast).
Two: What if he didn’t want it? Or worse – what if he didn’t care?
There’s something intimate about giving someone a thing you created – something they didn’t ask for – that is simultaneously humbling and cavalier. It’s one part “I like this enough to give it to you!” and about a million parts “I hope you like it I hope you like it I hope you like it oh god I’m going to throw up.”
Coincidentally someone in the audience that evening asked David (name drop) what he does with all the things people give him. And until that moment, I did not even think about the fact that I would not be the only person giving him something. He admitted that some things he kept, some he didn’t, and some he couldn’t, for many reasons.
David could love it and take it back home, pin it up on a cork board or frame it and hang it in his picturesque office in his Sussex home.
He could stick it in a book and lose track of it, eventually donating that book and my drawing along with it, or coming across it years later and vaguely remembering the awkward woman who couldn’t form words very well.
He could offload it to someone else down the line waiting to get their book signed.
He could trash it. (But as an art school graduate himself, I like to think he wouldn’t.)
I had no control over what happened to that drawing. It was – quite literally and figuratively – out of my hands.
And this is the lesson I am trying to embrace in my creative life. I can put my work out there, but I can’t control others’ reactions to it. At the end of the day, likes feed my ego, but they don’t help me grow as an artist.
My gift was given willingly, and with no recourse. I hope David still has the drawing. I hope he likes it. If he gave it away or trashed it, I will likely never know, and I’m okay with that.
(But he did draw a picture of my drawing in my book when he signed it.)