Why are we so afraid to let our work evolve as we grow and evolve as people?
I’ve noticed recently that for so many artists, they find their “spot” their “niche” and then want to cling to that until the bitter end. Even though it doesn’t speak to them anymore and they feel no real connection to the work. They keep doing that work because it’s comfortable, because it’s what they think their audience wants to see. We get afraid to change because we fear disappointing those that have followed us on our journey.
I recently finished yet another re-read of the fantastic book by Terry Brooks, Sometimes the Magic Works, and he talks about his journey and how he had taken risks along the way with his writing. To paraphrase, he had been writing the world of Shannara for many years. Had built a loyal readership and audience that didn’t want him to write something new or different. They wanted more of what they loved, Shannara. But Terry had another story he wanted to tell. A definite detour from the world of Shannara. This being a fantasy tale that was set in modern day. It was what would become The Word and The Void trilogy.
I remember when these came out, I had read the likes of Dean Koontz and John Saul. These fast paced, fantasy/horror style books were fun but it certainly wasn’t Shannara to my young mind! But I still read them because I was a huge fan of Terry Brooks, even if this shift in style left me scratching my head at what he was doing.
That’s the danger of trying something different. You HOPE that your audience will stick with you and see where your new journey and direction is headed. Realistically, you also know that many will see you changing directions and drop off your bandwagon. It sucks, but it happens. We’ve all done it ourselves to the things we follow, so it’s no surprise that others will do it to you when you change directions.
Because of that, we convince ourselves NOT to follow our instincts and we stay in the little box we’ve made for ourselves. I’ve been guilty of this more than once in my life. At different points in my life I’ve absolutely made a decision to NOT share or pursue some new direction in my work. All out of fear. Would people like it? Would you guys stick with me? How will it be received?
Recently though, I’ve focused on the idea of letting my gut instinct guide me. You see, it’s not that I don’t CARE what anyone else thinks. It’s just that the value of following my heart with my work means more to me than anything. Being able to write honestly, create art with integrity, try whatever new things I feel like trying with complete transparency, THAT is what is important to me. My goal, as you know, is to #TakeActionGiveValue. I WANT to share every step of my creative journey, wherever it leads. Giving freely whatever knowledge or insight I may have gained as I go in the hope that it could be useful to even one person. But I need to take action and pursue different things in order to continue to grow as an artist as well.
That means this journey I share, the work I create, may have a lot of detours and swift direction changes. Your journey will as well. I strongly encourage you to follow them wherever they will lead.
Terry Brooks shares one thought that I really enjoy. It’s this quote:
“I might add that you change as a person as you grow older, so you change as a writer, too.” ~ Terry Brooks
To me, this applies to every one of us. ALL of us as creatives change and evolve as we get older. Our views, life experience, thoughts, and interests change. We as people are continually evolving on a personal level.
So why do we insist on trying to force our artwork to stay the same while the very core of who we are continues to change?
Why do we fight it with our art but accept it on a personal level as a human being?
- Take Mr. Brooks advice – Let your art evolve with you.
- Understand you MIGHT lose some of your audience BUT:
- Understand that is okay.
- Understand that YOU being true to YOURSELF is where the magic happens.
- Understand that you and I can’t control what anyone else will think of our work so…
- Take chances. Explore. Enjoy the adventure you are on.
- Above all else, remember WHY you create in the first place.
David (Usually Dave) Szweduik is a photographer, podcaster, and all around geek from the great state of Minnesota and can be found weekly on his podcast Adventures in Creativity. There you’ll find him having conversations fueled by curiosity around the amazing world of all things creativity.