While creating is often a solo endeavor, it’s not a lonely one.
In the case of writing a novel or poem, for instance, you start by expressing ideas and impressions that initially stay in the dark—your dark. But it’s not a lost or despairing dark. It’s more like a dark where stars are born.
In this comforting, private space your thoughts grow and take form. You let them become the light when you think they’re ready to be seen.
When it’s time to release your work from the hidden space where you toiled into the outer world of humans with eyes and preferences and opinions, there’s a great moment of tension.
The tension is where fear and excitement grapple with each other. Despite their differences, both ask what if?
When you bring your work into a public space, you inevitably render yourself vulnerable. You worry about how the work will be received, if people will hate it or criticize it or troll it. You also hope to find fans who will love and celebrate it, making all the effort and fear worthwhile.
But the worst reception, arguably, is no response at all. Indifference. Inability to reach. How do you find an audience when millions of other voices are shouting for people’s attention?
As a creative searching for attention and validation, you’ll probably find that most people are the dreaded “b” word: busy. So so so busy. (I hate that word and try not to use it when discussing my schedule!)
Anyway, it’s difficult to convince people to check something out. They’ll either choose to find the time and attention, or they won’t. And if they do choose to check out your creation, it will be on their schedule, not yours.
You may very well discover that the urgency with which you created something is met with no urgency by the outside world. This can make you feel panicked and then frustrated.
Early on it can seem like almost no one is noticing, getting back to you, or caring. Maybe a film you made has only had two showings with low attendance and no reviews afterward.
So how do you find the desire to keep going on the marketing efforts, or your career for that matter, when you’re not hearing “wow, this is really cool”?
Part of it is the management of expectations vs. reality. Try to let go of all you had hoped for and expected, and look at what’s really happening now and what you can and can’t do about it.
For example, is there momentum out there, but you’re dismissing it as not enough? Can you build on that momentum in some way? Can you also try different angles of promotion? Do you think you can take a longer view in the sense of giving your project more time to catch on?
Importantly, what have you learned from this project? How will that knowledge inform the next one? While it does truly suck to learn lessons the hard way, the experience puts you way ahead of other creators who stop creating new work at the first sign of resistance.
Marketing something you made and receiving silence or a “no” can make you want to crawl into a cave, to go back to the darkness.
While you should continue to make marketing efforts—which can be slow and steady rather than your all-consuming focus—it’s also a good time to return to the dark fabric of creation and let it enfold you again.
One, you have to learn to work through these difficult periods. Two, the raw emotions you’re feeling could be good creative fodder. Three, by the time you’ve made serious progress on the next project, you might get the feedback you wanted that the last book or film or whatever was cool. It might have started to catch on in a noticeable way by then.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”—Judy Garland
Although it’s hard to find the mental wherewithal to do this, delving into a new project while giving the last project time to breathe and find an audience can help you and your work hit a stride.
You can’t push urgency, and you just frustrate yourself when you try. Don’t let the seeming silence get you down; there’s more stirring out there than you may realize. People need time to hear about your work, find it, and try it.
Keep promoting, but do it in a way that suits you and matches your style. You might stall at one point or multiple points due to self-doubt and frustration. That is completely understandable and to be expected. But don’t stay stuck there.
Your voice, in time, will be heard.