Today should be a fun day. Each year our church hosts a yard sale. Basically all the members, as well as some friends of the church being their unwanted items to our fellowship hall. We then sell the items and the proceeds go to funding various projects for the church. It’s actually fun and if you know what you’re looking for you can make some great finds. As I looked over the huge room with it’s heaping tables, I had a realization. Everything I found that I wanted is something that, for some reason or another, someone else was probably going to throw away. This shows once again that value is subjective. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…
…and I hate to say it like this, but it’s the same way with our creations. Some people will look upon it and see a treasure while others will look at it and only see trash. The task for the creative is to value their own work enough to ignore the critics and keep creating and it can be hard. After all, we love our work, or at least we should. I’m continually amazed at how many creatives seem to really dislike their own creations. I think if this is you, you’re looking at it wrong. You see I don’t think we actually dislike our work. If we did, we’d lay it aside and do something else. No what we are really struggling with is disappointment. On one side, the thing we’ve created is not as good as what we see in our heads and so we don’t like our end results. Here’s the thing, I’m not sure we are capable of creating a piece that is as good as the one we envisioned. That space between our ears is virtually unlimited, no struggles with media, no laws of nature contend with and certainly no limitations of ability. The imagination can just run wild and it can go way beyond our current skill level. Bringing that wildness into something others can see, is both the problem of the joy and the artist. Handled rightly, that disappointment can push us to greater levels of mastery and creativity. So don’t get down on yourself for your limitations, let those limitations spur you to greater levels of creativity.
On the other side are the external critics. Your work is just not their thing and sometimes they will disparage your work quite vocally. This is hard. We pour our hearts and souls into our work (and we should!) and this kind of stuff can feel very defeating. The thing is we have the choice as to whether or not we are defeated. Defeat in creativity (and many other aspects of life) can be summed up in one word, “quitting.” Do not give into that. The one calling you is bigger than your critics. If you’re work does not speak to someone, you have a decision to make. Are you going to give in and quit? Are you going to try to appease your critics by doing something that pleases them, even if it means creating work that no longer pleases you? Or are you going to forget about the people who consider your work trash and find the ones who consider it a treasure? The last choice will give you a lifetime of creative joy. The others will make you feel like trash.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Look for the audience that treasures you.