Get off the Wall And Into Your Audience’s Head

Your responsibility on your creative journey is to share it with others. And care deeply about how to share it. You might as well slap your audience in the face if you’re going to just blow out some glass work, leave it on a shelf at a studio sale or gallery space and then secretly boil when no one cares. You are ultimately declaring, “I have something enormous to say. But I’m only going to show you the answer, not the question to the answer.

So screw you for not understanding it!” If they look at your glass bowl, they’re seeing an answer. An end product to your creative point-of-view. A response to something you experienced or saw for yourself on your epic journey. And intertwined with that form of expression is all of your other life choices and experiences rolled into that answer. Into that glass.

But they have no idea what your experiences are. Or why they should care.

A documentary can layout an entire journey. It can detail what you have to say. It can show someone else, word for word and still by still, why to care. But even if you create something so thorough and profound and just throw it on a shelf waiting for someone to discover it – you might as well say “Screw you. It’s not worth telling you why you should watch it” to the world. You need an epic title. A story. A glorious photo of your work.

Or better, an evocative photo of you working on your product with your hands dirty and chipped nails. We want to see the fire touching the glass. We want to know why you created it. That you stumbled into a glass studio at 46 because you were tired of being told you would never excel at arts and to stick to finance. That you are actually afraid of fire and wanted to get over your fears to live a more freeing life. That you took a chance on a whisper of intuition.

Tell us the question. “How did going to New Zealand and getting lost in a crowd at 14 made me realize I wanted to be an artist?” or “How does this very delicate hue of this glass remind me of the lettuce curtains at my great-grandmothers house in a tiny farmhouse with a kitchen that smelled of roasted chicken and cucumber salad” or “Why I am on a journey to change your point-of-view because this specific technique of glass-blowing is rarely done and I’m tired of the old-school way of doing things.

Maybe the question is subtle. Or a series of questions. But if we can’t truly see what the point was in the first place, then we won’t care very much. If you’re throwing your stuff up on Etsy and thinking, “Well, these pictures are kind of muddied and I only have 2 things listed and have no banner or interesting copy… but the work stands for itself!” then you are again only telling us the answer. And your answer is kind of ugly and uninspired. We want sexy photos. Copy that tells a story about your product. A blog post. Anything that shows you care about something other than Product = Attention & Cash Money.

It’s really marketing… Shhhhh…. don’t tell anyone. Because as soon as you say the M word, your question becomes, “Why won’t you buy this?” instead of “How can I make you care about what I have to say?”

Webster’s online dictionary says Marketing is “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service”. Don’t. Panic. Because you sell all day, every day. You promote and sell and distribute every time you ask your friend to go to a specific indie movie because you care about the director’s point-of-view and want to support the arts. Or try the new French restaurant because you heard it makes divine duck confit with a twist and you’re tired of the usual fare from the place that acts like it’s enough to put the word Bistro in their title.

Or when you suggest a book at your book club because you heard the novelist can destroy you within the first two chapters and you want to be completely consumed and vulnerable. You sell yourself on going to the gym. Or taking up piano. Or going to see an opera. You sell yourself by looking for new sites via Twitter and searching for creative inspiration. You sell yourself by coming up with a creative strategy to quit your job. But would you just say, “Quitting my job. I’ll do it.” No. You ask questions. You figure out the why’s of your life. And the why nots. Of how you got into this disgruntled position to begin with. You set up a plan of action. You promote your services. You distribute your time by looking for new work and ways of life. And then the final product is your resignation letter and a world of confidence. Or at least confidence to jump into the fear of the abyss and unknown.

You don’t say “Screw you” to yourself. You don’t expect yourself to just buy into something without asking questions first. And when you do buy in, you’re almost always disgruntled afterward. This lack of ‘why and how’ in my journey is what lead to epic stagnation. It’s why it took me so damn long to ever get published and start working on guidebooks. I couldn’t write a query letter to save my life. Once I started writing one with meaning and revealed who I was and why they should care about what I had to say, I started finding success. I started gaining confidence and landed bigger and better projects.

I once went to a gallery opening and saw a stunning photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge I wanted to buy. I normally don’t buy city-themed art, but it was so spectacular I wanted it. But despite dozens of other artists milling around to answer questions, I couldn’t find the artist. Turned out he skipped the event. I couldn’t find his contact info. Or a business card. An electronic press kit. Or a flyer. A website. Nothing. I didn’t buy it and left feeling that he must not really care that much about his work or the people who are buying it. There are thousands of other Creatives out there doing the same thing you are. But few tell why they’re doing it. Few are successful. Look at Soniei’s journey. She’s a successful painter and has:

  • Amazing photos of her gallery of work.
  • An informative and entertaining blog that lets us know who she is.
  • A social media presence that interacts with her audience.
  • Videos that show us how she creates.
  • Vulnerability – We find out in her ‘About’ section that she longs to feed her left-brain and tap into her love of technology and is looking for IT work while she continues to create. So creatives and technology geeks can co-exist! Refreshing.

Is she so enormously successful that she can create paintings to satisfy every person on the planet to the point there is zero competition? No. Of course not. She has a following. And you can have yours. They can overlap. Or not. But if your tactic is put up a painting with your phone number at a coffee shop and wait for someone to discover you… well, you’re going to be waiting a long time. You are either:

  • Afraid
  • Obediently Following The Herd of Traditional Advice
  • Lazy
  • Entitled
  • Depressed
  • Unmotivated
  • Locked in Epic Paralysis of Indecision
  • Combination of All

Your job as a Creative is to show us the way through your journey. Ask the questions. Give us answers. Make us care. Do it through brilliant copy. Guest posts. A Meet-Up Group. Tweets. Photos that tell a story. Comments. A Documentary telling us how it was done. A Tutorial. A Guided Tour through your life. Social Media Strategy. Storytelling. Your audience doesn’t just want the end product. They want you. Show them you and watch your exposure and sales surge. Stop saying “Screw you.” Your whole self is what’s brilliant. Not the piece of static art sitting on a dusty shelf. So get off the wall. And get into your audience’s head.