I want to talk about something I’ve been thinking a lot about this week, namely: perceptions of reality. You know, something light and airy. 😉
Seriously though, as writers and creative-types we are often so intimately oriented with our own work that we have trouble articulating why someone else should care about it. Okay, maybe you’ve never felt this way. But I know I have.
Maybe you’ve feel like the inherent virtue of your art should be obvious—I mean you love it! Everyone should! Or maybe you can’t even imagine how someone could appreciate our work. You like it, but you can’t help but see the flaws. Or maybe you think that you’re the only one who would like this kind of thing.
Or maybe—and this kind of thinking is even more insidious—you think that it can’t be both True Art and commercially viable.
In any of these scenarios, there’s a problem of perception. Whether we think highly of our work, find it always lacking, or wrestle with making True Art while trying to pay the bills—we’re focused on our own reality. We’re looking down at our own work in our own little bubble-world, trying to find a solution there, meanwhile the real solution doesn’t live there. It’s out there in the world, where we aren’t looking.
Introspection is important; and I would argue that it’s essential to understanding why your work is valuable. But sometimes we need to burst our own bubbles and try to step into another’s perception bubble so we can gain insight.
One of the biggest challenges I see writers and creatives face is how to get people to buy-in to what they are creating.
Where the Answer Isn’t
Much of the time, I think we’re looking for a formula or tip or trick to connect with a larger audience. Like if only our Instagram was better, or we did live videos on Facebook, or whatever, that would be the missing key to stardom.
I don’t think the answer lies in formulas. That’s not to say that you can’t learn how to be a better Instagramer, or utilize effective tools to get out there in front of the right people. It just means maybe we’d gain a whole lot more insight by understanding how our ideal market thinks and sees the world.
How Different We Can Be
My ex-husband was a philosopher and when we were still together a loooong time ago, he studied philosophy at Berkeley. Over many a family dinner, and the subsequent wiping off of our toddlers faces and sweeping up of floors after they ate like adorable human tornadoes, we often discussed existential conundrums and the very nature of reality itself.
To him—and let’s face it, if you take philosophy studies to their logical end points—there is no such thing as an objective reality. This eventually led him to a more nihilistic and hedonistic life-in-practice.
My ex was and likely remains—I’m sure he’d admit—a man of extremes. But I will say this, he lived what he believed, for better or worse (mostly worse—you’ll understand when my memoir is finished, haha). This was one of the things that initially most attracted me to him, but ultimately one of the things that tore us apart. Without sounding like a complete ex-basher, it seemed to me that he felt his perception of reality (and the lack there of) was Truth, even though that according to him also did not exist.
And of course, I thought that my perception of reality was the more correct one. As a young stay-at-home mom of two toddlers, my reality of stuffed animals, runny noses, dirty diapers, park play-dates, and laundry looked very different than his reality of graduate school classes, commutes listening to audio books, and late night study sessions.
I had no use for reality as a philosophical construct, I was living it in the scrubbing of the bathtub, in the soft cuddles with my babies’s sweet little bodies, in the changing of diapers that smelled like garbage burritos, and in the giant, beautiful eyes of my children that looked at me each day with pure love and expectation to give them the very best of myself. I was living in the world of the visceral, corporeal, and sometimes even somatic.
As much as I don’t want to drag my ex into anything, I tell you this snippet from my life because I want to acknowledge how different two perspectives can be—even in a relationship between two people who live in the same home.
And when two very disparate perspectives are not bridged, relationships can be torn apart, art doesn’t get appreciated, and megalomaniacs can get elected to office.
Okay, okay I’ll get back on track…but you get what I mean.
Balancing Perspectives and Who You Want to Be Around
The older I get the more I realize I don’t want to waste my time with people who are at odds with my core values. Maybe that’s an asshole thing to say, but it’s what I feel. And yet, I also see this deeply divided America (and world) and try to figure out ways to reach out and heal our communities, and understand each other better, without compromising my own values.
When it comes to our art, our work, our business, I think there’s definitely virtue and even a call in trying to connect with new audiences, but I think it’s often more helpful to start with the people you really want to work with, or help.
In other words, I believe our time is better spent working to connect with the kinds of people we want to work with or be around, rather than trying to appeal to everyone.
How to Get People to Care About Your Art
As an artist, if you/we want to get people to care about your art, you must do the hard work of stepping outside of your own perspective bubble and consider what it’s like to live in another body, another life. I think this kind of experimentation isn’t just useful for helping us connect more effectively with our ideal customers and readers, but for our own edification as human beings, as well. It’s not always an easy thing to do, however.
If you’re interested in thinking and learning more about this idea of working to understand other’s perceptions of reality I encourage you to check out these two episodes of NPR’s Invisibilia podcast. As ever, your perception of reality will expand simply by listening, but there are also some valuable ideas on how to step out of your own narrow rut of thinking in order to see what others might see. The more we understand how others think, the easier it will be to communicate the value of our art/work.
If you really believe in the power and/or value of your work, I encourage you to find ways to help others see what you do. But paradoxically of course, being able to do that requires standing in their shoes, and attempting to shed your own perceptions enough to view at least some of how they perceive the world.
And here’s the thing, it’s never like you’ve arrived and now understand everything about how others perceive the world. But the more we make an attempt to understand what it’s like to live in someone else’s skin, the more we become better humans.
We become more compassionate, understanding beings who create better, more insightful, powerful ‘doings.’
If you’re having trouble connecting your work with the right customers or fans, I’m here to help. Of course, there are plenty of free resources here on my blog and site (and email list), but if you feel like you could use some one-on-one time to work through this challenge, I offer both à la carte one-on-one consultations, and longer-term one-on-one consulting where I can help you discover new ways to break through the confusion and start reaching your amazing audience, right where they are.