Did you know that Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, and it was to his brother? Throughout Van Gogh’s life, his brother was his main admirer, even as the world didn’t understand, at the time, what Van Gogh had produced.
If he hadn’t created in spite of the lack of recognition, what would the world have lost?
Tim Buckley’s brilliant cover rendition of Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah, has moved listeners around the world. I’m sure you’ve heard it. Buckley only released one studio album, Grace, to mixed reviews and a small audience. But years after his tragic passing, his Hallelujah continues to be heard by millions. (Watch the haunting video below of Buckley in concert.)
In our fame-crazed culture, selling one picture, making one album, or appealing to one person doesn’t seem like much. Celebrities in every field set a high bar for the kind of audience you need to appear successful.
And what’s the point of creating, if you’ll never do it “like that.” How would you dare call yourself a writer, artist, poet, singer, doodler, cook, designer, builder or creative spirit of any kind if your work may never reach beyond the people you know?
I can get swayed by that kind of thinking. After all, top bloggers have hundreds of thousands of followers. Then I recalibrate and remember that YOU are reading this blog right now. And that’s what matters most to me.
Big numbers aren’t always the prize.
Wanting to go viral can rob us of the joy of creating. Why not create for one person—and that person could even be you? You can have a big impact that’s not connected to big numbers.
When I write poems, I don’t strive to be published (quite a feat), or recognized as a “good poet.” Untrained as I am in the art of poetry, I hesitate to call myself a poet at all, but in the spirit of Jonathan Fox who wrote Finding What You Didn’t Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity through Poem-Making, (who believes we all have poetry inside.) I write anyway.
Happily, some of my poems have been read, acknowledged and had an impact on the one person or small group they were intended for.
For example, I wrote a poem:
- For a friend when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She loved the poem, and kept it close to her.
- As an early Father’s day gift for a friend who had recently lost her Dad. She was moved to tears.
- For my Mom to let her know how much I loved and acknowledged her. (How glad I am to have done that before a stroke took away her ability to communicate.)
- For a women’s gathering, reflecting on an activity we did together; it was very appreciated.
- For my husband to reflect his goodness back to him. He keeps the poem tacked to his office wall so he can read it while he works.
When one person reads my poem and is moved, I feel like my work has been rewarded.
Sometimes I write poems that will never be read by another, because a flow of words happens to please me. The effort settles me, inspires me, and allows me to step into my role as creator.
When you look at your life, are there areas in which you are hesitating to claim your role as a creator, because it feels like others have done it better, or because you see recognition distributed to only a few celebrities? What would it take for you to start creating?
As I start working on my new book, a voice inside wonders if my work will ever be published or distributed to more than a few readers. Fortunately, a wiser, more writerly voice says, “Write anyway. Imagine your audience of one and write to influence one life.”
You are a creator, and it’s time to claim your place at the table of creatives. No one but you gets to vote on this.
You can create for one. Even if that person is you.