Just Write, Bump Reciprocity.
22 years ago, Lauryn Hill crooned, “Tell me, who I have to be to get some reciprocity,” and as much as I felt that on a cellular level, I’ve come to realize that the “matched energy” mentality hasn’t served me in my creative life.
So, the other day I found myself listening to a podcast episode by author, Jeff Goins. His podcast, The Portfolio Life, has become a staple in my podcast diet, and if you’re a creative, I strongly encourage you to check it out.
Anyways, he spit the kind of game that shakes you to your core a bit. It was my epiphany moment the way it shed light on my own creative ideology. It was game-changing intel, and I therefore felt compelled to hit the keyboard with my take on Goins’ prose.
I listened to him spout about creating art from a space of love, not reciprocity. Not for the exchange of money or fame. But from a space of “I don’t expect shit back.” His message was simply this:
Just make art from the core of you that vibrates with the urgency to create something out of nothing.
If someone resonates with your art, that’s just the cherry on top. You…
- Being in creative mode
- Completing a creative project
…is the entire cake, icing included.
Someone giving you the head nod to show their appreciation is only the topped cherry. It’s an addition, nothing that validates your art.
This in itself resonated with me deeply. I’ve been so paralyzed about putting something out because I cared entirely too much about fickle things like reactions and responses. I gave one too many fucks about consumers gawking at the vulnerable parts of me and it stopped me in my tracks.
This epiphany didn’t come alone. It lugged along with it the undeniable fact that I was the one who built the fort around myself and the writing ambitions that have haunted me since Baby could hold a pen.
I was fearful of failing. Petrified, actually.
Goins introduced a new belief that I was instantly happy to accept into my reality, no deliberation needed. He introduced the belief that I could write simply because it needed to be written, shout out to Nas.
And when I write simply because “it” needs to be written, and I excavate myself from the ruins of everyone else’s shit and ideas of who I should be and what I should do with my life, I create from an entirely different space.
I create from a space of self-exploration and wonder. And that’s not dependent on others, ya’ll.
I create because I want to, not because I need to keep the lights on or because I seek external validation.
Goins makes it a point to articulate that it’s not simply self-expression neither, it’s self-discovery. He notes that with every paint stroke or every arrangement (and rearrangement) of words on a blank page comes with it an inherent opportunity for the artist to find more of his or herself.
The self who showed up on shore free of everyone’s shoulds and coulds.
With Goins’ episode, I realized just how much art is a portal down into the rabbit hole. A dive into subconscious terrain that dares to hold space for something beyond the logics and “makes senses” of a society obsessed with practicality and man-made rules.
And with this new intel, I instantly thought about all of those artists, my favorite artists, that I’ve historically held to impossible standards.
The role of the critic shifts incredibly when you realize that art is not simply for others’ consumption. Fuck what I think, right?
And to be clear, what consumers of art think and how they perceive your work is important only to the audience or observer, not necessarily the artist. What holds value to the artist is what they gained from rebirthing themselves through typed words and pages, pastels and oil paints.
Don’t get me wrong, sharing is where inspiration breeds. It’s how people find their tribes, how like-minded folk link. It’s the landing spot where humans realize they’re not alone; it’s where people find the strength to keep going or to go for the dreams they’ve kept on the back burner. It’s where folks find it in them to speak for or against something.
There’s no denying the power of a shared experience, of publishing your art, or simply hitting that “Post” button.
It’s important to distinguish the power of shared artistic expression from the artist’s purpose for sharing. When the artist creates in order to pacify audiences or to put them at ease, the artist does us all an injustice.
The artist who creates for the people is forcing something. He’s doing what capitalists commonly refer to as hustling. Thrusting and impelling oneself to do something rather than allowing yourself to create from those inspired downloads that pop up every so often.
When the artist is in alignment, she creates from the space of “I want to see this in this world.” When she creates from enthusiasm and a love for her craft, beautiful things happen.
She gives with no expectations of receiving anything in return; giving without her hand out. Her love of creating is without conditions and stipulations.
I hope you’re still with me.
Fulfillment from creating is sourced in laboring a part of the artist’s self into this realm, and from that, the artist can view his or herself with a degree of objectivity, not to get confused with an opportunity to judge his or herself.
This is eerily similar to the dynamic seen between parents and their children. We often take advantage of the parent-child relationship, seeing it as a chance to project where we lack onto our “mini-me’s”.
But instead of seeing it as a chance to finally be in control of something for once in our lives, the parent-child relationship is more so a chance for incredible growth being that parenting is much like a having a mirror constantly held up to yourself.
Sometimes it feels like reliving your childhood through those little jawns. There’s no denying, they are you. And they provide ample opportunities to see yourself from an “objective” angle.
It’s as if you’ve morphed into Marty and all you want to do is get back to the future…or present. As if you’re reliving the past in the present. It’s like breaking the fourth wall everyday, observing yourself (the chil’ren).
How trippy life can be.
But I digress, because it’s an entire other rabbit hole we could scurry down. But that’s for another post, another time.
I say all of this just to say, when you realize that all that ever matters as a creative is that you love what you do, you break free of the world’s chains.
So, the next time Yeezy puts something out that doesn’t quite sound like The College Dropout or the next season he produces an EP full of radio-friendly beats that he poured his heart and soul into, I will simply turn that shit off.
You won’t catch me complaining or rallying against his craft. I’ll be aware that the artist can do whatever the fuck the artist wants to do. The End.