A long time ago (as in last year when I sold my first books) I floated on an incredible high. What a sense of accomplishment! I’d done it. People responded to my efforts and posted great reviews! Indomitable, nothing could stop my inevitable, meteoric rise. Then, I received a bad review, sales fell off for a time, and I plummeted to the depths of despair. The emotional rollercoaster continued for months. Ultimately, it leveled out as I became consumed with other projects. Now, sometimes I’m in the Amazon best seller list and sometimes I not. Like most things, book sales go up and down.
So why am I writing this?
Obsessed with my new endeavor, I find myself struggling to resist the same kind of emotional response, even though I know better. As a young sculptor, I took the same ride. Every time a gallery rejected me, I took it personally. When accepted, euphoria exhausted me. Over time, as my confidence and knowledge grew, I understood the business and didn’t respond to every tidal shift. Instead, I focused on long-term goals and appreciated both failure and success, learning from each. The business, separate from the creative process, requires levelheaded optimism and practicality.
As a creative, is this possible?
Artists, writers, and musicians often find themselves riding the emotional rollercoaster. For many of us, our creations are not a product. They are our children. We gestated, agonized, and suffered through birth. Our works are living things and have the potential to change, if not the world, at least a life or two. They are not Tupperware containers or tires. It is painful to envision them as mundane products for commercial consumption. In reality, once we’ve finished them, that is what they become.
Now comes the didactic voice and a short plug
In Shaping Destiny, I wrote this: “We need to think about placement. Is this an indoor work or outdoor work? Will it require a base or pedestal? Does our sculpture need space around it, or will it dialog well with other objects close by? We need to take it out of the context of its origin and examine it in other environments so that we get a sense of what it will become after it leaves our hands.” In other words, the work is a product, even while it is a living thing. It cannot grow, evolve, or impact its audience when our obsession causes us to lose sight of the long term goals.
Teacher becomes student
I knew this, then. Now I find myself struggling to embrace it again. In a recent blog post, I spoke of the similarities between good leaders and artists. We are entrepreneurs and our greatest strengths are also our weaknesses. The same tendencies that drive us to create can lead to our downfall. If we are to be successful, we must pay attention to what drives our failures and successes. Recently, I enjoyed an article in Inc. that examined the 5 reasons leaders fail. It described my current obsession with my new novel and reminded me to slow down, take a deep breath, and pay attention to the business while I hold my vision of what I want the novel to be. The awareness is calming.
How about you? What is your experience with rollercoaster? How do you manage the ups and downs of your passion? Use the comment section to share your voice.