Stop trying so hard to impress others. Stop looking to everyone else for inspiration. The most fulfilling art you’ll ever create comes from your essential core, and isn’t just a regurgitation of what everyone else is doing.
The only way to do that is step away from all your influences and spend some time alone, focussing on your obsessions. Forget about what gets shared on Facebook and how many likes you get on Instagram. Honestly, who cares about that shit?
The pressure to conform now is greater than ever. Everywhere you look, you see people being “rewarded” (liked, followed, validated) for embracing the conventional, the expected, the predictable cliches. This provides us with overwhelming temptation to fall in line, mimic, imitate. It takes a very special kind of person to do something different, to loudly declare their own individual preferences, to take a left when everyone else is going right. And those are the kinds of people I want to be friends with: people who do it their own way, and damn what conventional wisdom might dictate.
In a lot of ways, creating art is more “safe” these days. You can test out a little piece of something — writing, art, a project, an idea — on social media and see what the response is before you commit to it fully. I’ve been thinking lately about my favourite authors of the past — Charles Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, Roald Dahl — and how different their work might have been if they were alive today. With constant feedback and critique, it’s difficult to keep producing something that doesn’t get dozens of likes, and the flip-side is just as destructive. When you see that something is “working”, the desire to continue churning out the same old dross is irresistible. I can’t help but think that thanks to the internet, a lot of artists who receive a negative — or even lukewarm — response will simply stop creating, or slice the edges off their work until it becomes palatable for mass consumption. When that happens, we all lose.
Plugging into your weirdness in a real way will help you to create a life that feels truly fulfilling for you. Embrace your quirks and follow your impulses. Pour your energy into that thing that the people around you don’t “get”. Do it for YOURSELF. Turn up the volume on what you love and what feels unique to you.
Popularity comes and goes. Having a million Instagram followers and a bereft soul feels like shit.
Strive to make your real life so much more beautiful than your Instagram feed. The most divine experiences don’t make the best Kodak moments. Real vulnerability, artistry, spontaneity and adventure don’t always fit into a perfectly square image. Stop obsessing over how to make everything in your house Instagrammable, and instead devote energy and attention to your real life: the people in it, the projects that excite you, and those blissful moments that feel wonderful for no reason at all.