I love to write. For me it's become a wild eyed passion these days. But as much as I appreciate having my work read and commented on, that's not the reason I write. Sometimes I pour over my keyboard just to air out the thoughts bouncing around in my head. Other times it's because I experience something or read something that inspires me. By writing it down I've now cleared the way for another few thousand thoughts to take over the empty spaces of my pea-size brain.
The best way to lose autonomy over your work is to gain an appetite for approval. Once you find your voice, the style and patterns that make up who you are as a creative, why would you compromise that by looking for approval? It's a creativity killer and the quickest path to extinction. Let's be honest, we all want a loyal following to some degree or another. Most often it grows when we're not giving it any power over our work. But then once we realize we have people's attention, the temptation is to start trying to please them by writing stuff that will have mass appeal.
One of the fastest ways to conjure up rejection is to require approval. It's like a drug that becomes a nagging little habit. The more you get, the more you'll desire. I write first for myself, then I turn it out towards the world at large and let it go. I say, create every day as if your life depended on it, then give it away. Content is king, but great content and shared rules. In fact it's priceless.
I love the idea that something I write or draw would become meaningful to someone else. That's perfect and wonderful. But I don't need you to read this. Even if you don't show up today, I will. That's the commitment I've made to myself, to use my creative gifts for the benefit of today. I have no idea what I'll be doing tomorrow no matter how many to-do lists I fill out with my name on it.
The best way to gain approval is to never require it in the first place. Do what no one else can do, what no one else can deliver... the best version of YOU. The world needs your deliberate passion, and your uncompromising voice. In fact, we're all counting it.
Cartoon by Hugh MacLeod