Erykah Badu said it best. “I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my sh–t.” Creating anything and putting it out for the world to consume is brave. You don’t know how hard it is until you do it.
What has often disrupted my process is the fear that nothing I do matters. I fear lack of support for my work. I struggle with the stubborn politics of who receives support and who doesn’t. It has been a thorn in my side and I’ve learned to deal. I’ve had to stop myself from getting caught up in who is and who isn’t there for me in my journey. But my fear of people overlooking me, copying me, using me, or ignoring me, paralyzed me at times. To be honest, all the above has happened. I couldn’t stop it.
And I won’t let that stop me. The sweeter side to this journey has been the wins. I’ve published articles, blogs, ran fundraisers, and organized events. And none of it was possible without the support of others. I’ve somehow always found the love from amazing people to keep me going.
My experiences as a creative taught me plenty about support. Here are my thoughts:
1. Let it come naturally
I never had to beg for anyone’s support. I’ve always had some strategy for getting people to pay attention. But the people who support me did so because they wanted. I never had to spam, shame, or force. That’s their decision and I respect it.
2. Friends and Family
Not all my friends and family understand everything I do. They have a right to consume what they like and don’t like when it comes to my work. But that doesn’t mean my ideas aren’t good and that I won’t pursue them.
Even though no. 2 is true, you should still find support in your inner circle. All I need to hear from them is, “I see what you’re doing is making you happy and I want you to keep going.” When you’re in doubt, they should be there with an encouraging word or an ear to listen. Emotional support is key.
If they express negative energy towards anything you do, then it’s time to limit conversations around your work with them. Or stop any further contact with them if you feel it’s necessary.
4. You won’t know the majority of your audience
Think of all the people you know very very well. Remember that’s only a fraction of people in the world. There are plenty more out there waiting to see, read, and experience your thing and they don’t even know it yet. But when they do meet it, they’ll be all in. They’re not going to question your value. They’ll get it. When you find them, keep delivering. Think of them.
5. Ask for help. Seek help.
You never know until you ask who will show up for you, connect you to someone, or put in a good word for you. Also it’s okay not to be an expert in everything. Nothing wrong with hiring help for any aspect of your life, career, or business that needs watering.
6. Momentum for support comes when…
When you’re excited about what you do. And there is quality to your work. And there is a genuine spirit to your work.
7. Privilege is a thing…
This is major. Classism, racism, sexism, ableism, colorism, and beauty politics. They determine who gets more opportunity, support, and attention versus who doesn’t. These factors also control who gets harassed for being themselves. It is hard to pushback against this when you’re on the receiving end of marginalization as a creative.
What I will say is this: you still have a gift and I hope you find a way to share while taking care of yourself at the sametime. What’s helped me is reading the texts of those who are like me and finding out how they deal. Find out how they keep it going. I’m not an expert on mental health so I can’t tell anyone how to cope.
Society misses out on so much innovation when people feel give up because they are knocked down because of their identity. For those who do break through, there is an idea that you have to work twice as hard. It shouldn’t be that way, which is why it is important to make space for others when you do make it so they have a shot too.
8. Focus on those who support you
You know who suffers when you lose sight of that? Your readers, your viewers, your students, your listeners, your fans. Because they want to be there and engage but you’re worried about those who don’t want to. This is something I have to constantly remind myself.
9. Are “likes” support?
I go back and forth in my mind about this. In the social media era, “likes” are votes. So if you like my post, retweet it, or share it, yes that is helping me build visibility and prove impact on some level. But this is a basic form of support and doesn’t always translate into them joining your community.
What matters more to me are those who engage with my work and leave constructive and honest feedback about it. I’ve received some sweet e-mails over the years that have kept me going when I had doubts.
Purchasing, donating, signing up, and showing up to attend an event, or volunteering labor towards the work I do is the most valuable form of support I could ever ask for.
10. Supporting others
Simple. Show up for others too. Support is give and take.
11. Support IS NOT demanding my labor
Trudy, a phenomenal writer and thinker, breaks down this phenomenon in a piece called “I Rarely Trust People That Say That I “Inspire” Them.” Her work has taught me about the exploitation many independent Black women creatives are pre-disposed to on-line.
“I rarely trust people that say that I “inspire” them,” Trudy writes. “I wish that this “inspiration” was rooted in kindness, not greed, envy and/or exploitation. So many people are “inspired.” So few people are ethical, honest and kind. I wish that these people thought of my labor as valuable enough to be paid for, cited, respected and consumed with temperance or respectfully disagreed with.”
As I’ve grown in visibility, I find people telling me how I “should” approach my work. But these individuals aren’t interested in offering up their time, money, or resources to make their requests happen. Even if they were, no one is allowed to rush along my process, especially when I’m taking time to pace myself and bring about quality.
When Aziz Ansari, creator of Master of None, was asked when he would start making Season 3 of his show, he expressed this same sentiment. “It’s just not about buying into the machine of cranking stuff out because you have to, or making stuff out [of] obligation and for the wrong reasons,” he told THR.
12. You never know who is watching
I’ve received job opportunities from people who have read my work on-line. I didn’t know they were watching. I’ve also made friends with people who found my work or I found their work. For instance, last year, I reached out to a DJ named Jyoty on Instagram. I messaged her and told her how much I loved a playlist she made and asked her for the name of a particular song. Since that convo we stayed in contact. About a year or so later, she and I had lunch when she was in town from London last week. And now I have another creative homie abroad.
All in all, you never know how what you’re creating can lead to a shot at something special down the line in business or personal.
13. Being my biggest fan
Sometimes it seems like I don’t have the support I need to get through the day or week. This leads me to overwork myself and my lifestyle becomes off-balance. I have to remind myself that the work will always be there. But I have to preserve my mind, body, and spirit. So tapping into faith and self-care helps me find stable ground.
14. Be yourself. Tell your truth.
Cardi B. The end.
15. Start small and keep building.
I went to a panel with Ava Duvernay and Questlove earlier this year. She spoke about her earliest film screenings in small towns where a few people showed up. Duvernay said she was as grateful seeing a handful of people in the room, as she is now seeing a sold-out theater. That reminded me: we all begin somewhere and it’s important to focus on the glass half-full not half-empty in this creative journey. The support will come if we stay focused on why we are creating in the first place.
16. Avoid Comparisons
I believe everything happens when it’s supposed to for every person. Comparing my support to someone else’s has only made me unhappy. People need me, the way I am. No need to copy someone else’s format of success and think I’m going to win that way.
I’m tapping into what makes me unique and running with that. And it’s okay not to know it all now.
(Photo Credit: Natelege Whaley, Woman in Lisbon)
Was this post valuable to you? Get more travel, life and creative gems here.
Have a question related to creativity or traveling? Leave a comment below or message me here!
Let’s stay connected. #BKtotheWorld.
This site currently runs with limited ads to keep the user experience of high quality for you the reader. If you are a fan of my work, consider donating to help me continue running this website and offering travel and creative gems.