You might be creating for a taste that doesn’t exist yet.
Early last week I was in New York doing some writing for a company that helps other companies spot cluster-fucks before said cluster-fucks become costly. It’s a bit more complicated than this but that’s all you need to know for the purpose of this writing.
The founder of the company is thirty-two years old and while I don’t know how much he’s worth, I do know that his company raised $1 billion in funding earlier this year.
He said something during our time together that I want to share with you now.
In a passing comment, he mentioned that in the first five years building his business, he’d make five sales pitches a day.
I asked him to elaborate and he said that he’d drive his tiny car through Germany and he would show up at a company and he’d try and sell them.
He’d then climb back in his car, drive to another company and do it all again. Once the sun would go down, he’d check into a hostel, get some rest and get back on the road the following morning. This was his life for the better part of five years.
This got me thinking about the relationship between “output” versus “outcome”, especially in regards to one’s life as a creative.
While at first glance an “entrepreneur” might not strike you as “creative”, if the definition of creating is bringing something into existence, I’d argue that the act of bringing an enterprise into existence is a creative one.
Let’s talk about “output” vs “outcome”.
Output is you showing up and putting on the show.
Outcome, on the other hand, is everything that takes place after the show: how many people showed up to listen, how many people applauded, how much dough you walked away with, etc.
The creative can’t hang their hat on the outcome because, for the most part, it’s completely out of their control.
And, when they do happen, good outcomes are to the creative what sex is to love. They’re invigorating, and at times euphoric, but they alone aren’t enough to sustain the creative for the long haul.
Most of the “artists” you see creating on TikTok won’t be around in a year. As soon as the applause slows so will their vigor and they’ll go on to chase the next hottest trend.
Only Fans, perhaps.
In this way, the creatives who end up making it are the ones that would do their craft regardless of whether or not the room is packed to the rafters or entirely empty.
You can spy the empty rooms early on in a creative’s life.
The entrepreneur I told you about a moment ago went five years with a company of less than ten people. Now, at the ten-year mark, they have 4,000 employees.
Charles Bukowski wrote his ass off for three decades to an audience of nobody. Then, at the age of 50, he got a few lucky breaks, was able to quit his work at the Post Office and spent the next twenty years putting out more than sixty books.
Van Gogh had his first exhibition at 32. Morgan Freeman caught his break at 52 in the movie Driving Miss Daisy. Leonard Cohen put out his first album at 33. Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn at 49.
And, perhaps the most astonishing example of late starts is the artist Bill Traylor who, at the age of 85, decided to start creating and displaying art on the streets of Montgomery, Alabama to kill time.
When he eventually passed, he had produced more than 1,000 pieces of art.
Sometimes we see the outcome of our work while we’re still alive and breathing. Other times, we don’t. All we can control is output. All we can control is doing the work despite what comes on the other side of that work.
And if this doesn’t get you going, remember that you might be creating for a taste that has not yet arrived.
Van Gogh’s Starry Night was painted in 1889, 105 years before I was born.
And, if I had the money and more power than God, I’d buy it and hang it across from my writing desk.
But, I digress.
By Cole Schafer.
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