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The Creator Dilemma
Which one are you: A creator or an artist?
Last week, I stumbled upon this question on a comic forum: “Are you an artist or a creator?” Most people didn’t have a very clear idea, but someone answered, “Neither, I'm just a dude who makes comics because I can.”
A cool dude!
Around the same time, my inbox was flooded with feedback and opinions from friends and the audience. Among those comments, these three made me think:
I have no followers, so people won’t listen to me.
I’m afraid that someone might steal my ideas.
I’m a professional, and I will not give away my skills and ideas for free on social media.
These reminded me that the question of “artist or creator” is real. I was also thinking that this type of self-doubt and confusion probably belongs to people like me, with a more traditional background in the artistic world, where the status hierarchy is so strong that it seems almost impossible to escape its pressure.
In contrast, digital creators (cool dudes?) never seem to have any doubts about their own ability or about whether what they are doing is prestigious or professional enough.
That’s how 24-year-old Bella McFadden from Ottawa, with zero connection and experience, defeated all of the gatekeepers in the fashion industry and hit more than 1 million dollars in online sales.
Less than one decade ago, she had gone to design school, worked for another fashion house, or networked with the right people in order to break into the industry.
The world has changed.
So, why does getting into this game still seem scary to experienced creatives and more established artists?
Because being a beginner is not easy. Because it is impossible to get better at a NEW game and appear professional at the same time. It's difficult to start with only a few audience members and seem like you know what you are doing. A great deal of self-discipline is needed to play a game where nobody cares about status and there are no prestigious prizes or red carpets!
So here are promises of the creator/passion economy for beginners:
No professional offer
No normal path
You might ask, “Hey Reza, you are basically advising us to forget about being a credentialed artist and embark upon a shitty experimental journey?”
THIS... This nasty question (which I'm not immune to, either) is what I call “the creator's dilemma.”
Those who are able to get past it shall bypass gatekeepers, create their own empires, and buy their future freedom.
In conclusion, let me share some practical ideas to help you get (a little bit) rid of your traditional artistic self!
Artist or creator? My answer: Don’t worry about labels. Combine your love of art with the new, non-written rules of digital media, and make a super explosion of craziness! The new economy will reward those who have an experimental attitude and are not afraid of mixing their skills to create a new market and a unique audience. Experiment, mix, and have fun!
Try not to distinguish between “high” and “low” forms. This is another trick from the game of status. Look at your music playlists: Isn’t Johann Sebastian Bach playing after Radiohead? We need the same attitude toward new careers and mediums: a simple meme can be as expressive as a classical painting.
I will leave you with this quote from the entrepreneur Paul Graham:
"You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind… So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.”
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