The True Test1
Keep doing it and see how you feel.
Say you want to bake pies.
You could choose to bake apple or cherry or pumpkin. More than likely, you will find people who are willing to sample them.
But what if you decide to do something quite, quite different?
Maybe you want to bake pies that don’t register as pies at all. Filled with random pairings of whatever strikes you at the moment. Grass clippings and crumpled notebook pages and snips from the satin edges of baby blankets seasoned with motor oil and Saturday afternoon.
The average person will find your pies extremely unappealing. Mystifying. Even disgusting.
If you bring one to a potluck dinner, you will find it waiting for you at the end of the evening, untouched.
Sitting in your kitchen alone, you might spend hours savoring the subtleties, the complexities. But in your everyday life, as you pull pie after pie out of the oven, the universe is sending you the clear message that they stink.
Yet every time you look at one of your freshly-baked pies bursting with iron shavings and dish soap or thunderstorm and rusted bicycle parts, you feel a great sense of accomplishment. Pride. When you slice in and your fork stabs a succulent chunk of first day of school spiced to perfection, you feel the joy shooting out of your chest like a fountain.
It’s natural to want to share this, and to want others to recognize that you’ve really done something here.
It’s challenging to find people who like inedible pie.
Part of making art is developing a conviction around what you’re creating.
Deciding how much value you place on the act of creating it.
When you’re making something that you know upfront is not going to be a crowd pleaser, realistically you don’t expect everyone to appreciate it.
But underneath is still the creeping hope that somebody will get it. Or at least see how important it is to you, even if they don’t.
Depending on who you’re hanging out with, this may not be forthcoming.
If you’re committed to what you’re doing, at some point you will realize that there is just no way to justify what you are doing to most people.
That to continue trying to do so is not only futile, it’s damaging.
It keeps your soul unfulfilled.
The only solution is to reach way, way, way down inside yourself until you can unearth some kind of superhuman strength that will give you the courage to keep going.
…EVEN IF NO ONE EVER SEES THE VALUE IN WHAT YOU’RE DOING.
It has been my experience that if you can gin up the resolve to follow
your inner compass in the face of rejection, criticism and lack of understanding, and find a way to genuinely be okay with what you’re creating regardless of the response, a strange thing happens.
You begin to connect with people who do see. Who do understand.
Even more bizarre, once you decide to no longer seek approval, many of those around you who didn’t see or understand unexpectedly find a way to accept it anyway.
And even more shockingly incredible than that, it starts to not even matter anymore whether those around you see or understand.
Why should they have to? They’re them and you’re you. It doesn’t affect you at all.
You’re just doing what you’re doing, and suddenly, magically, that’s enough.
To use the words of someone I know who understands exactly what I’m talking about, “You feel like a tiger that’s been let out of the zoo.”
Makes me wonder what would happen if more people were to consider baking motor oil flavored pie.
It’s an acquired taste, but one that will definitely change the way you feel about dessert.