Here’s how the internet works, in case you’ve been asleep for the last decade: the best things get seen. The funniest gifs, the most inspirational quotes, the best artwork, the most hilarious jokes, the most beautiful people, the most horrifying disasters, the most successful businessmen, the guy who retired at 25 with $50 million he made by inventing the next Snapchat, etc etc etc. The internet is a place of extremes.
When you’re constantly being shown the best of the best of the best, you naturally start to feel like what you’re doing is shit. How can you possibly expect anyone to watch your live stream painting when they can just go watch Bob Ross videos instead? Why would anyone spend 5 minutes watching your cartoon instead of spending 5 minutes of their life watching that new multi-award winning short film made by the random dude in Norway that looks like an entire team of Pixar artists spent years working on it?
The answer is, you need to stop worrying about all that crap. You need to put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Put that beautiful brain of yours to good use. Think very hard for a second: this amazing thing that you just watched, that completely blew you away with how totally amazing it was… did it just spring into existence?
One second there was nothing, and the next second some random dude is “famous” online for making something spontaneously?
No. Of course that’s not how it works, but your brain skips over the important, unstated details. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. You might never have heard of animator X before today, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t exist.
And the chances are, this thing that made him “famous” isn’t the only thing he’s ever done. With social media, we fall into this trap of comparing our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.
We think everyone else is so much more talented than us but what we don’t realize is that maybe we just started doing our art a few months ago- possibly even a few years ago- and yet we’re comparing our work to the work of people who have been doing this for 20-30 years or more and beating ourselves up for not being able to compete- that’s silly!
It’d be like a little kid comparing his stick figure crayon drawings of his family to a Frank Frazetta masterpiece and then being mad that he sucks as an artist, even though it’s the first piece of art he ever made!
Even with those dudes who “strike it big” at a young age, you can bet they started tinkering and playing around with things when they were like 13. If you start playing with computers and taking apart apps and learning how to code at 13 and then strike it big at 25 by inventing a new social media app, that isn’t luck. A little is, sure, but really it’s someone who spent 12 years of their life working towards something.
You can probably imagine how many apps, games, websites, or software programs that dude made in 12 years that didn’t instantly take off. You can imagine him pouring hours and hours into his learning, staying up late drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos while he tries to figure out why the hell that ONE DAMN LINE OF CODE keeps spitting out an error.
And suddenly he fixes the error and a new one springs up! And so he spends the next week and a half trying to figure THAT out, only to realize he’s left out a major component that would enhance the user experience, and in order to incorporate THAT code he needs to re-write the whole thing from scratch.
And so he does.
And then 12 years after he’s started doing all this stuff you read an article on Yahoo news about the youngest billionaire ever who created this app that everyone in the world uses and you get defensive and call him lucky and even think “Yeah, I coulda done that if I’d thought of it. It’s not THAT great of an idea…”
And then the next instant success appears two days later with a beloved short film. And then the next day we learn about the inspiring story of a guy who created a masterpiece of graffiti art in the projects on south side even though he had an abusive father and a drug-addicted mother. And on and on and on.
But you can bet none of those people simply appeared out of nowhere. They put in the hard work. At some point along their journey, someone noticed them. And in just a few short days, it’s likely that everyone who “discovered” them will promptly forget they ever existed as they move on with their lives and discover the next overnight sensation.
“Succeeding” at art takes time, just like anything else. You didn’t give up on trying to ride a bike after falling off the first few times, did you? Figure out what your own personal definition of success is, and write it down. Maybe the problem is you don’t know how to quantify what you want even to yourself?
Is success having 1 million followers? Is it making $65k a year doing commissions? Is it running Pixar? Getting featured on “the news”? Or is it simply finding joy in the process of creating something, having the satisfaction of finishing a challenging project, and sharing it with the world?
I have no fucking clue, man, I’m just as lost as you are. I just write this shit because it’s on my mind. Maybe you can give me some direction. Let me know what your definition of success is- I’m interested in hearing how other people feel about the social media landscape of instant success stories and how we’re forever comparing ourselves to everyone else.
I’m heading out for a hike. I’ll continue to do some deep thinking on creating for the internet while I wander through trees and other hippy shit like that.