Today, I want to continue our discussion about taking feedback. Specifically, I want to talk about detachment and how useful it can be as an artist.
If there is a single quality that can take an artist from being an amateur to being a professional, it is detachment.
Now, when I say the word “detachment,” what might spring to mind is a monk sitting there, totally zen, disconnected from the world, just meditating in absolute peace.
That’s not what I’m talking about.
Sure, there are some hints of that—the ability to separate the mind from the circumstances—but what I’m really talking about is the ability to decouple your ego from what you have created. This sort of detachment can be surprisingly hard. After all, when we create something, we are typically pouring all of our energy, focus, heart, and soul into it. Truth be told, we often pour more than that in.
We often pour in expectation, our hopes for the future.
If you put your hopes for the future into a piece of art, then you’re going to be affected depending on how well that piece of art does. If everything you create is widely acclaimed, then you’re safe. But if it’s not—if you create something that, for some reason outside of your control, doesn’t strike the chord you were hoping—well, you’re going to find yourself sorely disappointed and there won’t be anything you can do about it because you’ve already given over that piece of yourself to the art. You are now at the mercy of whatever the public’s reaction to that art is.
So, this is the kind of detachment that I’m talking about: detaching your hopes and dreams from the thing that you’re creating.
Detachment does a few things. It allows us to make good decisions. It’s often hard to make a decision when your emotions are invested in something. And it’s even harder to make a decision when your expectation and your hope is invested in that thing. So, detachment gives you the ability to step back and assess a situation as if the individual involved wasn’t you. That’s incredibly helpful on the business side because it allows you to make the right move without worrying about your art.
In fact, this is why in the traditional publishing model, the people who make the business decisions are not the writer. People understood very early on that a writer is going to make decisions based on how they feel about the thing they’ve written, not based on objective metrics like, “How well does this genre perform in the general market?” so those roles were traditionally split up.
In our modern day, they’re not. The thing about self-publishing is that you’re not only the author, but you’re also the publisher and the agent. You have to make the business decisions about this thing that you’ve written, and it can be really hard to make good decisions if you don’t have that ability to detach.
Even when you’re in the traditional model, it’s very rare today as an author that you’re completely disconnected from what’s going on. The reason is because publishing companies have realized the importance of marketing and they are now marketing the author as the product as opposed to just the story as the product. When that happens, you are naturally going to get involved with more of the business decisions. You’re going to have to make those objective judgments without allowing your emotions, your hopes, your dreams to interfere with that decision.
Being able to detach also helps you “kill your darlings.” This is a piece of advice that young authors hear a lot, and it just means remove the things from your manuscript that you think are the best, but are not actually helping your story. Objectivity helps you make good creative decisions as well as good business decisions.
The last thing that I want to highlight about detachment is that if you can detach, you will grow in your skill and craft significantly faster. Detachment allows you to properly judge whether what you’re doing is good enough or not. Invariably, you’re going to find gaps in what you’re doing and when you find those gaps, detachment allows you to say, “Awesome. I’m glad I found that gap because now I can fix it and my craft is going to get better.”
It’s really important to understand that you are not your art. You are not the thing that you have created.
If you take anything away from this video, I hope it’s this: The quality of your art does not reflect the quality of your being. There are some overlaps. It’s unavoidable because you are the person who has created the piece of art. However, your art and your being are distinct. And so no matter how good or bad your art is, it’s just a thing. It’s separate from you. It cannot continue to grow after you’ve completed it. You can.
YouTube Video Link: https://youtu.be/vj1bqyG8AWk
Thanks for reading and watching.
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