I would like to discuss something that I am pretty sure happens to all of us who put our hearts into our art… we get discouraged for whatever reason along our creative journey. I know it has happened to me over the years, and I know I haven’t always handled it so nicely. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better about NOT letting setbacks discourage me, and here is why.
Let me start by letting you know the “old, or younger” me. The younger me had the passion and fire to forge through anything with a headstrong way that wasn’t always the smartest. I suppose I could easily chalk it up to my youthful ignorance, but if I left it at that I wouldn’t have had the ability to learn from my youthful mistakes would I? I always believed in myself, especially when it came to my art as I always poured 110% of my heart into each image I took. Back then I was always looking towards others as a fulcrum for how good my photographs were, and if I didn’t get the acceptance I was expecting then I would go on an internal emotional downward spiral. I would throw up walls around myself and use that hurt to push harder. Now using the pain from rejection is a useful motivational tool as any phycologist will attest to, but letting that pain bring me down the way it did wasn’t always healthy.
Move forward to 2017 to a much older and wiser man who has gone through a lot since then. I had the opportunity to take part in a local Arts & Crafts show in my neighborhood. My wife and I moved into the neighborhood in May of this year, so we didn’t take part in the show last year, but the show was advertised as a “wonderful success last year”. So after discussing it with my wife we felt that making some calendars would be a great way to showcase some of my work and get our name out in the community as well as offer a nice gift that people would want for their homes or offices. So I decided that I would go “all in” and have 100 calendars printed, the cost wasn’t too much more than having 50 printed so it made sense that IF people liked them we would have enough on hand. Unfortunately the show wasn’t as we expected and we didn’t sell a single calendar that day.
When my wife and I got home that afternoon she asked how I was doing, and I explained to her that even though everyone who stopped by our table had nothing but wonderful things to say about the calendars and the large print we had done I was still hurt because we didn’t sell anything. Though this hurt was different because it wasn’t my ego that was bruised, it was my wallet. I explained to my lovely wife that I felt bad because I had invested too much money in this. She told me that she was upset, but that she believed in me and she too thought we were doing the right thing.
Now here is where I knew I had matured as an artist… instead of just wanting to throw the calendars away out of anger, I instead came up with ways to try to sell them around town. I went to one of local markets that sells knick knacks and pitched them there, the owner wasn’t interested at ‘this time’ which I didn’t let discourage me either. I then went online and put them up for sale there. I made a few sales, but not nearly enough to justify the cost. One of the sales hopefully will turn into another side photography job as this person owns their own company and is looking for a photographer for some marketing images. I then had a brainstorm, why don’t I donate the extra calendars to charity? I knew of one lady who is always trying to raise money for charities of Breast Cancer and such. So I donated some to her, and then I donated some to our local church so they could raise some money. By going the charity route I not only am helping those who can use it, I am also getting our name out into the community in a positive way. This is the “paying it forward” approach IMO, and that approach is wonderfully warming to my creative soul.
I am reminded that richness isn’t always rewarded in money, and that I am not going to let things bring me down. Oh, a few lessons I learned of Arts & Crafts Shows by this experience are as follows; #1 Be sure of your audience before you go. #2 Calendars have a limited shelf life, so if they don’t sell you’d better have a good backup plan. #3 Prints have a much better shelf life because you can always try to sell them in future shows. #4 Be sure of PROOFING your edits, I almost had 100 2018 calendars printed 2017 on the cover. Whoops! #5 Having a loving and supporting spouse/loved ones always makes things better.