7. Don't turn into human spam
Shut up and listen
“When people realize they’re being listened to, they tell you things.”
-— Richard Ford
“The writing community is full of lame-o people who want to be published in journals even though they don’t read the magazines that they want to be published in,” says writer Dan Chaon. “These people deserve the rejections that they will undoubtedly receive.”
I call these people human spam.
They don’t want to pay their dues, they want their piece right here, right now. They don’t want to listen to your ideas; they want to tell you theirs.
They can’t find the time to be interested in anything other than themselves.
If you want fans, you have to be a fan first.
If you’re only pointing to your own stuff online, you’re doing it wrong. You have to be a connector.
If you want to get, you have to give. If you want to be noticed, you have to notice.
You want hearts, not eyeball
“What you want is to follow and be followed by human beings who care about issues you care about. This thing we make together. This thing is about hearts and minds, not eyeballs.”
-— Jeffrey Zeldman
It's not how many people, but the quality of people who follow you.
Don’t talk to people you don’t want to talk to, and don’t talk about stuff you don’t want to talk about.
If you want followers, be someone worth following.
“Have you tried making yourself a more interesting person?”
to be “interest-ing” is to be curious and attentive, and to practice “the continual projection of interest.” To put it more simply: If you want to be interesting, you have to be interested.
Be a good date to everybody. Look and listen. Learn how to work with other human brains.
It is actually true that life is all about “who you know.” But who you know is largely dependent on who you are and what you do.
Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.
Don’t be creepy. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t waste people’s time. Don’t ask too much. And don’t ever ever ask people to follow you. “Follow me back?” is the saddest question on the Internet.
The Vampire test
“Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.”
-— Derek Sivers
Pablo Picasso was notorious for sucking all the energy out of the people he met. His granddaughter Marina claimed that he squeezed people like one of his tubes of oil paints. You’d have a great time hanging out all day with Picasso, and then you’d go home nervous and exhausted, and Picasso would go back to his studio and paint all night, using the energy he’d sucked out of you.
If, after hanging out with someone you feel worn out and depleted, that person is a vampire. If, after hanging out with someone you still feel full of energy, that person is not a vampire.
you can apply it to jobs, hobbies, places, etc.
Identify your fellow knuckle-ballers
As you put yourself and your work out there, you will run into your fellow knuckleballers. These are your real peers—the people who share your obsessions, the people who share a similar mission to your own, the people with whom you share a mutual respect.
Do what you can to nurture your relationships with these people. Sing their praises to the universe. Invite them to collaborate. Show them work before you show anybody else. Call them on the phone and share your secrets. Keep them as close as you can.
When you pin your kind, you get yout team.
“It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others.”
—- Susan Sontag
Meet up in meetspace
“You and I will be around a lot longer than Twitter, and nothing substitutes face to face.”
—- Rob Delaney
It freaks me out a little bit how many of my very favorite people in the world came into my life as ones and zeros.
I love meeting my online friends “IRL.” (IRL = in real life.) There’s never any small talk—we know all about one another and what one another does.
8. Learn to take a punch
Let 'em take their best shot
The more people come across your work, the more criticism you’ll face. Here’s how to take punches:
Relax and breathe. Bad criticism is not the end of the world. no one has ever died from a bad review.
Strengthen your neck. The way to be able to take a punch is to practice getting hit a lot. Put out a lot of work. The more criticism you take, the more you realize it can’t hurt you.
Roll with the punches. Keep moving. Every piece of criticism is an opportunity for new work. you can control how you react to it. Sometimes when people hate something about your work, it’s fun to push that element even further. To make something they’d hate even more. Having your work hated by certain people is a badge of honor.
Protect your vulnerable areas. If you have work that is too sensitive or too close to you to be exposed to criticism, keep it hidden. But remember what writer Colin Marshall says: “Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide.” If you spend your life avoiding vulnerability, you and your work will never truly connect with other people.
Keep your balance. You have to remember that your work is something you do, not who you are.
Don't feed the trolls
The first step in evaluating feedback is sizing up who it came from. You want feedback from people who care about you and what you do.
A troll is a person who isn’t interested in improving your work, only provoking you with hateful, aggressive, or upsetting talk. You will gain nothing by engaging with these people. Don’t feed them.
Now, I have been on the Internet a long time. I get a lot of emails from people who are, as far as I can tell, sad, awful, or completely insane. I have a pretty good mental firewall that filters what I let get to me.
“Ha! Try that when you’re up at three a.m. with a crying baby!”
This woman got to me.
Because, of course, the worst troll is the one that lives in your head. It’s the voice that tells you you’re not good enough, that you suck, and that you’ll never amount to anything. It’s the voice that told me I’d never write another good word after becoming a father. It is one thing to have the troll in your brain, it is another thing to have a stranger hold a megaphone up to it and let it shout.
My wife is fond of saying, “If someone took a dump in your living room, you wouldn’t let it sit there, would you?” Nasty comments are the same—they should be scooped up and thrown in the trash.
At some point, you might consider turning off comments completely.
“There’s never a space under paintings in a gallery where someone writes their opinion,” says cartoonist Natalie Dee.
9. Sell out
Even the renaissance had to be funded
People need to eat and pay the rent. “An amateur is an artist who supports himself with outside jobs which enable him to paint,” said artist Ben Shahn. “A professional is someone whose wife works to enable him to paint.”
We all have to get over our “starving artist” romanticism and the idea that touching money inherently corrupts creativity.
Don’t be jealous when the people you like do well—celebrate their victory as if it’s your own.
Pass around the hat
Put a little virtual tip jar on your website, the equivalent of a band passing a hat during a gig.
he musician Amanda Palmer has had wild success turning her audience into patrons: After showing her work, sharing her music freely, and cultivating relationships with her fans, she asked for $100,000 from them to help record her next album. They gave her more than a million dollars.
There are certainly some strings attached to crowdfunding—when people become patrons, they feel, not altogether wrongly, that they should have some say in how their money is being used.
I try to be open about my process, connect with my audience, and ask them to support me by buying the things I’m selling.
“Your poem changed my life, man!” And John would say, “Oh, thanks. Want to buy a book? It’s five dollars.” And the guy would take the book, hand it back to John, and say, “Nah, that’s okay.”
Whether you ask for donations, crowdfund, or sell your products or services, asking for money in return for your work is a leap you want to take only when you feel confident that you’re putting work out into the world that you think is truly worth something. Don’t be afraid to charge for your work, but put a price on it that you think is fair.
Keep a mailing list
Even if you don’t have anything to sell right now, you should always be collecting email addresses from people who come across your work and want to stay in touch.
Why email? You’ll notice a pattern with technology—often the most boring and utilitarian technologies are the ones that stick around the longest.
Even though almost everybody hates it, everybody has an email address.
Make more work for yourself
“We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”
-- Walt Disney
a life of creativity is all about change—moving forward, taking chances, exploring new frontiers. “The real risk is in not changing,” said saxophonist John Coltrane. “I have to feel that I’m after something. If I make money, fine. But I’d rather be striving. It’s the striving, man, it’s that I want.”
Be ambitious. Keep yourself busy. Think bigger. Expand your audience. Don’t hobble yourself in the name of “keeping it real,” or “not selling out.” Try new things. If an opportunity comes along that will allow you to do more of the kind of work you want to do, say Yes. If an opportunity comes along that would mean more money, but less of the kind of work you want to do, say No.
Pay it foreward
When you have success, it’s important to help back people who’ve helped you get to where you are.
Extol your teachers, your mentors, your heroes, your influences, your peers, and your fans.
“The biggest problem of success is that the world conspires to stop you doing the thing that you do, because you are successful,” writes author Neil Gaiman. “There was a day when I looked up and realised that I had become someone who professionally replied to email, and who wrote as a hobby. I started answering fewer emails, and was relieved to find I was writing much more.”
The way I get over my guilt about not answering email is to hold office hours. Once a month, I make myself available so that anybody can ask me anything.
You just have to be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done.
“Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck—and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.”
-— Michael Lewis
10. Stick around
Don't quit your show
The people who get what they’re after are very often the ones who just stick around long enough. It’s very important not to quit prematurely.
Dave Chappelle: "whatever you do, don’t quit your show, Life is very hard without a show, kids."
comedian Joan Rivers: "In our business you don’t quit. You’re holding on to the ladder. When they cut off your hands, hold on with your elbow. When they cut off your arms, hold on with your teeth. You don’t quit because you don’t know where the next job is coming from."
“Work is never finished, only abandoned.”
-— Paul Valéry
You can’t plan on anything; you can only go about your work, as Isak Dinesen wrote, “every day, without hope or despair.” You can’t count on success; you can only leave open the possibility for it, and be ready to jump on and take the ride when it comes for you.
You avoid stalling out in your career by never losing momentum. Here’s how you do it: Instead of taking a break in between projects, waiting for feedback, and worrying about what’s next, use the end of one project to light up the next one.
Go away so you can come back
“The minute you stop wanting something you get it.”
—- Andy Warhol
I spent my first two years out of college working a nondemanding part-time job in a library, doing nothing but reading and writing and drawing. I’d say I’ve spent the years since executing a lot of the ideas I had during that period. Now I’m hitting my seven-year itch, and I find myself needing another period to recharge and get inspired again.
It’s very important to separate your work from the rest of your life. As my wife said to me, “If you never go to work, you never get to leave work.”
“Whenever Picasso learned how to do something, he abandoned it.”
—- Milton Glaser
When you feel like you’ve learned whatever there is to learn from what you’re doing, it’s time to change course and find something new to learn so that you can move forward.
“Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough,” writes author Alain de Botton.
When you throw out old work, what you’re really doing is making room for new work.
The thing is, you never really start over. You don’t lose all the work that’s come before. Even if you try to toss it aside, the lessons that you’ve learned from it will seep into what you do next.
Look for something new to learn, and when you find it, dedicate yourself to learning it out in the open. Document your progress and share as you go so that others can learn along with you. Show your work, and when the right people show up, pay close attention to them, because they’ll have a lot to show you.