As you become more prolific, you’ll become less tolerant of anything that prevents you from making art. Should you choose the path of the prolific creator, you should be aware of its occupational hazards.
You will become less patient. Whether you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or dealing with an incompetent service person on the other end of the phone, you’ll be annoyed by anything that gets in the way of doing your work.
I’ve wrestled with bouts of depression on and off through my time as a prolific creator. At moments, you’ll wonder if it’s all for nothing. But I know that when I’m not prolific, I’m not happy.
If you make a lot of art, someone will hate it. The more people you reach, the more likely you are to reach someone who hates your work. One of my books has almost 300 5-star reviews. The only one I remember is from the woman who said, “I hope this guy is a better surfer than he is a writer.”
When you’re prolific, everything and everyone in your life is at risk of becoming material for your work. Once you start to see the world through this lens, it’s impossible not to. People in my life appear in my books and my creative work all the time. When you’re an artist everything and everyone is a possible muse.
Sidenote: If you intend to write a memoir that involves how insane your family is, in the words of my cousin, “Just wait until they’re all dead.”
This is the most dangerous occupational hazard. You’ll be tempted to look down on those who are not as prolific. You’ll wonder why they can’t get their shit together. But as Ryan Holiday says, “Ego is the enemy.”
When people become successful, they begin to feel entitled to more and more of the fruits of their labor. In the process, they plant the seeds for their own demise. They forget about:
- The role that luck played in their accomplishments.
- The people who bet on them when they were nobody.
- The people behind the scenes who don’t appear in the movie credits or cover of the book who made their accomplishments possible.
Becoming entitled will undo all the work you’ve done to become prolific.
The “Rockstar Lifestyle”
As a prolific creator evolves, he masters his craft; becomes more well-known; and becomes more successful. With success comes temptations: groupies, booze, drugs, and the misconstrued sense of invincibility.
But rockstars end up in rehab; celebrities commit suicide; and the greatest artists in history fall from grace when the lifestyle becomes synonymous with their work.
Complacency is the kiss of death to a creative career. The moment you stop doing what got you to where you were in the first place is the moment you start to slide backwards. The harsh reality of a creative life is that you’re always going to be judged by your most recent work.
Learn to separate the audience’s response to your work, from the work itself. Otherwise, you’ll be paralyzed by insecurity. If you have a prolific career, it’s inevitable that you’ll create something that doesn’t resonate with someone. You can make it mean something about who you are as a person. Or you can make more art.
This is part of a series about how to become a more prolific creator. You can download the entire book for free here.