Regardless of what you want to do in your life, I know almost for a fact that you would love to be famous. Even if it isn’t something you think about on a day-to-day basis, I know it crosses your mind every once in a while. As a society, we are infatuated with everyone knowing our names. We want to be the next Kim Kardashian, building an empire, making millions of dollars just by showing up at an event. And yeah, that life may look glamorous from the outside looking in, but I truly do not believe it is all it’s made out to be.
I just finished reading this book called Steal Like An Artist, by Austin Kleon. In all reality, it was a bunch of shit I already knew, but if asked if it was worth the money, I would say yes, without a doubt. This book helped me to realize one very important thing: the importance of not being known.
When you’re famous,
You still have to work to make money and you still have to pay bills. Unless you’re Donald Trump, you still have to pay your taxes, too.
You still have to struggle to find a job that you love, if you have not found it already. Just because you are famous does not mean that things come easily for you. If you have 300k followers on Instagram as a photographer, it does not mean that all 300,000 people who follow you will buy even a single print of your imagery, regardless of the price. Even if you are Kylie Jenner and can have everything handed to you on a silver platter, you still need to work, unless you are okay with being known as a bum.
There are no benefits that come with being famous. Whether you consider fame as having over 100k followers on social media, or if you think you need your own television show for it to count: you gain nothing from it. Yeah, your name is out there more, and you may make more money off your work. But if your work is garbage, you still won’t make much; even if you do, you won’t progress as an artist unless you make the cognitive decision to do so.
Most of all, you still struggle with everyday life. Thinking that the answer to happiness is money, is complete bull. There is no easy, guaranteed way to be happy, and even if there was, it would not be something as tangible as money. There are still famous people out there who struggle with mental health; there are still famous people out there who don’t believe they deserve the life they have been given. And there will always be famous artists out there, creating artwork that they absolutely hate, simply because they know it will sell.
And that’s the thing: if you aren’t famous, you have no pressure
I have 300-some followers on Instagram; I have less than that on every other social network that I own. My newsletter – at least at the time of writing this – is a joke in terms of who is subscribed. While I thought of this as a crutch before, as something to beat myself up over and hate my work because of, I have learned to do the complete opposite. You see, this book has taught me one valuable lesson:
You have no pressure when nobody knows your name
There is no pressure to create the “next best thing” when you only have a few people eyeing up your work. Nobody is telling you what you need to create, and nobody gives two shits if you go completely off the grid for a while. When you come back – if you ever do – your followers may have dwindled, but they will still see your work. And this sort of ties in to my previous article, One True Follower, in the sense that you only need one person to like your work for you to be happy. Truthfully, that one person should be you.
If you feel as though you need a ton of followers to be happy, just look at the work of the photographers who have the prospective numbers you want. Think about all the companies that contact them, asking them to photograph something, only to realize that – by taking the job – they lose creative control.
Take advantage of the lack of pressure you have now that nobody knows your name. Experiment with different things; go from shooting bright and happy portraits one day to shooting dark and moody landscapes the next. Why? Because when you’re an unknown artist, you can.
And you will regret not doing it once people start knowing who the hell you are.