If you’re not familiar with the puffy, pink Pokemon, Jigglypuff is a Pokemon that is characterized as loving to sing. However, part of its ability is that when it sings, people fall asleep.
Poor Jiggly is cursed.
Think about it: all Jigglypuff wants is to have people listen to its singing, but by its very nature, no one will ever be able to listen to the entire song.
In a way, this is very much like the struggles of a creative. We desperately want to share our work with the world. We crave the validation from the praise of others. Most of the time, we’d love to be paid for that work as well.
However, our very desire to get the acceptance and validation from our audience is often the very thing that drives people away.
When our focus is on Instagram metrics and follower counts, how often we show up in Google results, or how many people have retweeted us, it is easy to lose focus on the important stuff — the art.
I see this at conventions all of the time — artists sitting behind their booth, few sales all day, and then someone comes by and they pounce on them like a starving hyena closing in on a dying gazelle. The desperation for a sale is palpable, and it’s extremely off-putting.
As someone who coaches artists in things like career skills, and business development, I’m often asking people “Who is it for?” as that is the most crucial question to ask yourself in business. When we commercialize things, if we don’t think about what needs we’re solving or whose lives we are improving, we often don’t find a product-market fit. No product-market fit means low/no sales.
But at the same time, we cannot completely focus on metrics if we don’t love the work that we’re making. This often leads to burnout, disdain, and a greater feeling of being trapped by golden handcuffs.
Don’t get me wrong — if you’re testing out different styles, mediums, or subjects, and you love all of it, use the data to figure out what’s popular and is selling and focus on that.
But, if you’re only looking for that next subscriber, or next sale — chasing short term gains rather than long term support — you’re going to produce work that is subpar and is not going to be true to you.
We need to strike a balance where we are keeping in mind the work we do for clients and what they’re looking for, with the work that we do for ourselves. This is often why professional creatives have entire bodies of work that look nothing like what they do for their job.
Just as with Jigglypuff (and perhaps life in general), by chasing external validation we end up missing out. We, as creatives, need to shift the focus away from external validation because we really, at the end of the day, have no control over it. Instead, we need to focus on goals that we do have control over — mastery of our craft, happiness with our own work, and whether or not we’re telling the stories and building the worlds that we want to.