NEWSLETTERS 101 #16: The Numbers Don’t Matter!

If I measured my success by how fast my work sold, I would be at zero. One of my best pieces didn't sell until the month before we left for Cali.
If I measured my success by how fast my work sold, I would be at zero. One of my best pieces didn’t sell until the month before we left for Cali.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #16: The Numbers Don’t Matter!

Do what you love, share what you want, and put down the measuring stick.

(4 minute read)

 In last week’s Fine Art Views article about possible newsletter topics (sharing our resources), I mentioned Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD’s website, which is where that idea came from.

I ran the article by Thea first, to make sure I got it right. She mentioned she was inspired to create a resource page by another artist, Sara Paxton, whose most popular post was about how to speed up the drying time for oil paints. Which is logical and inspiring, right?

But my most popular post was about repairing a huge chip in my spongeware bowl with polymer clay.

And Quinn McDonald, a highly-respected artist/writer/life coach/corporate trainer? Her most popular post was about how to cook steel cut oats faster in the morning.

Irony: Last week’s post also had one comment. One. Comment.

But then I had more than half a dozen responses, from people who a) subscribe to my blog, where I republish my FAV articles; and b) got my newsletter referencing that article, with a link to my blog.

That number of responses is new for me, in a good way. My subscriber numbers are big-ish, but nowhere near “influencer” levels.

Until Thea told me THE NEXT DAY that her website visitors hit almost 1,000, resulting in a ton of new subscribers to her blog. She made a guestimate about the number of people who’d probably READ my article/blog/newsletter, but didn’t ‘respond’, and estimated I am truly at those ‘influencer’ levels. Which is….stunning.

The moral of this story is, numbers are everything. And…nothing.

 Sometimes our ‘most popular’ numbers can reflect our true audience.

Or they can have nothing to do with our true audience. (Trust me, Quinn has given the world huge gifts over the years, and cooking steel cut oats is not her greatest legacy. Not in my book!)

Sometimes our numbers can seem so abysmally low, we question our own worth.

And 24 hours later, we see the actual impact we have in the world.

Or not. As I’ve said so many times in my articles, we do the work of our heart because it matters to us.

Then we put it out into the world, whether by selling, teaching, or sharing on social media. This is the proverbial toss-a-pebble-into-the-pond, not knowing where, nor how far, the ripples will go.

Money is lovely (yum!) and numbers can be reassuring. But they are not the only measure of our success, with our art, with our influence, with our lives.

Case in point: There’s one reason I now love to attend memorial services for those who have passed on.

It’s the stories people share about that person.

 A funeral service draws people from every stage and arena of our life: Family, relatives, groups (neighbors, co-workers, customers, fellow church members, etc.) If they’re well-known, or even famous, even people who never knew them in person, may have a story.

And when they share their memories and stories, we have a peek into a life we never fully knew, or appreciated, or understood. We see moments of kindness, generosity, humor, and grace.

Even then, we still won’t know the whole story.

 Because…that’s life. Even we can’t see our whole story.

 When we rely on pure metrics, it can muddy the story.

 In fact, when I looked up metrics, I found this:

met·rics  /’metriks/

noun 

1.     the use or study of poetic meters; prosody

2.     a method of measuring something, or the results obtained from this.

Do you see it?

The first definition is a form of art.

How do we measure our art?

How do we measure our worth? Our life?

How do we measure the impact we’ve had on others? Whether the good we do outweighs the mistakes we’ve made, the hurt we’ve caused, the things we’ve left undone and the things we ought NOT to have done?

We can’t.

We can only do our best, with all our heart, and let the rest go. Make amends as we can. Try to better. Help others do better.

Social media and social media marketing has been a game-changer, especially during this pandemic. It allows us to stay connected, and create connection, despite everything.

But how we measure our ‘success’ with that, is another matter altogether.

If you enjoyed this article, if you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

GRATITUDE

Take a tiny moment to say ‘thank you’, and count your blessings!

I’m an artist. And as an artist, my first responsibility is to make my art. It’s what restores me to my better self, makes me whole and centered. I make it for myself, first.

I know this first-hand, and many good friends remind me of this constantly. For example, the one who sent me a card with this quote:

People like you must create.

If you don’t create, Luann, you will become a menace to society.

(the note also says, “With apologies to Maria Semple, author of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”. See last paragraph in Part 3.”) (Thanks and a hat tip to Amy Helen Johnson!) (Yes, I bought the book.)

Our second responsibility is to put it out in the world. We mostly interpret this as selling our art, and making a living with our art. Some fortunate, hardworking few can do this. But walking away from the work of our heart, simply because we can’t sell it, is  hurtful. (See “first responsibility”, above.)

There are lots of ways to get our work out into the world. If you make art, you can make it, share it, give it away, sell it, exhibit it, teach it, collaborate with it, write about it, donate it, etc. etc. The same with writing. The internet makes this almost effortless.

Yes, selling is wonderful–unless you get caught up in the selling, to the exclusion of everything else. Vincent Van Gogh’s work was only sold to his brother. (Do you have 3 minutes? Watch this heartbreakingly powerful snippet of a video about this.) (I dare you not to tear up.) And ironically, the most commercially successful artist of our time seems to have lost everything of value in a life dedicated to fame and fortune.

Somerwhere in the middle is where I’d like to end up.

So I recently stepped up my game in regard to selling. This came after realizing I was struggling to sell a $24 pair of earrings to a casual visitor in my studio. Realizing that one gallery hadn’t sold one single piece of my work in a year. Reflecting that most of my out-of-state galleries were struggling to sell my work.  A local gallery that reached out to represent me, finally said they love love love my work (another line that’s fun, but not my “heart” work) just wasn’t selling, and they needed to set me free.

I felt like a failure. (Hey! 2017 was a weird year!)

Then I realized, why should I focus on making $24 earrings??? Why should I base my definition of success on income alone? Why was I falling for the same emotional/spiritual/inaccurate measuring stick I constantly counsel and warn artists against????

So…I upped my game.

I cleared my studio of the fun-but-inexpensive work, focused on the work of my heart.

I realized that just because I’m now writing weekly for an art marketing newsletter doesn’t mean I’m off the hook with my blog.

I reevaluated, recentered, and refocused on my biggest vision for my art. And I cleaned house on my Etsy site, and focused on the work I have on hand, my best work, and moved forward.

I decided to make the work that makes me happy, and not the work I think I can sell.

What happened?

Another gallery in the same town as the one that cut me loose, took on my work two weeks. And they’ve already made a sale.

The gallery in Santa Rosa has been selling steadily, and it just keeps getting better and better.

A gallery that hadn’t sold any of my work in a year, sold a MAJOR PIECE. And another big (for me) piece the same day.

And I’ve had five sales in my Etsy shop this month. (A lot for me!)

But that’s not all. Every single sale has resulted in a message from the buyer, telling me how much they love love love what I do, how it speaks to them, and how even more amazing it is in person.

Wow. Just…..wow.

Today I got home to a beautiful email from a delighted buyer. I always respond, with gratitude and joy.

But because I’m human, because I’m afraid to be too happy, afraid to be too hopeful, I tend to respond well outside. But inside, I hold back. Thinking, “Well, that’s great, but…..” “Don’t get a swelled head, because…..” “Don’t get your hopes up because…..”

But this time, I read that email. And something told me….

Be in this moment.

Embrace this moment. Stop and celebrate it.

This moment is the blessing, the extra gift, that comes for making my work and getting it out into the world.

Take note of this moment.

I remembered, decades ago, a wise woman I crossed paths with, who shared a powerful insight with me.

When we really want something, she said, there is a centering, empowering way to ask.

Stand up, head bowed, humbly. Think of what your heart desires. Breathe in, breathe out. Then stand tall. Expand.

Raise your head, open your arms, and hands. Look to the heavens above.

And simply ask, with all your heart, what it is you desire.

The very first time I did this, I was in an antique store. I’d been looking for years for a wonderful book that was long out of print. (This was years before I finally discovered Bookfinder.com, the absolute best tool for finding any book in the world.)

I thought, what the heck? I did the mantra.

And when I was done, I look up. I saw a bookcase in the booth across the room. I walked to it.

And I found the book.*

So today, before I could diminish my joy, before I could “be logical” about my delight in this sale, and this email note from my buyer, I decided to take a moment to celebrate.

I did my little ceremony.

But instead of asking for anything, I simply said….

“Thank you.”

In these days of “Be careful what you wish for”, in these days of “Yeah, but….”, in these days of, as Anne Lamott succinctly put it, “…compar(ing) our insides to other people’s outsides”, in these days of internet fame and viral prodigies, in these days of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), in these days of wondering, “Will I ever be a successful artist?”, without ever stopping to think of what “success” means to YOU….

Take a minute to give thanks.

To count your blessings.

To feel the full joy of having a voice in the world.

And the unexpected delight of having someone else hearing your song.

Now…go to your studio and make stuff.

 

*David and the Phoenix (Illustrated) by Edward Ormondroyd, if you want to know, and it’s been reprinted since then.

(OH,  and you can see my Etsy shop here.)