Guides

Surviving the Attention Void as an Artist

Honestly, I have an overwhelming creative output. Between my visual art, my stories, my poetry, and the game projects I'm always devising, I'll have something new to show off any time you bump into me. I also grew up performing creativity competitively, so I have a deep need to show off the things I make. But even for a diehard fan, keeping up with everything I do would be exhausting and obnoxious. So pretty quickly, I ran into the Attention Void.

The Attention Void is a thing that happens when you first start creating and sharing art. In theory, your social media is full of friends and cool people, and you've made something cool, so it only makes sense to share it. Then you do, and.. nothing happens. None of your friends react. Maybe you get a stray Like or Heart or something from a distant family member you don't really keep up with. All the excitement you had about your new work evaporates, and you wonder why no one else thought it was cool. So you make more art, and try again, and again, and again. Because you see people doing this successfully, you see people posting art that isn't any better than yours, and they get tons of reactions and probably make a living doing art and why is it so easy for them, right?

Perhaps the worst part about the Attention Void is that it grows with you. I used to have virtually no audience, and I'd get a handful of reactions to my art in a given week. I would stress out and wonder why my art isn't popular. Over the course of 4 years, my audience is a few thousand people, and I get a few dozen reactions to my art in a given week. I still stress out and wonder why it's not popular. The Attention Void isn't chased away by small amounts of attention. It shifts the goalposts. "Sure, I'm getting consistent reactions, but most of those people can't be bothered to leave a comment or click share or tell their friends about me or buy my art, so they don't count, I need more!" It seems that no matter how much we grow, we can always dream of being bigger.

So what do we do? The Attention Void hurts. It chews up artists every single day, discouraging people from engaging their creative callings. You can only spend so long posting art to social media waiting for a miraculous change before reality sets in. Before you realize that the platform is getting more out of your art posts than you are, and intends to keep it that way. Before the dopamine rush of a new notification dulls into a cheerful reminder that you aren't as popular as you want to be. Well, here are a few ways I've learned to cope.

First, I have identified specific friends that are exciting to get feedback from, and explicitly asked them if they'd be comfortable with me sending them new art on a regular basis. Getting permission to send my work to them keeps me from feeling like I'm spamming them. I don't expect them to respond to everything I send, but I do appreciate the feeling that I am welcome to send things to them. I also try to pick a few different friends who like different things. My partner is great at telling me what she likes about my fractal art, another friend is particularly fond of my poetry, and yet another loves to hear my crazy game design ideas. I get better and more enthusiastic feedback this way, and it gives me a clearer "target" to aim for when I'm creating. I'm trying to entertain someone who already likes me, much easier than trying to entertain random strangers!

Secondly, I have tried to shift my perspective as I promote myself. I'm not simply selling the prints of my artwork that you see on my table, I'm selling myself as an artistic persona. When you buy a print, it's a keepsake of your patronage to me, a token of your support for my artistic growth. When I think of it this way, it hurts much less when a friend or fan doesn't like a particular piece of art. After all, do you love everything Picasso ever painted? Even the best artists are hit and miss. Since I'm marketing my persona, I can rest assured that my fans still like me, even when they don't like one of my prints or designs. (This perspective also helps me value my time fairly when it comes to commissions, but that's a topic for another guide.)

Third, I spend a lot of time paying attention to how I personally react to all the awesome art I see. Being an artist online, I'm naturally in art groups where absolutely incredible art is offered up in large amounts daily. I try to show appreciation when I can, but often I'm passing by really great art without even clicking on it because there's just so much of it. Is the art I don't stop to press the Like button for any worse than the ones that I do? No, I'm just too busy to Like everything I like. So the same is probably true for my art too. Plenty of people are enjoying it who aren't taking the time to tell the social media platform to record their affection. That doesn't mean they don't like it, it only means I don't get to see the reaction. There's lots of algorithmic reasons for a post to not be seen, but even once a post actually makes it to someone's feed, there's a less than 5% chance they do anything to interact with it, even if they enjoy the content.

Finally, the way popularity works on the internet right now is outrageous, and there is no realistic path where we all get to have large audiences. Instead of waiting around for that, and beating yourself up for not having it, consider joining a smaller art community on Discord or somewhere a bit less out-in-the-open. Find a small group of creators you enjoy, and intentionally take the time to engage with each other's art. Almost like a book club. It's ego-trade, and there's nothing wrong with doing it honestly. Having a handful of friends who commit to engaging in your art and watching it develop feels way better than getting a thousand likes on social media, and you get the creative benefits of performing within a community.

No matter what, don't fall into the trap of thinking that your metrics determine your value. Your art career is the art you make, the emotions you express, and the journey you take, it is not the customers you attract, the followers you gain, or the dollars you collect. Make sure that you are chasing what interests you, so that you create things that satisfy you. Try not to get too caught up in chasing what ambiguous "other people" might want. The people who like what you make when you like what you make are going to be your best fans.

Surviving the Attention Void as an Artist

Honestly, I have an overwhelming creative output. Between my visual art, my stories, my poetry, and the game projects I'm always devising, I'll have something new to show off any time you bump into me. I also grew up performing creativity competitively, so I have a deep need to show off the things I make. But even for a diehard fan, keeping up with everything I do would be exhausting and obnoxious. So pretty quickly, I ran into the Attention Void.

The Attention Void is a thing that happens when you first start creating and sharing art. In theory, your social media is full of friends and cool people, and you've made something cool, so it only makes sense to share it. Then you do, and.. nothing happens. None of your friends react. Maybe you get a stray Like or Heart or something from a distant family member you don't really keep up with. All the excitement you had about your new work evaporates, and you wonder why no one else thought it was cool. So you make more art, and try again, and again, and again. Because you see people doing this successfully, you see people posting art that isn't any better than yours, and they get tons of reactions and probably make a living doing art and why is it so easy for them, right?

Perhaps the worst part about the Attention Void is that it grows with you. I used to have virtually no audience, and I'd get a handful of reactions to my art in a given week. I would stress out and wonder why my art isn't popular. Over the course of 4 years, my audience is a few thousand people, and I get a few dozen reactions to my art in a given week. I still stress out and wonder why it's not popular. The Attention Void isn't chased away by small amounts of attention. It shifts the goalposts. "Sure, I'm getting consistent reactions, but most of those people can't be bothered to leave a comment or click share or tell their friends about me or buy my art, so they don't count, I need more!" It seems that no matter how much we grow, we can always dream of being bigger.

So what do we do? The Attention Void hurts. It chews up artists every single day, discouraging people from engaging their creative callings. You can only spend so long posting art to social media waiting for a miraculous change before reality sets in. Before you realize that the platform is getting more out of your art posts than you are, and intends to keep it that way. Before the dopamine rush of a new notification dulls into a cheerful reminder that you aren't as popular as you want to be. Well, here are a few ways I've learned to cope.

First, I have identified specific friends that are exciting to get feedback from, and explicitly asked them if they'd be comfortable with me sending them new art on a regular basis. Getting permission to send my work to them keeps me from feeling like I'm spamming them. I don't expect them to respond to everything I send, but I do appreciate the feeling that I am welcome to send things to them. I also try to pick a few different friends who like different things. My partner is great at telling me what she likes about my fractal art, another friend is particularly fond of my poetry, and yet another loves to hear my crazy game design ideas. I get better and more enthusiastic feedback this way, and it gives me a clearer "target" to aim for when I'm creating. I'm trying to entertain someone who already likes me, much easier than trying to entertain random strangers!

Secondly, I have tried to shift my perspective as I promote myself. I'm not simply selling the prints of my artwork that you see on my table, I'm selling myself as an artistic persona. When you buy a print, it's a keepsake of your patronage to me, a token of your support for my artistic growth. When I think of it this way, it hurts much less when a friend or fan doesn't like a particular piece of art. After all, do you love everything Picasso ever painted? Even the best artists are hit and miss. Since I'm marketing my persona, I can rest assured that my fans still like me, even when they don't like one of my prints or designs. (This perspective also helps me value my time fairly when it comes to commissions, but that's a topic for another guide.)

Third, I spend a lot of time paying attention to how I personally react to all the awesome art I see. Being an artist online, I'm naturally in art groups where absolutely incredible art is offered up in large amounts daily. I try to show appreciation when I can, but often I'm passing by really great art without even clicking on it because there's just so much of it. Is the art I don't stop to press the Like button for any worse than the ones that I do? No, I'm just too busy to Like everything I like. So the same is probably true for my art too. Plenty of people are enjoying it who aren't taking the time to tell the social media platform to record their affection. That doesn't mean they don't like it, it only means I don't get to see the reaction. There's lots of algorithmic reasons for a post to not be seen, but even once a post actually makes it to someone's feed, there's a less than 5% chance they do anything to interact with it, even if they enjoy the content.

Finally, the way popularity works on the internet right now is outrageous, and there is no realistic path where we all get to have large audiences. Instead of waiting around for that, and beating yourself up for not having it, consider joining a smaller art community on Discord or somewhere a bit less out-in-the-open. Find a small group of creators you enjoy, and intentionally take the time to engage with each other's art. Almost like a book club. It's ego-trade, and there's nothing wrong with doing it honestly. Having a handful of friends who commit to engaging in your art and watching it develop feels way better than getting a thousand likes on social media, and you get the creative benefits of performing within a community.

No matter what, don't fall into the trap of thinking that your metrics determine your value. Your art career is the art you make, the emotions you express, and the journey you take, it is not the customers you attract, the followers you gain, or the dollars you collect. Make sure that you are chasing what interests you, so that you create things that satisfy you. Try not to get too caught up in chasing what ambiguous "other people" might want. The people who like what you make when you like what you make are going to be your best fans.

Honestly, I have an overwhelming creative output. Between my visual art, my stories, my poetry, and the game projects I'm always devising, I'll have something new to show off any time you bump into me. I also grew up performing creativity competitively, so I have a deep need to show off the things I make. But even for a diehard fan, keeping up with everything I do would be exhausting and obnoxious. So pretty quickly, I ran into the Attention Void.

The Attention Void is a thing that happens when you first start creating and sharing art. In theory, your social media is full of friends and cool people, and you've made something cool, so it only makes sense to share it. Then you do, and.. nothing happens. None of your friends react. Maybe you get a stray Like or Heart or something from a distant family member you don't really keep up with. All the excitement you had about your new work evaporates, and you wonder why no one else thought it was cool. So you make more art, and try again, and again, and again. Because you see people doing this successfully, you see people posting art that isn't any better than yours, and they get tons of reactions and probably make a living doing art and why is it so easy for them, right?

Perhaps the worst part about the Attention Void is that it grows with you. I used to have virtually no audience, and I'd get a handful of reactions to my art in a given week. I would stress out and wonder why my art isn't popular. Over the course of 4 years, my audience is a few thousand people, and I get a few dozen reactions to my art in a given week. I still stress out and wonder why it's not popular. The Attention Void isn't chased away by small amounts of attention. It shifts the goalposts. "Sure, I'm getting consistent reactions, but most of those people can't be bothered to leave a comment or click share or tell their friends about me or buy my art, so they don't count, I need more!" It seems that no matter how much we grow, we can always dream of being bigger.

So what do we do? The Attention Void hurts. It chews up artists every single day, discouraging people from engaging their creative callings. You can only spend so long posting art to social media waiting for a miraculous change before reality sets in. Before you realize that the platform is getting more out of your art posts than you are, and intends to keep it that way. Before the dopamine rush of a new notification dulls into a cheerful reminder that you aren't as popular as you want to be. Well, here are a few ways I've learned to cope.

First, I have identified specific friends that are exciting to get feedback from, and explicitly asked them if they'd be comfortable with me sending them new art on a regular basis. Getting permission to send my work to them keeps me from feeling like I'm spamming them. I don't expect them to respond to everything I send, but I do appreciate the feeling that I am welcome to send things to them. I also try to pick a few different friends who like different things. My partner is great at telling me what she likes about my fractal art, another friend is particularly fond of my poetry, and yet another loves to hear my crazy game design ideas. I get better and more enthusiastic feedback this way, and it gives me a clearer "target" to aim for when I'm creating. I'm trying to entertain someone who already likes me, much easier than trying to entertain random strangers!

Secondly, I have tried to shift my perspective as I promote myself. I'm not simply selling the prints of my artwork that you see on my table, I'm selling myself as an artistic persona. When you buy a print, it's a keepsake of your patronage to me, a token of your support for my artistic growth. When I think of it this way, it hurts much less when a friend or fan doesn't like a particular piece of art. After all, do you love everything Picasso ever painted? Even the best artists are hit and miss. Since I'm marketing my persona, I can rest assured that my fans still like me, even when they don't like one of my prints or designs. (This perspective also helps me value my time fairly when it comes to commissions, but that's a topic for another guide.)

Third, I spend a lot of time paying attention to how I personally react to all the awesome art I see. Being an artist online, I'm naturally in art groups where absolutely incredible art is offered up in large amounts daily. I try to show appreciation when I can, but often I'm passing by really great art without even clicking on it because there's just so much of it. Is the art I don't stop to press the Like button for any worse than the ones that I do? No, I'm just too busy to Like everything I like. So the same is probably true for my art too. Plenty of people are enjoying it who aren't taking the time to tell the social media platform to record their affection. That doesn't mean they don't like it, it only means I don't get to see the reaction. There's lots of algorithmic reasons for a post to not be seen, but even once a post actually makes it to someone's feed, there's a less than 5% chance they do anything to interact with it, even if they enjoy the content.

Finally, the way popularity works on the internet right now is outrageous, and there is no realistic path where we all get to have large audiences. Instead of waiting around for that, and beating yourself up for not having it, consider joining a smaller art community on Discord or somewhere a bit less out-in-the-open. Find a small group of creators you enjoy, and intentionally take the time to engage with each other's art. Almost like a book club. It's ego-trade, and there's nothing wrong with doing it honestly. Having a handful of friends who commit to engaging in your art and watching it develop feels way better than getting a thousand likes on social media, and you get the creative benefits of performing within a community.

No matter what, don't fall into the trap of thinking that your metrics determine your value. Your art career is the art you make, the emotions you express, and the journey you take, it is not the customers you attract, the followers you gain, or the dollars you collect. Make sure that you are chasing what interests you, so that you create things that satisfy you. Try not to get too caught up in chasing what ambiguous "other people" might want. The people who like what you make when you like what you make are going to be your best fans.