my fans have bad taste

“Help, I Think My Fans Have Bad Taste!”

Congratulations, you're making people feel things

Dear Clare,

I think my fans probably have bad taste. There’s no way to say that without sounding like a horrible person but there it is. If people like my stuff, I assume they must have bad judgement.

After getting really close to quitting in the pandemic, business has actually been okay lately. Three new stores purchased from me over the last few months. I think that’s where this feeling started.

One of those retailers sent me a personal note saying how much she loved my products, then went into a long story about a customer of hers who bought it and how much it’s helped her eczema (I make skincare.) Basically a double five star review.

I do not feel good hearing that. I feel embarrassed and slightly sick. And now this woman wants me to come to her store and give a talk.

I said I’d get back to her but since that email came in, I’m finding myself less motivated to work on my business. I really love making products but it just doesn’t seem cool or interesting or something I want to do at the moment.

I know I can be very critical of myself and others and I am working on that in therapy but what do you think?

Mae

Dear Mae,

I think you’re learning that the price of loving what you do is having to love what you do.

And loving things can be a gigantic pain in the ass.

There’s the magic, right? That’s the part that calls you towards your creative work and keeps you coming back.

I mean, no-one had to sit you down in front of Powerpoint on why making skincare is worth your limited time on Earth.

You didn’t have to be persuaded.

You just brushed up against this discipline one day and suddenly you were a goner. You found something you really, really love and it was so easy.

But alongside the magic, there’s the effort.

Love isn’t always effortless, although we’re sold the idea that it should be. Love constantly asks for things we don’t want to give.

Sometimes it’s champagne and roses and gliding into our beloved’s perfumed embrace. But sometimes it’s crouching in a corridor outside Intensive Care at 3am, jollying them into eating half an egg and cress sandwich before you both go back in.

So all those cushions embroidered with “Do what you love!” leave out something important.

You also have to follow your love, listen to it and be kind to it. Even when it embarrasses you to the roots of your hair.

What does that look like for you, Mae?

Well, I think your skincare business knows something you don’t.

Something is trying very hard to get itself made by you, and it’s succeeding. Your wholesale business is growing, which is brilliant, but more accurately you are MAKING PEOPLE FEEL THINGS.

And that’s because what you’ve created is fixing the world.

In a tiny way, perhaps, but by taking away people’s pain you’re helping to make things better for all of us. There’s literally less pain in the world because of you.

The gratitude that comes from that is a huge surge of electricity for you to handle, especially when you were only recently on the verge of quitting.

No wonder you’re spooked.

But your thriving business doesn’t give a toss about that, in the same way a toddler isn’t embarrassed when they knock all the lemons on the floor at the supermarket.

How do parents feel when their kids do stuff like that?

Embarrassed. Maybe slightly sick. But they also know it’s a sign of vigorous growth – and that what’s growing is really, really good.

All of which is to say…

Trust your business and give your feelings time to calm down.

Setting yourself a new, highly ambitious secret goal might help you feel the magic again. Artists are naturally dissatisfied with the status quo, which could be why you’re feeling bored and unmotivated.

You made an excellent skin cream. That’s cool. What’s the next mountain to climb?

Learning how to be proud of your creative work takes decades. Customers say they love it and that makes you see all its imperfections. If they love it despite those flaws, those people must also be imperfect… so how can you ever trust a word they say?

Ach, love them back.

Imperfect people are the best (and only) kind. You’re never going to be completely safe and approved and valued forever and ever, no matter who gives you a raving testimonial.

So when us ordinary schmoes tell you “This thing you made is special, powerful and worthwhile,” you can just enjoy the fact that you gave us a good gift.

Schmoes get eczema too.

Feeling your way towards pride can’t be rushed but you’re taking big steps.

And if you decide to do the event at that store, consider talking about some of this stuff.

Tell them about your skincare, sure, but also tell them what it’s like to love making your skincare. Show them what’s easy but give them a glimpse of what’s hard. The grind, the failures, the never-ending struggle to create what you see in your imagination. That way you won’t sound like a QVC presenter and you might end up feeling better, too.

Because creating anything is about connection. It’s a way of reaching out to people and saying “I get it. I understand. I’m right in it with you.”

You’re beaming that message out into the world through your products.

If you give them the chance, you might find people send that same message back to you.

With every warm wish,

Clare

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