I don’t care if you like it.
My favorite passage from Tina Fey’s memoir Bossypants: the scene is the SNL writer’s room. Amy Poehler is telling a loud, raunchy joke to Seth Meyers. Jimmy Fallon whines from another part of the room that he doesn’t like her joke because “it isn’t cute”. Poehler replies, “I don’t fucking care if you LIKE it.” Fey’s chest bursts with pride and glee for her friend’s defiant disregard of one male colleague’s opinion of what can be funny or cute, or both.
I don’t care if everyone likes my work. I do care that my work is liked, appreciated, understood, and collected by some. I want my work to have a life outside of me, and my studio. However, I don’t have the time, energy, capacity, or the deep need for everyone to like my work; well, there is a little monster inside of me that wants approval from everyone, but it is my daily practice not to listen to it, because when I do I lose my voice and my meaning for making.
This is one of the challenging parts of making work that is meant to be shared with the world. How do I make work that I like to make, and that others can connect with in a way that motivates engagement, collection, and sharing? It all starts with the work, and the why.
When I am in my studio ready to begin a new painting, sculpture, small embroidery piece, or do work with plants, I have to embrace the concept that “I don’t care if you like it”. The relationship of honesty, vulnerability, and delight that I have with my own myriad practices is paramount, and must be sourced from a deep, personal motivation - knowledge communicated to me by accessing all the deeper, darker, hurt, and joyful parts of me. This process might not be the same for all artists and makers, but this is where it begins for me, and that is why I can’t begin with caring whether you like it or not. If you like what I have to say, and how I say it, then maybe you will like it, but I cannot not build a creative life solely preoccupied with what someone else might like.
I still struggle daily in a tug of war with embracing this kind of deeper honesty in my work, but the more I make, and the more I share, the more I realize that THIS IS HOW IT MUST BE. I make work because if I don’t, I have no way of contextualizing my place in this world, and then existence feels lifeless, meaningless.
I know that we are not all wired this way, and I also know that if you are a creative person that you probably already know this, so I am just preaching to you, dear artist. But maybe you are just discovering that you have a vibrant creative life embedded within you. Go. Make. Make your work with a bold disregard for any real or perceived audience. Make meaning out of how you perceive the world inside and outside of you. The audience will follow. Or maybe you are a collector, and you like to celebrate the creative work of others. Collect work that has meaning for you. Work that tells you a story, work that makes a connection. The work will find you.
I don’t care if you like it, but I hope that you can discover your own meaning from the work that I make. And if you can’t find meaning, that’s okay. That’s why there is a world filled with artists and makers. If you don’t hear my voice, or like what my work communicates, move on. I don’t care if you like it.