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You're not for everyone
I’ve returned from some inhospitable landscapes—The Comments and The Reviews—to tell you something true: You’re not for everyone, and that’s okay.
When I visited these places, despite the warnings of others to avoid them, I saw something that made me smile: The one-star and five-star reviews mentioned the same things, just in a different light.
One person’s yuck is another person’s yum.
As I was writing You Could Make This Place Beautiful, taking risks with both form and content, I suspected that for every reader who attached to certain craft choices, there would be a reader who’d chafe at those same choices. (Sort of like, “For every bird there’s a stone thrown at a bird.”) The direct address, the vignettes, the meta aspect of the narration, the privacy boundaries—I knew all of these were “love it or loathe it” choices.
All of this to say: I knew I was writing a book with a strong flavor. But I love strong flavors! Blue cheese. Smoked kalamata olives. (Smoked anything, really.) Very dark, bitter chocolate. Very black, bitter coffee. Chili crisp. Rose lemonade. Dill pickles. Hot curry. An imperial IPA. I find these things delicious, but I also completely understand how they might taste terrible to other people.* Taste is subjective.
You’re not for everyone. Your work is not for everyone. So be it!
“You are not responsible for the world—you are only responsible for your work—so DO IT. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any preconceived form, idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be.” —Sol LeWitt, in a letter to Eva Hesse
Whatever happens to your work when you send it into the world, with its sometimes treacherous landscapes, is none of your business, really. You made the thing, and now people can make up their own minds about it. Will everyone love it? Probably not. Will everyone hate it? Also, probably not.
But do you love it? Are you proud of it? Do you stand behind your choices? Have you made something uniquely yours?
Be for you first. Create for you first.
You’re not for everyone, but the people you are for will find you. Just keep going.
*What tastes terrible to me: Brie, which, to me, tastes like the smell of a wet basement. Ketchup. (I like mayo with my fries.) Doritos of any flavor. Mushrooms on pizza. Grape juice. Black licorice. Honeydew melon. You might crave some of these things! We’ll agree to disagree.
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