[Busy week. Pardon my silence.]
Somewhere along the way, I added this to the morass of slogans washing around in the back of my brain: "Take yourself seriously even when no one else does."
Like all advice, this cuts in two directions. On the one hand, you will never get anywhere and never demonstrate any real progress unless you believe the creative work you are doing has value. But you will also never get anywhere as long as the whole way you set about taking yourself seriously is itself not work taking seriously.
Regular readers will remember the story of "Bill", that poor fellow who was convinced he too could write novels because it was all just the proper formatting of words. Deep down, he had a laudable goal: to create something that was wholly his. But the way he went about believing in himself was risible. He didn't believe in himself in a way that inspired others to take notice, to be curious, or even to contribute compassion. He just made an ass of himself. Unknowingly, I suspect, but he made an ass of himself all the same. I have far more pity than contempt for him.
What I am not suggesting here is that we should only do the things that will reward approval, or any such attention-seeking folderol. Rather, you should find ways to take whatever it is you are doing and relate it back to the real world — the day-to-day world, the world where "creative" things are still mainly a frivolity — in a way that makes them impossible to ignore by others. If you write, or draw cartoons, you should approach those things with industriousness and tirelessness, with professionalism, for lack of any better word.
Professionalism is mainly a matter of attitude and not only achievements. I am nobody's idea of a best selling author; I don't think I could ever be. But I make a point of finishing what I start, making it look as presentable and read as cleanly as possible, and seeing what can be learned, good and bad alike, from each iteration of the process. A lot of what gets blogged here is an attempt to sort those things out, to document the process of professionalism, to show how I try to take what I do seriously even if I'm the only one in the room doing it.
There's no guarantee that by doing this, the attitude you manifest will rub off on others, and they too will in time take you seriously. Creative work shouldn't be about such goals anyway; people should write to write, not write to be taken seriously as such; whether or not you get taken seriously is a crapshoot anyway, and you might not like the way you end up being taken seriously or to what end. What matters is whether you keep a promise to yourself about how to proceed, and make that attitude visible in every facet of what you're doing.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind