Creativity Q&A: Four Radical Ideas on Selling Your Work

Why can’t I sell my work?

I often hear from gifted artists who have struggled for years to sell their work.

They’ve tried traditional routes like chasing galleries, seducing agents and covering art fairs until they’re discouraged enough to give up their art altogether.

Their anguish is palpable.

The problem is not a lack of talent; their work is original, innovative, inspired and provocative. The problem is… what exactly? Are we powerless to get our work out in the world?

Here are four radical ideas I hope will help you to see selling in a new, empowering way.


1. Discover Yourself

Everyone wants to be discovered. We want someone to come along and find our beauty buried in the stones on the seaside. And when no one does, many of us would prefer to continue to do the work we love and pretend we don’t really care if it gets out into the world.

Whatever our profession, there are the things we love to do and the things we could do without.  We tell ourselves, “I’m not a business person. I can’t sell myself. I don’t know how.” But today the shoreline is crammed with sparkling stones, and getting someone to notice us requires our effort.

2. Kill The Starving Artist

Getting your work out in the world is the final stage in the creative process, and the process is not complete without it. You can give your work away, but value given demands value in return. Selling is not the only way your work is valued; but in our society, money is the ultimate validation. This is not a bad thing. It’s just an exchange of energy.

Of course, you must validate your work within yourself first and last. Others may love it, but if you want your work to make a real difference to someone, they need to give something of value in exchange. It could be a physical object, an exchange of services, sharing it with their friends or money.

3. Create Your Sales Too

Your creative work—whether a painting or a potato peeler—has a purpose in the world. If it’s not serving that purpose, it will not rest. And you won’t be able to rest either.

The completion of the creative cycle, the final station in the Wheel of Creativity is Harvest. It is where the new thing, your creative product in this case, is released into the world, where you cut it off the stem and make it nourishing.

Like creating the product itself, Harvest is very active. Imagine the physical harvest of a crop in a field. Harvest time is an acute, highly labor-intensive period when the farmer hires extra help to bring the crop in on time. Once the fruit is ripe harvest must be done swiftly if the fruit is not to waste on the vines.

4. Learn a New Language

Harvest is a time of translating your work into the language of the marketplace. You can write the most beautiful story in the world, but if your readers do not speak your language, your story will mean nothing to them. There is a great deal of work to be done to help people hear the message of your work. Helping them understand is a different form of intimacy. And if you want them to understand, it’s your responsibility.

Agree? Disagree? Tell me!

And live CREATIVE!

P.S. Got questions? Post them on the Wheel of Creativity Facebook page, and I’ll answer one here every Friday.