Do what’s popular or do what you like?



Many years ago, I was at the One of a Kind show in Toronto. As the organizers put it, this is “a community of like-minded individuals to exchange ideas, stories and objects through the culture of craft.”

I was talking to a photographer who specialized in landscapes. I noticed they fell into two distinct styles. One was the stereotypical sunrise/sunset, and something you might see in a poster shop. The other was very ethereal, almost abstract.

I asked him about the difference, and he explained …

“Most people want something simple to put above their sofa, and those are the sunset pieces. Those are my biggest sellers. They help me fund my time and effort to do the abstract ones, which is what I really want to do”.

As I wrote about in How not (mostly) to be derivative“Use your unique experiences and viewpoints to tell your stories.”

Personally, I like to make stuff that I would want to buy for myself or someone I care about.

My “thing” is a mix of my experiences, my likes, my DNA, some talent, and lots of practice. I enjoy getting those ideas out of my head. UFOs, flying cars, retro stuff—that’s what I like working on. That’s my thing.

I know bouncy letters are popular. I’ve tried it out a few times, but it’s not my thing. Many others are fantastic at it, and I’m happy to leave it to them.

You’re the only person in the world who has your exact experiences, preferences and DNA. We all have a viewpoint. Share it.

Doing what’s popular creates a real risk of resentment. It’s entirely possible to start hating what you do. Why would you do it if you don’t enjoy it? That would suck.

NOTE: Client work will be different. In this case, you’re not working on a personal project. You’ll have to work within the parameters developed between you and your client. It isn’t about what’s popular, but what’s right for the client and their customers.

I don’t approach each new piece of work with a mindset of “will this make me money”? I mean, if you could do something you love AND it made money that would be fantastic.


Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.

– From “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

Instagram recently changed things up in Canada. No longer can everyone see how many likes a post received. It simply says “Liked by (user name) and others”.

Others? Um. Ok.

I can see how many likes a post received, but no one else can. At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked this new method. Getting that immediate gratification was, well, gratifying. I have an Instagram business account, so I can just click on “View Insights” to get the stats. However, I find I check the stats much less often. It’s made the experience a bit less frenetic. I do like to have a general idea of which posts do better than others, and I always have the insights button for that.

It’s helped me get to more of a “Post it, and (mostly) forget it” mentality.

Author Neil Pasricha says it best … “Do it for you. Don’t do it for others.”


Links in this post

One of a Kind

How not (mostly) to be derivative