David Bowie’s advice to young artists from 2002 is timeless. It applies to any person bringing any expressive idea, dream, or product to the world. Emphasis added:
Never play to the gallery.
You never learn that until much later on, I think, but – never work for other people at what you do. Always remember that the reason you initially started working was that there was something inside yourself that you felt, that if you could manifest it in some way, you would understand more about yourself and how you coexist with the rest of society.
I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations. They’ll generally produce their worst work when they do that.
The other thing I would say is that if you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area.
Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.
Did I almost emphasize the entire quote? I did.
Because it’s that good.
If you like art, make art. Don’t worry about the crowd. Worry about what makes you feel alive. If it feels safe? You’re not alive. If it feels like you might be on the edge of trouble? You’re onto something.