As creators, we often chase the widest audience possible. But what if our biggest impact were a actually a lot closer to home?
As an independent creator, I often hear people complain that the “DIY type” of creative personality is very narrow-minded.
“You’ve contented yourselves with mediocrity over there,” they say. Or, “You’ve all put limits on what you can achieve.”
Or my all-time favorite: “If you just thought bigger, you could reach a wider audience.”
Well, my friend, I thought bigger once, just like you told me to.
I thought I’d work my backside off in private for years on end, so I could reach that “bigger” audience.
When I realized what a crapshoot that was, I decided to work harder at being a “better” artist or writer so the audience would naturally recognize my genius.
Finally I got to a stage where I put my work out into the world, convinced that, at long last, by taking my work to the people myself, I would find my bigger audience.
Except I didn’t.
At least, not the way I wanted.
What I wanted was a big audience with a wide readership. What I got instead was a very small audience with an even narrower readership.
And that’s when I realized something.
The moment I was looking for—the moment of success—was not about mass appeal or mass fame. It was about the satisfaction of sitting across from at least one other human being who said, “I’m so glad you wrote (or drew) this. It means so much to me. Your work speaks to me.”
I’ve gotten to have quite a few of those conversations.
Maybe not hundreds, but a few dozen.
And it’s enough.
Being a boutique, limited-run creator of fully-handmade stories isn’t about wowing the whole world, anyway. It’s about putting at least one thing into one hand other than your own, and knowing you’ve done exactly what you set out to do.
My reach may be small, but the impact of my life on someone else’s is never, ever small.
Neither is yours.
You can be a mass-market creator, chasing a wide readership, and that’s okay (as long as it’s what you are consciously choosing, and you understand the tremendous odds).
Or, you can be a small-time maker of stories that most people will never hear of, whose work reaches a small but intimate circle of people who really care.
That’s okay, too.
In fact, it’s more than okay.
Wherever your heart touches someone else’s, the impact is never, ever small.
That’s when thinking small is actually thinking big.