How Obscurity as a New Artist Can Help You Create Your Best Work

Herbert Lui
3 min readJun 29, 2022
Photo: Rob Curran/ Unsplash

“93% say that being a creator has introduced stresses that have ‘negatively impacted their lives,’ with 45% saying they’ve experienced ‘big emotional lows,’” report the authors of this paper which surveyed 1,624 respondents.

There’s no surprise to me here. As I’d covered in Marker before, making money as a creator is tough. The creator economy is thriving, and definitely intriguing more people appreciating the value of their own creativity, and considering spending more time on their creative process.

Unfortunately, these expectations also come with an intense pressure to monetize, or to build an audience, with our creativity. Tara McMullin suggests a better way to rethink the creator economy, and Nadia Asparouhova warns of the publish or perish mentality that the creator economy incentivizes.

Bill Bryson writes in A Short History of Nearly Everything (via a code to joy):

As a student, frustrated by the limitations of conventional mathematics, [Isaac Newton] invented an entirely new form, the calculus, but then told no one about it for twenty-seven years. In like manner, he did work in optics that transformed our understanding of light and laid the foundation for the science of spectroscopy, and again chose not to share the results for three decades.

Obscurity isn’t just a necessary evil that every artist or creator faces at some point (zero views, zero likes, zero comments, zero interest).

Rather, obscurity actually has its own benefits. As I’d written before, guessing what the audience expects, or seeking external validation, can slowly (or quickly) suck the joy out of the creative process. When you’re actually in the process of doing the work, it’s best to focus on the process and keep expectations of the outcomes small.

When I was writing Creative Doing, I interviewed author Michelle Kuo about creativity, and she shared this piece of advice:

The most important thing I can tell you is to relish writing in obscurity. I feel that I was the happiest as a writer when I was in hiding, when I was invisible, when I was secretly writing, stealing away portions of time at work, or writing on scraps of paper, or forming sentences in my head on…

Herbert Lui

Covering the psychology of creative work for content creators, professionals, hobbyists, and independents. Author of Creative Doing: