The Creative and the Bell Curve

Part of what I do everyday in the medical profession has me applying my knowledge of statistics to reference curves and population databases. Today I got to thinking how being a creative artist could be layered on top of a bell curve and then asked, “What does all this mean?”

I found it interesting what statistics can teach you about life. And in particular, how the simple bell curve can be applied to a great many things including art and photography. For example with the bell curve there is a “mean variation”. 68% of anything you’re measuring will fall within this variation. Then you’ll have another 16% on either side of that.

If we apply this to let’s say the photographs you take or the art you create, 50% of the people who see your work will like it and 50% will not like it. Of that 50% who don’t like your work, 34% will not like your work rather mildly. 13.5% of those who don’t like your work will strongly dislike your stuff. And then another 2.5% will really hate what you do.

Likewise, 34% will like your art but could take it or leave it. 13.5% will really like your stuff, and 2.5% will like it so much they’re probably willing to invest money in your services or products.

You can also use the bell curve to put all the followers you have on Facebook into perspective. Let’s say you have 10,000 followers. We have to assume that all of those people like what you do otherwise they wouldn’t be following you. In reality though, that’s probably not quite true. There will always be a segment of the population that follows you for other reasons. Perhaps they’re a creative type themselves and like to keep tabs on what you’re doing from day to day. Perhaps they are your friend but really don’t care that much about art. But for the sake of making things easy, we’ll make that assumption. Anyhow, 6800 will like you but aren’t exactly jumping up and down with joy. 2700 more quite like your artwork but are mostly just “curious followers”. And finally, 500 would probably be prepared to invest in your services or buy your art at some point. And don’t forget that if we look at the big picture, 50% of the people who know about you will not like your work.

So are you feeling better about yourself yet? You’re thinking, “What a downer!”

It’s called life. Get used to it. The key is to enjoy what you do. After all it’s most likely the process of creating art that means the most to you. If you’re running a business, focus on the 500 who are ready and willing to support you by making an investment in your talent. And always appreciate anyone who takes the time to be interested in what you pour your heart into.


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