Saturday, February 13, 2016

Promoting Yourself as an Artist

I found this awesome video about 5 mistakes that artists make:

Great advice, definitely things that I need to keep in mind when I start selling books.

The last piece of advice is something I hear a lot about artists - that we have a tendency to put ourselves down when we really should be promoting ourselves. I've always had a hard time figuring out how to talk about my writing in a way that is not self-depreciating, but also not bragging. It always feels like there's fine line between being confident about my work and bragging about it. But after watching this video, something hit me about that final piece of advice:

When you have a job that's not an artist - say, you work as a nurse - and someone asks you, "What do you do for a living?" you would probably just answer, "I'm a nurse." There wouldn't be any doubt or insecurity about whether you really are a nurse if you're working as one, but you also wouldn't be bragging. Sure, there are some jobs like being a doctor or a CEO where you feel like you're bragging, but for most jobs, you would just say, "This is what I do," as a matter-of-fact answer.  No bragging and no self-doubt. So, why is it so hard to say, "I'm a cartoonist," "I'm a photographer," "I'm a graphic designer" in the same way? 

A couple years ago, I began a new job that I sucked at. I really, really did not think I was doing a good job. Maybe I was being a bit self-depreciating, because it seems like my boss thought I was doing fine and wanted me to stay in the position, but I felt extremely insecure and like I couldn't keep up and had no idea what I was doing half the time. During the time when I had this job, whenever someone asked me what I did for a living, I would tell them what my job was. I would say, in a matter-of-fact tone, "This is what I do for a living." The fact that I didn't think I was good at my job never made me question whether I could say, "This is what I do." It never caused me to say what I did in a questioning tone, like, "Well, I sort of do this, but I'm not very good, but I'm trying to make it..." even though that actually would have described me perfectly in my first couple months of that new job. I never questioned what I did because I got my paycheck every week, I got constant affirmation that this job was what I did, even if I wasn't perfect at it.

I can write much better than I could do that job. If you are a singer, musician, fashion designer, or any type of artist trying to make a living from your passion, I'm willing to bet that you are much, much better at what you do than I was at that job last year. 

I'm not here to tell you how to feel. You can't just tell someone, "Feel confident about your art!" when they don't. But if you're struggling with how to sound confident about what you do, if you're not sure where that line is between being self-depreciating and bragging, try saying, "I'm a graphic artist" in the same tone that you would say, "I'm a nurse," "I'm a teacher," "I work in accounts receivable." Even if you're working on commission, even if you are not yet able to financially support yourself with your art, just say, "This is what I do," it like it is what you do. Because it is. 

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