Thursday, May 26, 2011
Live To Win
by J.S. Holland
Several years ago I knew a painter who was having moderate success, selling an occasional painting here and there. But she frequently got discouraged, and often voiced despair about lack of recognition. Sometimes her gloom was so pronounced that she would think about splitting from the art game entirely.
One day while perusing her website, I found a bit about how she had won some sort of very prestigious national arts award, and posed for a photo-op in Washington, DC with the Governor of Kentucky and some other honchos. But it was hidden, deep in the labyrinth of her site, tucked away on some bottom corner of some remote page that no one was likely to ever see except by accident.
I called her up immediately. "Hey!" I said, "that's pretty damn important! Most artists, including me, would give their eyeteeth for such an honor! You need to have that up on your index page, front and center, and make sure the whole world knows about this!" She replied that she thought it was "too much like bragging" to do that, and that she didn't think artists should crow about their accomplishments. I haven't talked to her much since then, and her website hasn't been updated in years. For all I know she has indeed given up on art rather than engage in self-promotion.
I know another artist who does some fantastic work - I own a couple pieces of it myself - but he has always been very secretive and reluctant to show his work or to even talk about it. He comes from an old-school punk-rock background, and like clockwork, every time a grand opportunity falls at his doorstep, he deliberately shoots himself in the foot by minimizing its impact as much as possible. The few times he's ever sent out a press release for anything, it's been because he was instructed to by a venue - and even then, his press release amounts to "Hey guys, I feel like such a sell-out for even saying this, but for some reason the such-and-such gallery invited me to hang my paintings in the lobby of a fucking corporate skyscraper. I know you wouldn't be caught dead at a place like this, so I won't be offended if you don't show up for the opening. I don't even want to do this."
Remind me never to hire this guy for my PR staff.
And yet, if you ask him why he isn't an art star today, he says, "I have no chance, man, the system is stacked against me." Riiiiight.
Then again, perhaps people like this are hesitant to be vocal about their achievements, because they've learned from experience that when it comes to creative pursuits, the pathway is littered with negative people who love to attack anyone who shows any signs of rising above the herd. I'm not sure which field has the worst haters - artists, musicians, or theatre people. I've encountered some of the most messed-up minds on the planet in all three groups; endlessly sniping, gossiping, down-talking each other - especially the ones who are winning, and doubly so for the ones who aren't afraid to talk about it. Fortunately, the negativists are in the minority in each group - but though their numbers are few, their extremely vocal and bullying nature makes it sometimes seem like they are the status quo. Far be it from me to quote Richard Nixon, but there really is a "silent majority."
Gene Simmons gets a lot of flak for being an egomaniac. You can easily find online whiners who complain that he shouldn't talk so much about the things he does. Still others even go so far to say that he shouldn't even be doing the things he does. As if he should just do nothing because some slacker on the internet thinks it's "not cool" to have your own clothing line and your own perfume line and your own TV show and your own coffee company and to get to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. I'd much rather be like Gene Simmons than be like his online detractors and haters, broadcasting live from mommy's basement.
For some reason, most media sources maintain that stories of people going outside and doing things, building things, having achievements, and winning isn't news. But if some crackhead in Pocatello runs over someone in a truck and then shoots himself after a police chase, for some reason, we're told that this is very important breaking news that needs to be amplified to every corner of the globe. And yet I have absolutely no use for such information. I have no desire to read about the failed lives of others, and if you do, check yourself, because there might be something wrong with you.
I want to hear about people's successes. I want people to write them down, blog them, tweet them, shout them from the highest rooftop. I am genuinely interested in hearing about your wins. Are you working on a new project? Don't just sit there like a knob, Write it up. File a report. Talk about it. Send out press releases every time you sit on the toilet or eat a piece of toast. You may feel foolish and self-indulgent at first, but get through that and come out the other side - because this IS how things get done, and there IS a certain percentage of people who DO want to hear about it. Find them. Make friends with them. Help them amplify their own winnings as well.
You don't have to be an obnoxious jerk about it like Charlie Sheen. Just calmly and directly communicate your wins, and you'll soon attract kindred spirits. Just look over your shoulder.
(Even now, someone out there is reading this and laughing and saying, "Hyuk hyuk hyuk! Why is Jeffrey Scott talkin' like this? He ain't never done nothin' worth nothin'. Hey mayun, pass me that joint and go check my Facebook wall, cuz I just posted a funny YouTube video of two homeless people punching and kicking each other.")