Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Writers and Self Promotion: Shameless or Invaluable?

Or both?

Being an artist of any kind requires putting yourself out there, or at least it does if you want to make a living through your art. It's true for painters, sculptors, musicians, any kind of artist, and especially true for authors.

Why do I say especially true for authors? I think it largely comes down to the time commitment you're asking of your audience.

If you paint or sculpt, you can share images of your work with people in a matter of seconds. It takes only a moment for a friend to see it, share it with others, and consider themselves a solid supporter of their "artist friend."

For music, it's a bit more of a commitment, 2 -5 minutes for the average track, but again, a friend or colleague can listen and appreciate your work without committing too much of their time, and they can share it with friends without feeling like they're asking too much of people.

Then there's writing: even if it's just a short story, you're looking at at least a five to fifteen minute commitment, and if it's a whole book? That's hours of someone's life. It's a lot more difficult to cut out that kind of time in a work day, or any day, or a series of weeks, and people feel awkward asking their friends to commit that kind of time.

Keep in mind, right now, I'm just talking about sharing art that is free. It gets even more complicated once we start attaching a price tag.

So, to be an artist is to impose on people, or at least it always feels that way when you're the artist. It feels like you're asking a lot of someone to take the time to focus on your work, especially since there is so much other work out there that they might choose to view first.

In truth, rather than an imposition, I would argue that artists of all kinds share and spread a much needed relief from the tedium of day to day life, and that really when we "impose on people" to share our work we're really acting as a magical fairy of goodness and light that spreads creativity, joy, and beauty across the realms with sugar dust, magic, and golden unicorns that fart lolipops and gum drops.

I might be biased.

Still, it feels awkward sometimes, asking people to take time out of their busy days to read my work, or to suggest that they recommend it to their friends (assuming they find it recommendable (and assuming that they have friends)). I feel like I'm annoying people by asking them to go the trouble to create an account in order to read my work. I feel like a jerk for bugging people to +vote my story so that I can make it into the top thirty writers and thus gain an audience outside of those wonderful friends...

The thing is though, that writing is my passion. Yes, I love my teaching job, and yes, I am currently paying the bills with that. But ultimately I would like to make writing my full time gig, and to do that I have to start small. I have to start with the people I know and love because, hey, if the people I love won't read my stuff, why should people who don't know me? Having friends and family spread the word is how things get started, especially in today's world of social media.

The awkward thing about making a living out of an artistic passion, is that people often consider art extraneous.

Yet I would argue that art is a necessity for any kind of meaningful life. It's a reflection on what the world is and what it can be, it's an escape to a better place in times of sorrow, a celebration in times of joy, a little world all its own to be appreciated in any way that the audience sees fit.

In the words of my good friends Lauren and Brett Andrus who run a consortium of art galleries and classes etc. in Colorado Springs, "You need art. Art needs you."

So, this holiday season, as you're deciding what to get for your loved ones, consider supporting art in whatever form you fancy.

I'm going to go back to proudly promoting my work rather than shamelessly doing so:

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