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Can you be a humble artist?

May 22, 2010

Advertising myself is difficult for me.  Sending out a notice to my theater department that I had a blog was quite a leap of faith.  Yet, as I continually checked the small graph that WordPress provides showing me how many people visited my blog each day, I realized that a dialogue was not going to happen unless I practiced some shameless self promotion.  It worked.  Yesterday a record 111 people visited my blog, two people emailed me and 3 people posted comments.  Now the task becomes, how do you keep the dialogue going over time?  The pressure is on to make each post engaging enough to lure people back to this site again and again. 

Do you find it hard to promote yourselves as well?  After all, if we really value our art, promoting it should be a joy. Scream it from the hillsides that we are making art and we want to share it with everyone!  Or do we think we need to be more humble?  Or are we filled with self doubts that we may not be good enough?  What holds us back?

I always have self doubts about my art.  You would think at my age that doubts would go way but they don’t.  I don’t trust people who tell me that I am good at what I do and usually just think that they are being friendly or politically correct.   Or, because I am a professor, what else would I expect my students to say?  Certainly a student won’t tell me that my work sucks – especially if they are in a class with me.  Out in the professional world colleagues always tell other theater professionals how great the show was because they want to get work with that theater in the future.  So we have developed a culture of niceness that I simply don’t trust.  Instead, I fill myself with doubts.

Now, should anyone read this and think that I am fishing for compliments, you could not be more wrong. I wouldn’t trust the compliment anyway.  What I am trying to point out is that we, as a culture, feel we need to be humble about ourselves and our art instead of promoting ourselves shamelessly to the world.   Do we risk being to egotistical and unlikable?  Or must we have that ego in order to succeed?  Where is the line to be drawn?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex Hadshi permalink
    May 22, 2010 3:21 pm


    I believe that there is nothing wrong with self-promotion. In fact, it is necessary. Theatre (and all other arts), needs an audience of at least one person. If no one knows about the performance, it cannot happen. I would argue that one can be self-promoting yet humble at the same time by sharing the art of others as well as your own. This is the appeal of blogs. If you offer me the opportunity to see your art, to discuss your views, to share what interests you, that is excellent. If you share with me (and the internet community) what art you are interested in, what is inspiring you, what you think I should see, then the blog becomes all the better. So I would ask, what (or who) is inspiring you right now? If your blog shares this valuable information as well in addition to addressing the importance of art, I think that people will keep coming back to it.

  2. George Cooke permalink
    May 22, 2010 11:02 pm

    Hi Crystal,

    I agree with Alex’s comments about the humble act of promoting others, and I took that as the intent of this blog. Which I find admirable and not particularly self-promoting.

    I am not sure I am totally in Alex’s camp about there being nothing wrong with self-promotion or that promotion is akin to valuing oneself. Perhaps, like you, I struggle with self-doubt when it comes to my own work.

    I remember reading an article about promoting movies. It was a article in a “panel” format that asked the question: “How would you promote a soon to be released movie that you know is terrible?” Basically, the authors laid out a ton of great plans for a marketing machine that would try to recoup as much of the costs as possible before folks discovered that movie was terrible.

    I guess I am suspicious when it comes to promotion as it seems like a separate arena from the creative process. For me, at some point, I guess I felt like I wanted to concentrate on the work itself and try to let quality do the talking.

    I do agree with the culture of niceness not being trustworthy. I upload some of my songs to a website and there was a time where folks would go in a rate each others work. Basically, every gave each other a 5…which is the best rating….and so the ratings became meaningless.

    Lastly, on to Alex’s requests for inspiration. Inspiring me right now are Al Green, Alison Krauss, and Bob Marley. In my theater work, I find Nora Hussey, the Director I work with at Wellesley College, to be inspiring due to her openness and support for her designers creativity, and Crystal, both for her work for others and as a fantastic collaborator/creative soundboard.

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