Monday, August 07, 2006

The Contemplation of the Artistic Ego

Yep, I'm starting to get nervous.

First off, I'm not very comfortable with self-promotion. (Pauses until the various fountains of beverages stop spewing on monitors over three continents) No, seriously. I know I have to get my name out there. I know I have to post excerpts, run contests, and do all of that stuff. Trust me; it's been drummed into my thick skull on many different levels.

I'm just not comfortable with it.

Artists have egos. That's a given. Ten years in the theatre taught me that, along with the unfortunate reality that the ones with the largest egos generally don't have a reason to be that proud of themselves. For example, I was doing *Guys and Dolls* at summer stock. The lady who was playing Adelaide had a gorgeous voice and really nailed the part. Unfortunately, she also thought she was a size three. The last thing you ever want to see in this world is a 160 pound soprano cramming her cellulite into the same outfits that the Hot Box girls wear. Not that 160 is that bad of a weight, but when you're 5'1" it's a little, well, overwhelming. Nothing anyone said could sway her, not even the costume designer who'd been in the business for 30 years including numerous Broadway shows and a stint at Disney. The soprano got so offended at the costumer's argument that she turned her into Actor's Equity for keeping her waiting TWO MINUTES for a scheduled fitting.

I then promptly turned her in for exceeding the union-specified makeup space by six inches.

Nothing that I have done in my artistic career was ever quite good enough. If I designed and built a set, I saw only the flaws when the curtain went up and the audience applauded. If I played a major role, I dwelled on the dialect lapses or the awkward movement as opposed to the moment when I felt the emotion I was supposed to portray and got a response from the audience. The same thing applies to my writing: never, never, never, have I produced a story that I absolutely KNEW was the best I could do.

Ergo, my problem.

Some of the other writers I know are geniuses at self-promotion. Some of them are annoying about it. Last week, I read two excerpts back-to-back. One was written by a friend of mine (Sierra Dafoe) and was outstanding. The second was written by a writer I do not know -- and before I could stop myself I was mentally critiquing the piece. Everyone has typos, but after hearing this woman self-proclaim her genius for a few weeks I was appalled that there were several spelling and grammatical mistakes in a piece she posted to PROMOTE said genius. Also, there is a fine line between artistic writing and hack writing. Sierra is a master of writing in a beautiful way; when I read her work I can visualize it just like a movie.

The other excerpt I didn't WANT to visualize.

*sigh* So here am I, caught between the Scylla and Charybdis, trying to muck my way through my own attempts at promotion without compromising my own, harsh views on my art. Is it art? Is it fun? Can someone see what I'm trying to show them? Does it make sense? Most important, can a reader pick this up and lose themselves in MY world for a while? Now I'm facing the realities of throwing my work out to an unsuspecting public. Now there are things in my immediate future called REVIEWS.


A very wise person once said to me that the only artistic reward evolves from great artistic risk. It doesn't matter if you're writing the great American novel or erotica or fantasy or an epic poem. Every artist takes some sort of risk; the great ones never play it safe. In order to survive it, you have to have a fairly healthy sense of self-esteem. I've never been afraid to challenge myself or to defend any direction I've taken over my life. But, for some reason, this feels like one of the biggest risks I've ever taken as well. We'll just have to wait and see if I manage to survive it.