Monday, July 26, 2010

Learning to brag (just a little)

As of today, I’m putting this on my list of goals for… life. There is a huge difference between arrogance and learning to (moderately) sing your own praises. Personally, I find it difficult to put myself out there, to tell everyone all the work I’ve done, or am doing. I think it’s classy to keep your hand close to your chest instead of holding all your cards out for everyone to see. Yet, those pangs of jealousy roar up in me when someone announces something they’ve achieved or done when a.) it’s something I have also done but didn’t think it needed announcing, or b.) it’s something I am working on achieving. Not sure which entices the hyenas in me to start howling more…

Yes, yes one should rather feel happy, glad for the other person, there’s enough success to go around, but let’s get real. We all feel this. A good remedy for this, particularly within one’s own self, is to sing your own praises in the face of your jealousy. For instance, I logged onto Facebook today and saw that several people had commented enthusiastically in response to another friend’s status who stated she’d written nearly 1,000 words that day! My first thought was, huh, me too. The difference is, she decided to post about it, whereas it never crossed my mind to do so.  And why shouldn't she?  1,000 words is a lot of words to write.  Does she write 1,000 everyday?  Maybe, maybe not.  I write between 500 and 1,000 a day, almost everyday.  I've never posted about any of my work.  So, the fact that someone else should see that their hard work deserves a little praise made me stop and think, why has it never crossed my mind to do this for myself?  Because after all, it's these little milestones, these exercises we do everyday that contribute to a larger work that is gestating as we create and mold it every time we sit down to work on it.  Art, after all, particularly pieces on a grander scale such as a novel, a sculpture, a movie, etc. aren't just plopped out in one afternoon (although some can be), but for those of us working on larger scale works, it's the moving a mountain tale that represents our undertaking (i.e. there's a story about an old Chinese man who decides to move a mountain, which he does with his family by moving stones everyday).  That's what we do everyday, move a stone (or two).  The mountain still looms high overhead, but one day the pinnacle won't be so far. 

This little issue also reminded me that sometimes it’s not enough to praise yourself, to tow the line believing in yourself, being an army of one. It really does help having a little support network, a few (or many, lots, tons!) people there to sing those praises back to you.  Even though as artists we belong to the same community, which means that we get jealous of each other from time to time, there is nothing like having the support of other artists, of talking with other artists because they are going to be the only ones who truly understand what it's like to be an artist, to do what we do everyday.  Nowhere is this more obvious than when you are with 'non-artistic' type people that you really savor the safety and sanctity of your community, where you are sheltered from questions such as, 'Are you published yet?' and 'If you're not published, then how do you know your stuff's any good?' 

Little grenades of venom such as that are just a good reminder that eventually you’re going to have to present yourself to the world, all your hard work, your vision, your art, and when you do, then more than ever you will need your support network.  Not to mention, the ability to brag about how awesome your stuff is!  Because it is - of course it is.

I still find this very difficult, the word ‘braggart’ keeps scuttling through my head like a wild rat, but I am going to make my best effort to make friends with this fuzzy little creature and squeak a few praises about myself every now and then. There’s no time like the present, so here’s my little squeak: I’m on page 156.  Bitches.

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