On Creating in the Age of Self-Promotion


There's a bit of a precedent within the online design community to make life appear endlessly effortless, glossy, and polished. And mostly, I don't take issue with this. I enjoy the world of aspirational beauty with a side of clever marketing; I'm frequently complicit myself. But I'm cautious because to simply add to the life is just so great noise isn't helpful. What is helpful is authenticity in an age where it's so often packaged rather inauthentically.  

The reality is I've been feeling low. The weight of self doubt can be crippling when the work dries up. 

The notion of "landing your big break" doesn't really mean anything anymore, does it? You used to have to toil away, unknown, paying your dues for the sake of the craft you loved, hoping to be discovered, but more than likely continuing on in indefinite obscurity. Now anyone with an internet connection immediately has a platform, the unspoken assumption: if you market and promote yourself wisely you'll gain a following, monetize your influence, and build a kingdom... but uh, don't forget to post daily, keep up with a regular content cycle of unique and wildly interesting drivel, and put your best foot forward (without it looking like that's what you're doing, obviously) lest you fall behind and your followers turn their heads to the other million individuals with internet who do what you do.

The burden of self-promotion is not uncomplicated. How many times can you subtly infer "look at how great I am," without turning peoples' stomachs? The propensity to basically become a self-obsessed jerk and commit the cardinal artistic sin of believing your own hype is just too easy. 

I lived a considerable portion of my life with a profound and unrequited longing to create, both visually and musically, but felt too constrained by my circumstances to make anything substantial happen. Then, last April I made a change and announced to you all that I was: M Pettipoole – Interior Decorator and Stylist. Cool. That felt pretty good when I had the Instagram pics to back it up. Now, as the vestiges of my last client projects smolder, and there's nothing new down the pipeline, I wonder if I could get away with secretly scribbling that proclamation off the annals of the world wide web and go back to the former low pressure (albeit unfulfilling) existence. Unoriginally, I vacillate between a frenetic drive to create and produce, and the existential crisis: What's the point?

Sometimes it just feels easier to shut the laptop and go.  

But then there's that pesky thing about art. It doesn't let you go, at least not quietly. A compulsion, it gnaws at your satisfaction with things as they are and nags for what could be. 

So the question is, is it really worth it if no one sees (reads, hears, shares, likes, comments...)?

How I wish I could answer that with an emphatic, "Yes!" But the truth is, I don't think so. Ok, fine, for the truly enlightened, the satisfaction of creating beauty in chaos probably is enough. But for the rest of us it's recognition that taps into our preeminent desire to be known, to be understood. We reveal ourselves in our work, and the right reaction by the right person adds the value.

So if self-promotion is the worst, but the desire to be known by our work is unyielding, what's the remedy? When you find out, let me know? Until then I'll be anguishing over each fb, Instagram, and blog post with too much thought and consternation until an immediate wave of "oh, get over yourself, Megan" kicks in, prompting: