So this is what I keep talking about: this New York Times "OpTalk" piece popped up on my computer today as I was scrolling through the newspaper online, expressing in other words the line of thought I have been pursuing for much of my life as a writer. (It culminated--if I may be forgiven, in this context, the perversity of a little self-promotion!--in the publication of Persist: In Praise of the Creative Spirit in a World Gone Mad With Commerce.)
The indoctrination today for the creative person trying to "make it" is to create a "brand", to go-get, to self-promote your way to "success." I happen to love those artists and writers who would qualify as what this article calls "the invisibles"--the ones who work hard to hone their skills and become the very best that they can be, without wasting their time in the effort to make themselves known. Not only are these efforts very likely futile, in a culture where the competition--in sheer numbers of fellow artists, writers, and so on--is so vast. They're also draining of energies better spent on the important work. The result is too often frustration, anger, resentment, bitterness--qualities that will surely blur the edges of the creative brilliance you might otherwise achieve.
Still, I'll confess to engaging in that which I deplore. While I admire those who opt for "invisibility" and wish that I were able to trust myself entirely to it, I fall short of embracing it without reservation for myself. I send out emails, post on Facebook and other social media, send out announcements for my "Art of Looking" series. I worry constantly, when I do these things, about where the line lies between the genuine value of putting out information and annoying self-promotion. As in all things, there is a Middle Path. I hope to hew to it--and in the meantime will keep looking for the obscure and the under-recognized, the ones who have been sidelined for whatever reason by today's powerful mainstream, and will continue to pay homage, when I find them, at their door.