One of the things artists are not great at is telling people how good they are.
It maybe a ‘British’ trait - not blowing your own trumpet - and is certainly not only reserved to the arts. We all struggle finding that balance between extolling our greatness and being embarrassingly arrogant.
I was working with a group of fine art students the other day, explored the idea of a skills audit. They were asked to write a list of their skills - ones they arrived at university with, ones they acquired while they have been on their course and some of the ‘softer’ skills they could identify.
‘Hard’ skills are acquired through taught sessions - using photoshop, welding, casting, printing, photography. ‘Soft’ skills include things like persuading people to do things for them, punctuality, being great on the phone, good in conversation, responding to feedback, being positive.
When they were asked to read these out to the group there was a fair bit of embarrassment and quite a lot of dismissive body language. Many of them undermined their identified skill with a shrug of the shoulder or a facial expression which suggested what they had identified wasn’t really very valuable (to them at least).
Seems we do this a lot, and it is not until we acknowledge that the skills we acquire have value that we are we able to measure quite how well we are progressing.
Some of this reticence to acknowledge our abilities is due to not actually realising what we do has value - perhaps because we have always been able to do that ‘thing’ or we feel that everyone else can do it just as well, if not better.
That might be down to a lack of confidence.
I seriously enjoy working with fine art students - they have a tenacity and flexibility which makes them stand out from a creative crowd. After all, part of their practice is identifying problems and then solving them - often multiple times a day. That flexes their ability to think around issues which are problematic and come to innovative solutions - often resulting in a piece of work which tests and explores. They are good at this, but ask them to tell you how good they are and they often falter.
Not that I would want to be bombarded with arrogant hyperbole, but a little more belief in themselves wouldn’t go amiss.
A new book by Pete Mosley attempts to examine the issue of ‘shyness’ and the debilitating issue of self-confidence.
Pete has worked in the arts since 1977 and, as a coach to creative groups and individuals, has explores many of the issues surrounding self promotion.
His new book, The Art of Shouting Quietly - a guide to self-promotion for introverts and other quiet souls, has recently been successfully funded on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. So much so that the campaign overshot its target - he received more funding than he aimed for!
There is a print version as well as an ebook edition and you can grab yourself one on the campaign page.
As Pete outlined; “This book is aimed all the brilliant people out there who struggle with self-promotion - either through shyness, introversion or a mistrust of marketing itself. I hit that wall myself from time to time - so this is book written from experience - not another jargon filled marketing book that focusses only on social media.”
If you are unsure how to ‘tell’ people about what you do? Perhaps this new book is something to help with that.
I have contact with a lot of remarkable artists who fit this profile - they are remarkable because they are so self-effacing, but sometimes they just need a slight ‘push’ to acknowledge that they are ‘quite good’.
You can view more details about Pete's book at: www.indiegogo.com