Selling Yourself without Selling Out: Part 2Featured, Visual Arts — By Stephanie Nikolopoulos on August 12, 2010 at 8:00 am
(This post is the second part of a series exploring the unique obstacles Christian artists face in marketing themselves, and how to get over the hangups. You can read Part 1 here.)
“Who are you?” the caterpillar asked Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s an important question to be able to answer in all areas of our life, and is critical to the success of one’s arts career. In part 1 of our series Selling Yourself without Selling Out, based on Redeemer Presbyterian Church‘s Center for Faith & Work eponymous artists’ workshop, we discussed the biblical perspective on self-promoting one’s art. As workshop leader Luann Jennings pointed out, an artist must figure out who they are as an artist in order to promote their work. Self-awareness and self-promotion go hand-in-hand.
Your identity as a Christian is part of your identity as an artist; and vice versa, your identity as an artist is part of your identity as a Christian. “Your work and your faith are inseparable,” said Jennings. How you express yourself, she explained, is determined by the person God created you to be. “We are uniquely drafted by God,” she said.
We must therefore embrace that uniqueness, that special artistic gift that God has given us. Some of us are called to be visual artists, some of us are called to be actors, some of us are called to be dancers, some of us are called to be musicians, and some of us are called to be writers. But we must narrow our artistic pursuits down even further. For instance, as writers, some of us are called to be poets, some of us screenwriters, some of us essayists, some of us arts & entertainment reviewers. Even within that, though, we can narrow it down further. As an arts & entertainment journalist, for example, are we more knowledgeable about film, music, dance, or visual arts? Within music, are we a specialist in hip hop or rock or pop or classical? Figuring out our true passions and our area of expertise is foundational to figuring out who we are as artists and how we want to develop our craft and market ourselves.
Jennings used Tootsie as parable. In the 1982 film, Dustin Hoffman’s character, trying to get an acting gig, says he can be anyone the director wants him to be. Jennings advised against this everyman thinking, and instead instructed the artists attending the workshop to stick to what they do best. “What’s your sweet spot?” she asked. In what role are you the perfect person for the job? Jennings offered the Fractured Atlas course Professional Identity: Demystified as a resource for discovering one’s sweet spot.
Donald Miller blogged about this very subject in “Following God and Farming.” Both Miller and Jennings, and probably a lot of other successful artists, indicate that although an opportunity might be a good one, if it doesn’t fit in with your professional identity and goals, it may not be worth pursuing. “Be ruthless about not doing things in order to give time and money” to your long-term goals, advised Jennings. “Don’t feel like if you get specific, you’re limiting yourself,” she encouraged. By being focused and specific and by cutting out things and events that are unnecessary, you will self-discipline yourself into achieving your goals.
In part 3 of “Selling Yourself without Selling Out” we’ll look at the basics of self-promoting and marketing discussed at Redeemer’s artists’ professional development workshop.
How did you discover who you are and find your sweet spot? How has limiting yourself opened up more opportunities?