Friday, June 12, 2009

Marketing, Blogging and Going Beyond

There's a recurring series of threads about blogging (the importance or unimportance of it, how to use it to promote your work, what to write about) that people frequently start on the Etsy forum I sometimes frequent. Etsy is the name of the art and handcraft site where I sell some of my work. People are very supportive of each other there and truly try to help each other succeed. I love it and sometimes pick up really great ideas.

But lately—especially when it comes to blogging as a marketing tool—I've been wondering if we're all a little bit like not-even-subsistence farmers trying to help other not-even-subsistence farmers figure out how to make a living. I, of course, know there are several fabulous exceptions to this rule but even they claim the keys to their success came from doing so many things one has to wonder when they have time to sleep, eat or even do the art they came on that site to sell! If they added up ALL the hours they spend promoting their work on Etsy and elsewhere in their lives would the money they make even come close to minimum wage?

Paul and I have had a lot of front porch talks about how to break out of the box of doing FAR too much for FAR too little. It wears on a person after awhile. We're both from working class/ lower middle class backgrounds. We both were brought up to think that people who succeed do it based on talent and on the sweat of their brow. (So tell me, how did George W. Bush get to be president again?)

Recently, a friend recommended a very interesting book called Outliers: The Story of Success which is about people who have been extraordinarily successful in their lives and how they got that way. The "be the top in your class and work really, really hard model" did not play out. What really seemed to make the most difference were external circumstances (social class, family background and connections, time or place they were born) that had absolutely nothing to do with what they did on their own at all. The author makes the point that, in every case he investigated, extraordinarily successful people have had help!

My partner Paul has been researching who are the most financially successful living artists in the world and what happened in their lives to put them in that position. He originally intended to find out what they did that made them so successful so he could follow their example. But what he discovered is that while being creative and doing their work was essential, it wasn't what gave these artists their initial break. External things—being in the right place at the right time, being discovered by a rich patron, having a family member who funded their first art shows, having a really great business partner, or at the very least a spouse or family able to support them and buy art supplies—was always the key.

Now we didn't know what to do with this information at first. We have caught a few breaks in terms of food and housing support ourselves. But we don't currently have a David Saatchi in our lives. He's the wealthy patron of the arts who discovered a strange conceptual artist named Damien Hirst, liked him, and decided to fund anything he wanted to do. Saatchi bought a number of Hirst's earlier works, promoted him in his gallery, and propelled him to such fame and notoriety that Hirst is now the most financially successful artist living today. (You can read an interesting, funny and informative blog post where Paul talks about this by clicking here.)

We've been spending a fair bit of time in the past few months and years developing a body of art, writing and photography. We've also spent time developing ourselves and doing some really great work as spiritual counselor / healers. (I'll include Mama Love perfume in that category.) Now we're looking for patrons, wealthy funders of creative spiritually-oriented projects, healing arts centers and the like who could both promote our work for our mutual benefits and be great organizations/individuals to deal with as well.

I originally intended this blog post to be about what to rename this blog. I include A LOT more about art and photography here than I ever expected to do and the title "Spiritual Counseling, Perfume, Healing and Me" doesn't include that. I could add the word "Art" —and probably will—and be done with it. But then I think it's too long and cumbersome can see where this is leading.

But I'm not going to go into all the different head games I've been wasting my time on with this. The truth is that I don't think it matters! I know how many people read this blog. I supposedly have more than 113 "Followers" but my stats say only 25-50 people even view my blog by mistake on any given day. And most of them aren't even in the demographic that I want to find me.

Case in point, one of my recent posts with a photo of a pussy willow gets a lot of hits, comparatively speaking. The title of the blog is "Pussy Willows in the White Mountains" and the post mentions that the White Mountains are a great place to go when it's hot in the summertime. So guess what the last person or two who found this blog post typed into Google: "hot white pussy"!

I'm not really complaining. This isn't all about money for me anymore. I enjoy it, it gets me writing, and I recently discovered that I've got enough material here for a book or two. That's probably a very good thing. I've had three books published before, maybe the next ones I do will do us some good.

So what is my point? I think that if you don't have anyone fabulously rich enough to fund everything you want to do in your life, that being who you are, loving your work enough to put it out in the public eye, and trying an experiment or two might actually lead exactly to the position of being in the right place at the right time in the right mindset to take advantage of it. So, yeah, go ahead and keep writing blogs (if that's what you love to do), keep doing anything that you feel attracted to but don't think for a minute that you HAVE to do anything you hate just to get ahead. Because that approach might not lead to a happy, healthy, well-lived and well-loved life. And isn't that at least part of the reason why we chose to do writing, art or craft in the first place?


Anna said...

This post really hit home for me, and made me feel better about the feelings I've had for a while.

My husband wants me to change my major to accounting (because I am considering a change anyway), so that I can secure a stable job. The thing is, while I'm intelligent enough to do it, and I have the work ethic to hold down a schleppy job, I'd be terribly unhappy living my life as an accountant.

I've decided to change it to Horticulture. So be it. I want to learn more about plants. I want to nurture and grow things all of the time. It's who I am.

And that's what I'll do.

Thank you for this post.

Sheryl Karas said...

I love plants. Thank you for visiting my blog today. Your comment meant more to me than you know. I was fretting about what a "bad" blogger I am for allowing my posts to be so long. But that's why I shared it, I guess, for people like me and you!