WHAT?! 008: Don’t Come To My Show

WHAT?! is Drooly Dog’s Advice Column for the Creative and Perplexed. In which I answer burning questions about the creative process and what might be holding up that brain of yours. Send your questions to: hellodroolydog@gmail.com.

Dear Drooly Dog: I’m an artist, and for the very first time I have had a piece selected to be displayed in a show. It’s a big deal! There will be an opening, with lots of people there, and they’ve even got invitations to send out to friends and family.
Here’s the problem. I’ve got this stack of invitations to this opening, and I can not bring myself to give them to anybody. Not one. I’m petrified that people will actually show up. I just sit there with my invitations, staring at them.  I mean, why on Earth would anybody think that this is worth attending? I can’t just walk up to someone and act like I’m all important like they should come to this thing just because my art is in there. What if they think that I’m being all self-important, like my art is a big thing, but they secretly think it’s awful? Never mind that I’m just not in the habit of going up to people and inviting them to things. I just – can’t. What do I do? Just go to the opening and lurk in the corner with a glass of wine?
– Sincerely, Not Ready For Show Time

Dearest Not Ready,
Oh, dear. You have bumped into that barrier between yourself/your work and the outer world in an unexpected way and it has thrown you. Public displays of creativity have a way of doing that, they put your work into a whole new context. It used to be all cozy in your head and then your studio, and now it’s out running around all unsupervised with your (I’m guessing introverted) self-image attached.
Can I tell you something? In the past my husband had to write my bio for me. I was so bad at it, that I left out all kinds of details and utterly failed to express anything interesting. He proceeded to compose an email that told my story in a way that would never have occurred to me. Then he sent it to me and said, “use this.” So I did. Some time later, as a present, I rewrote my own bio in detail and after his style and showed it to him. It was the first time I’d ever written myself a halfway decent bio and I was on like my fifth career at this point.
So you see, how we show ourselves to others can be a real blind spot. But you’ve got to allow some space for these uncomfortable things to happen. It’s part of the artistic process. And your friends and family would love to have the bragging rights that they know one of the artists.
Here’s my suggestion: Hand publicity over to an outgoing friend or someone you like. Let them distribute for you and talk you up. Stay out of the whole process. And then yes, go to the thing, get a glass of wine, stand there, and when people say “congratulations,”  or, “I love your work,” just say, “thank you.” That is the sum total of your responsibility. You already made the art, someone deemed it worthy to display, and it’s in a show so people can check it out. That’s it. Let it have its life, like a toddler taking off across the playground without you. You’ll be doing a service to the world if you do.
Sincerely, Drooly Dog

Drooly Dog offers creative advice only. Nothing legal or medical, please follow of your own accord. It’s up to you, man.

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