Erin Gibson drinks too much coffee, runs for fun and watches nerdy space dramas with her pile of furry animals while dual wielding delicious burritos. She writes regularly at Gingero.us. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook, as well!
A few years ago, I was contacted by the owner of an art gallery. The gallery was located on Gallery Row – the city’s art district – where hip 20 and 30-somethings congregate in their skinny jeans and oversized sunglasses on Friday nights to drink wine and hobnob. The owner said that she’d seen my photographs online and loved them. Would I like to display some for sale in her gallery?
I fancy myself an amateur photographer at best. I make frequently less than zero dollars on my work, and most of what I do is fun and experimentation. This was literally the first time that a Real Person in the Real World (who was not my Mom) had expressed an interest in my photography.
I was over the moon. Ecstatic.
I spent several days matting, signing, pricing and packaging prints and gleefully delivered an armload to the gallery. I signed my name on the dotted line of a 90-day consignment contract and slept the contented sleep of Those Who Have Arrived. I felt suddenly like a legitimate artist. Awesome.
I resisted the urge to pop into the gallery every other day or to email and ask how sales were doing. No no, I would not be a lunatic about this. I would be cool, unaffected and simply show up at the appointed day to graciously collect my earnings and express my appreciation.
“None?” I repeated in disbelief.
“None. I’m really sorry. A lot of people looked at them and had very nice things to say! But no one was buying. You know, the economy.”
“Of course! The economy. Well, thanks so much anyway. I’ll swing by tomorrow and pick up the prints.”
And thus ended my first and only foray into professional photography exhibition.
About a year later, I was contacted by a reporter from the local newspaper. She thought what I was doing with my photography – shooting film with vintage and toy plastic cameras – was interesting. She wanted to write an article about it, about me, in the local section of the paper. We made an appointment for an interview and a photographer was scheduled to come to over and take a few photos of me with my giant mess of cameras.
It can’t remember ever having been so nervous. The day of the interview, I Cleaned All The Things and when the reporter arrived, she and I sat chatting comfortably in my office for the better part of an hour. Her questions were interesting and I thought I answered well. I’d managed to project enthusiastic collector and avoided crazed camera hoarder. Success.The whole thing went swimmingly. She would let me know when the article would run.
A month passed. I became sullen. “They’re not using it,” I assured myself.
Finally, she emailed. “The article is running tomorrow!”
I picked up 6 papers on my way to work. Nervously thumbing to the local section, I began to scan for anything awful, anything tragically stupid that I’d said. Nothing. It was great. It was a really great article. The photo of me that they’d used was sort of bad, but I never photograph well (I realize the irony in this) and it wasn’t terrible. Success!
And there at the bottom was my website address! I waited for an influx of traffic. For some surge in readership. For sales in my Etsy shop to spike. For an “Attagirl!” from someone.
I was contacted by two people as a result of the article.
Both of them wanted to sell me their old cameras. Pfft.
I was looking for someone to validate me.To tell me I was awesome. And I got knocked flat on my face. I won’t lie. Both of these things were pretty crushing at the time. Tragic. The Saddest Thing Ever to Happen in the History of Everything Ever. Weep.
You’ve got to learn not to believe your own hype. Enthusiasm and self-confidence have their place, sure. But if you’re looking for someone else to validate you – with sales figures, visitor counts, Facebook “likes” – you will almost always be disappointed.Your mantra has to be “Be Awesome.”
Be awesome even if no one cares but you.
Be awesome even if no one notices.
Write a novel. Run a race. Travel solo. Learn a language.
Whatever it is, do it just to prove to yourself that you’re awesome.
And once you do, you’ll probably find that Awesome People have this habit of pulling other awesome people and things into their orbit.
That’s called the Law of Awesome.