The Self-Promotion Dilemma

I admire the self-confidence of my fellow poets and writers. I admire the way they grasp opportunities to promote themselves and their work, to tell the world about forthcoming appearances at spoken-word events or festivals, or share competition and publication successes, near-misses and honourable mentions. And that’s not intended in any way as being sarcastic – I really do have genuine admiration, because if there’s one element of this writing business I really struggle with, it’s self-promotion.

You see, I’ve never been a naturally competitive person. I appreciate recognition as much as the next person if someone happens to think I’ve done something well – but I don’t enjoy feeling I have to actually compete for praise, or push myself forward to be judged or compared with others. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had more enjoyment from simply taking part in activities, rather than setting out to win or prove I’m better than anyone else.

I know I’m not the only one. Roger McGough sums it up perfectly:

“I have always regarded the creative impulse as something pure and seen a paradox in the need to show off the result, to see it published, sung or hung on the wall… I have never fully resolved the conflict between the privacy of the poet and the public face of the performer…” (Said & Done. Arrow, 2005)

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Roger is one of my poetic heroes and influences. But it does beg the question whether it’s possible to rise in the world of writing and poetry without a certain amount of narcissism.

Maybe I should adopt the philosophy of Neil Innes, and simply take the view that “I’ve suffered for my music, now it’s your turn”, but – seriously – if you are a poet or writer, successful or otherwise, I’d be interested to know how you’ve gone about shutting up that little voice in your head that keeps trying to tell you that really, you should just keep your poetry to yourself unless anyone asks to read or hear it, and ended up believing in your work sufficiently to put all those lovely words out into the world regardless, and sod what anyone else thinks.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Self-Promotion Dilemma

  1. I have a ”say yes and work out the details later” policy about projects and events in general. Also its trite but true ”fake it till you make it” I am still being told off for being self deprecating about my work and successes, yes humility never goes amiss but there is nothing good about running down your own work.

  2. Very much the same; people ask me to do things and I go, “Oh yes!” because the sensible promoter within recognises it as a great opportunity. Then the bit that’s just ‘me’ goes “arghsgfdjkhjghj” and tries to crawl away and hide. That bit about your peers being all self confident? Rubbish. I can’t speak for everyone but I know that I’m just blagging it half the time. You’ve seen me shaking when I get up to perform, even though I’ve gone out of my way to be a part of an event. It’s a never ending war between ‘Listen to me’ and ‘Please don’t look at me!’. How do I make the little voice go away? I don’t. It’s always there. I just treat it like an old, annoying friend now, and give it a couple of beers to keep it quiet.

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