Imma tell you somethin’, about me (That’s my favorite subject, I don’t know if y’all picked up on that yet or not) – Brother Ali, “Take Me Home”
In many conversations, I feel like I talk about myself too much. Whether because I have things I want to talk about, because I’m trying to personally connect to a topic in some way, or because I still need to work on thinking about other people, I often feel as though I, as a topic, am dominating conversations.
In terms of talking about my creative projects, I feel like the complete opposite is true. I will talk about a project very quickly, downplay what I’m working on, and work to move on as quickly as possible (if I don’t deflect the topic entirely). Even if what I’m working on is connected in some way to a conversation, or if I want to talk about something I’ve made, I will tend to either shy away from the conversation or make passing remarks in the hopes that someone will (magically) look up what I made.
A similar philosophy is true in job interviews. I would rather just show that I am a hard worker and quick learner than discuss ways in which I have been a hard worker and quick learner. Talking about myself in an uber-positive, self-promoting style is something I often find myself uncomfortable with, wishing that my work would either speak for itself or speak for me.
The topic of self-promotion was featured on a panel at last year’s NerdCon: Stories. The panelists were split on whether they enjoyed self-promotion or not (“It’s really weird to be on a panel for the thing I hate to do the most”), and shared about the constant battle between whether to self-promote or not and how that can affect whether they (or any creator) can eat or not. In a world (and especially a career) where self-promotion is necessary to have an income and survive, self-promotion can feel like the worst necessary evil there is.
I’m not sure if there is a creator alive who doesn’t want people to see their work. At the same time, the act of self-promotion can be incredibly difficult. There is a constant fear of whether people will like the thing you made or not; however, perhaps the stronger fear is that people won’t even notice or pay attention – at least the people who didn’t like it saw it. When seemingly the only way to draw people’s attention to your work is to talk about it, each of those fears need to be faced on a consistent basis in order to get any sort of viewership.
All of these thoughts are true for me, which was why I attended that panel and why I am constantly thinking about how I can try to grow in talking about the stuff I make. I create content across multiple platforms, writing on this blog and (very occasionally, at the moment) on my sports blog, making videos on YouTube, posting pictures (again, occasionally at the moment) on Tumblr, and creating other posts on other social media. However, just because I make the content and have it available on the internet doesn’t mean that people see it – I need to find some way to promote the material in order to make people aware of it.
Unfortunately for me, self-promotion is not a skill that comes easily to me. It some way, it feels wrong to talk about the thing I made or wrote, like the self-serving nature of these types of conversation violate some social taboo against this behavior. Even public discussions about what I want to make or where I would like to see my projects progress to (in terms of viewership) seem grossly self-serving. In the best possible best-case scenario I can think of, I would love to be able to financially support myself from my creative projects. In perhaps a more realistic world, I would love for a small group of people to consistently watch or read what I’ve made, and enjoy and engage with each video or post. The discussion of obscurity as a creator was raised in the NerdCon panel, and there was a large amount of agreement that obscurity can create the most devoted fans or viewers or readers because each person who sees the work had to look for it in order to connect with it.
On top of all of this, I will admit that I would love for millions of people to see my work, to in some way fulfill my rockstar fantasy, for as many people as possible to see what I’ve made. At the same time, even saying (or writing) this is uncomfortable. My biggest goal right now is just to have 10 people see my videos; the thought of much more than that seems inconceivable. The thought of getting to a place where people are sharing the work instead of having to self-promote seems like rarified air – I don’t even tell people to like or subscribe in anything I post.
In many ways, the core of all of the fear, the discomfort with promoting the stuff I make, the overall instinct to downplay what I do, is a constant self-doubt. Why is my content something people should watch? Is what I make even good? Is what I’m interested in interesting enough for people to care about? Am I? This self-doubt is a major component in what holds me back from talking about my content. As someone who wants to make the best possible video or the best possible blog post, wondering if what I’ve made is the best thing or not can hold me back from talking about it.
I don’t think there will be a time when self-promotion becomes comfortable for me, let alone natural. I don’t enjoy when people try to sell me stuff, and self-promotion feels like trying to sell others something very specific – me. So many different things on the internet are trying to sell a product or vie for a market share or for the attention of users on any given site.