Tooting Your Own Horn

June 24 2013

One of the guidelines for posting here is that you can’t write anything too self-promotional. I suspect most of us struggle with figuring out when exactly it’s right to toot our own horns. Nobody wants to be that guy or girl: the shameless self-publicist, the human spambot. And yet, sometimes we do create great work that we’d like others to know about – what then? How do we decide when our work is good enough, important enough, to warrant puffing up our chests and shouting about it?

I’ve been working on a creative project with a small team for over a year now, and a few months ago we stepped back and realised we were done. It wasn’t perfect, but we knew we couldn’t hold off much longer: it was time to launch it into the world.

We immediately found ourselves stuck, with no idea how to get the word out without feeling silly or boastful. We’re all introverts and prone to self-deprecation. We’re not used to saying, “Hey, everyone, look over here! What we’ve done is pretty amazing!” We could see flaws in our work and could see where it was lacking. We were acutely aware that our project wasn’t going to save lives or leave anybody slack-jawed in wonderment. So we decided to postpone the launch and keep tweaking. Tweaking was easier. Less scary.

In a similar vein, a friend of mine has been working on his novel for years. Every six months or so, he’ll retrieve it from inside a deeply-nested folder on his hard drive and spend the next two months re-drafting it. When he’s done, he’ll leave it for six months and redraft it again. I suspect he feels uncomfortable taking the next step and pitching it to a publisher because there’s already so much great writing out there, and he’s wary of appearing arrogant.

My guess is that there are a lot of us out there: those that maybe should be talking our work up more, should be properly launching the projects we’ve worked hard on, and should be more comfortable marketing the stuff we’ve created. It’s a shame that, in some cases, those who are most comfortable with self-marketing are those without anything interesting to promote in the first place. Meanwhile, some of the greatest living artists and thinkers are right now almost certainly working in obscurity, lacking the confidence or the platform to show the world what they’re doing.

For those of us that aren’t prone to shouting about ourselves, we risk being drowned out by those that can and do. The presumption is that if you don’t say anything, you don’t have anything to say, but it doesn’t necessarily work that way. Those that are quiet are sometimes just waiting for a gap in the conversation. They’re waiting to be invited to speak.

With all this said, I’ve got a tiny little speck of an idea. I’d love to hear what you guys have created or are working on – especially those of you who aren’t usually comfortable promoting your work. If you send me a short paragraph about a creative project you’re working on, I’ll compile them on my blog (same domain as my email address) for all of you other Listservers to take a peek at.

We need more opportunities for the quieter amongst us – those less prone to chest-puffery – to tell the world about ourselves, our achievements, our stories, and our insights. I’m glad that the Listserve exists for exactly that reason.

You guys are all wonderful, by the way.

Connor Tomas O’Brien
[email protected]
Adelaide, Australia

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