Today, I got an excellent reminder of why I avoid the trap of working with or for creative institutions (museums, publishers, etc).
I won’t go into details, except to say a controversial article for which I’d been commissioned, and which received final approval yesterday, was killed this morning out of fear.
Creatives have long been held hostage by the gate keepers, but today the gate keepers are obsolete. There is no reason to silence yourself or believe you aren’t worthy just because someone behind a desk says so.
Years ago, I was represented by a prominent gallery in Santa Fe. At the time I was young, inexperienced, and insecure. The gallery director had agreed, in writing, to pay me a 60% commission on sales. One day, I got a check for 50%. I called the gallery and was informed that the director no longer worked there. I asked to speak to the owner, but he refused to take my call. So I went down to talk with him in person. When I explained the situation, he said, “Do not talk to me. You don’t say a word to me until you are selling $100,000 a year. Until then, you’ll take what I give you. Now get out and don’t bother me again.”
He said this at the top of his lungs on a busy Saturday afternoon. By the time I left, I was in tears.
Fast forward ten years. The previous gallery had gone out of business shortly after my interaction with the owner and he had reopened in another location. I walked into the gallery, not knowing it was his, and he approached me immediately. “Destiny, how are you? What’s happening? You know, I’ve thought a lot about having your work here.” He continued for a few minutes, waxing eloquent about my accomplishments until I stopped him. Then, I said, “I’m sorry A, I sell much more than $100,000 a year now, so I really don’t need to talk to you.” As his jaw dropped open, I turned and left. The encounter was a victory.
Today, steaming mad, I was reminded of this earlier experience. The cowardly editor reaffirmed my decision to go Indie, build my own audience, and not be dependent on people like him. I’ve always used instances like this to push harder and my success continues to be derived by my own efforts, not as a result of some else’s approval.
I will publish this article and I will get slammed for it. That’s okay. I stand behind my ideas and feel like I said what needs to be said. Still, in spite of the nay sayers, some people will like it. They will share their support. Some of them may become friends, others might become fans.
Several people have been credited with this quote, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” I agree with it. However, there’s more to it. If we give away our power, succumb to other’s opinions, and silence ourselves as a result, our ideas and imaginings will never see the light of day. Then we have not only failed in business, we have failed as human beings.
Fear is prevalent. Few institutions (agencies, galleries, publishers, museums, etc.) are willing to try something new when they have proven product available. They only embrace the new when it has proved itself to be commercially viable. We have a responsibility, to ourselves and the world, to ensure what we produce is good. We also have the responsibility to stand behind the work we do and let the world experience it. Rejections fuel my fire. Do they fuel yours?
Let me know. I love to hear from you.