THE BIGGEST SINGLE MISTAKE YOU’RE MAKING TO GROW YOUR AUDIENCE

Don’t be an asshole. Be respectful of those you’re building on.

This was a convoluted journey today, that got me to this thought. Bear with me!

I somehow signed up for something called Medium.com. It looks kinda like Flipboard, Kos, Upworthy, etc., a news-and-ideas aggregator sites that let you select the kinds of stories and news you’re interested in.

Medium’s Daily Digest somehow got me to a newsletter from Josh Spector, digital strategist, creator and collector of ideas) called “10 Ideas For You”.

I browsed the ideas, and found some that intrigued me. Especially one by Alex Turnbull, founder and CEO of Groove. The article is called 8 Wins That Helped Us Grow Our Email List to 100,000 Subscribers.

Normally, I don’t click on something like this. So much of the information out there is too vague or too ridiculous for very tiny (art) businesses like mine. And the most useful advice you’ll get is the obvious: Be yourself, be unique, be authentic, and be persistent. (In other words, it can take years to become an “overnight success.”)

But this particular article was enjoyable and helpful. The title was irresistible. In fact, it inspired the flashy clickbait title I used today. (What the heck? It’s true, I’m gonna come through, and you don’t have to pay for anything. A girl can have some fun, right?)

One huge suggestion Alex gave, was to reach out to already-established “influencers” in your field, to encourage them to check out your article, comment on it, and link to it from their platforms.

The trick is to be authentic, open, reciprocal, and succinct. And it reminded me of one big mistake people often make when doing this, a strategy that’s historically been a huge turn-off for me.

It’s when people engage with what I’ve written, on my blog or another art blog I write for (link)….

And then blatantly redirect my readers to their own blog.

I’ll be honest. I used to do this, years ago. In fact, we were encouraged to do this. I actually pissed off a few people doing it. (I am so sorry!!!) Times have changed, thank goodness!

It’s one thing to contribute substantially to a conversation, to build on what’s been said, to offer another point of view or thought.

It’s another thing to argue, to bring up a contentious point I’ve already addressed, and then to overtly suggest people leave my site and go to your site.

Here’s where the authenticity part comes in:

If you build on what someone’s already published, you’re helping them. Especially if you are an expert or influencer in your own right, your comments (in a perfect world) validate their efforts. It’s win/win, since people will want to visit your site, to see more of what you have to offer….

Because you’re doing it right.

You haven’t shanghaied the conversation for your own self-aggrandizement. You’ve given before you (subtly) suggest you might have something just as useful to say, yourself.

People will see your enthusiasm, your integrity, your respect for the author’s work, your professionalism.

You’re not telling them or implying you do it better.

You’re showing it, in your modus operandi.

Think about it. I get comments all the time on my blog, comments that go directly to the spam folder. Why? They make general comments that are obviously boilerplate stuff, with almost no connection to the actual post.

Then they post their own website, and urge my readers to check it out. It’s a blatant redirection, with no contribution to what I’ve created.

So when ordinary, oblivious people do it, it looks like spam.

I want to tell these people, “Back in the day, we were encouraged to do this. Times have changed. Catch up!” That’s why I’m embarrassed to admit I used to do it, too. But to my credit, it always felt contrived and awkward.

So check out Josh’s space, if these ideas intrigue you. (There’s one on Bruce Lee and his personal journals, where he constantly encouraged himself to be the very best at what he did.) (Originally posted on Brain Pickings, another great site for big thoughts and ideas.)

And visit Alex’s article on the tried-and-true method they created, for growing your audience. Yes, they’re geared for businesses large enough to outsource their customer service services. (Er…what would that be like??) (Wait. Never mind. That’s not the “big” I’m aiming for.) But I found something useful, and you might, too.

And the next time you try drafting on someone else’s good work, think about what you’re doing before you hit that “post” tab….

Because you’re doing it wrong.

 

 

 

SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE Part 2: Lessons from the Bym, Tai Chi, and the Circle of Life

My latest post for Fine Art Views helps you put everything into perspective about your art career. And, maybe, your life.

SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE Part 2: Lessons from the Gym, Tai Chi, and the Circle of Life

ARTIST S.O.S.

You are probably not doing it wrong.

Feeling Lucy-like lately.

I’ve been feeling a little like Lucy lately, the ornery character in the Peanuts cartoon strip. Not the ornery part (although those close to me might defer), but the times she sets up her free advice booth. I’ve had a lot of people come through my studio lately, who, obviously finding my artwork appealing, share some of their wistfulness about their own art careers.

I love giving advice. Having said that, I should, in the spirit of honesty and truthfulness, I’ve given a lot of bad advice. I’ve learned I really don’t always know what’s best for others. And every time I think I do, it goes very badly, for me and for them.

But sometimes, the misconceptions, the myths, the fears, and the self-doubt, are so obvious, I can’t help but point them out.

It’s not silly to want a studio. You need a place, a space, or a pocket of time to do your artwork. You wouldn’t begrudge yourself a bed (nor sleeping). Why would you think having a dedicated table, or a small room, or even a garage/barn/studio to create, is selfish?

It’s not wrong to want to sell your art.

It’s okay not to give away all your secrets, about how you do what you do.

It’s okay that, as a a wife/mother/parental caretaker/everything else society offloads onto women, you feel like a horrible person for even thinking of making art.

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed about the business side of your art.

It’s okay if you don’t even like my advice. (The only thing I absolutely hate is when people beg me for advice, and then ARGUE WITH ME when I give it to them.)

Believe me, I’ve been there. I still go there. And I’ll probably be there for the movie version, too.

In short, you’re probably not doing it wrong.

But there may be a way to do it a wee bit better.

Your homework for today the rest of the year: Read the articles in the links.

If you still have questions, I’m here.

YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!

Just so you know I'm not perfect:  I am not proud that I will not admit I really can't cut my own bangs....  And yes, I know that's a double--no wait, a TRIPLE-negative.

Just so you know I’m not perfect: I am not proud that I will not admit I really can’t cut my own bangs…. And yes, I know that’s a double–no wait, a TRIPLE-negative.


Often when I look back at a particular difficult time in my life, I realize there was something deep going on. There was a major life lesson involved. Something I was struggling to understand.

I could read about it. I could see it. I could hear what other people said about it.

But I hadn’t quite gotten to the point where I knew it in my own heart. I didn’t have that “aha!” moment, that little insight, the recognition of, “So that’s what this is about!”

And of course, the recognition of what’s going on isn’t enough. You can’t stop there. Nope, you have to practice it, over and over, until you finally, really, really get it.

Here is one example: Years ago, I had a boyfriend who worked at a “campy” store in town. His coworkers were tight, and socialized often. I would tag along. They were a good group to hang with.

There was one woman, a little older than the rest of us “20-somethings”, who was respected and liked by all of us. There was only one little problem… She was often brusque with me, and rarely talked to me.

I asked my then-boyfriend about it, and he was mystified. I noticed she didn’t treat anyone else this way. I resolved to be even friendlier and nicer to her.

One evening after work, she showed her medical illustration portfolio to us. Her drawings were astonishing, and I told her so. “Yeah, thanks,” she replied shortly. “No, really, they’re very good!” I said. She turned away. I sat there, baffled at being rebuffed yet again.

And then it hit me, out of the blue, like a ton of bricks.

She didn’t like me.

I know you’re probably also thinking, “Well, doh, Luann! What was your first clue, darlin’?!”

But I had been clueless. Because I’d always been pleasant and obliging. Because I couldn’t think of a single reason why she should dislike me.

But though I didn’t know the why, I certainly recognized the what. Everything that had puzzled me became crystal clear and obvious. Like tapping that last little puzzle piece into place.

After that, I left her alone. I quit trying to “win her over”, because I realized that was salt in the wound to her. I still liked and respected her, but I accepted the fact that she didn’t like or respect me. Years later, I found out some of the “why”, and it had very little to do with me. That’s another story, and another life lesson.

But back to this life lesson.

Here is what happens when you listen (to someone who does know what they’re talking about: A few years ago, I found myself in a rattled state about my artwork and my art biz. I had a session with life coach Quinn McConald, of QuinnCreative.

I listed all the things I was stuck on. Then I said, “Oh, and for some reason I feel compelled to sign up for hospice volunteer training, and I have no idea what that’s about!” Quinn bookmarked that and returned to it later.

She asked if I were a perfectionist, and I said yes. Who doesn’t want to always do their best??

“The trouble with being a perfectionist,” she said, “is that you are full of ‘knowing’. And when you are full of knowing, nothing new can come in.”

Let me repeat that amazing, seemingly-simple little sentence….

When you are full of ‘knowing’, nothing new can come in.

That simple thought allowed me to be wide open to the hospice training. I understood I was entering this realm with complete ignorance. No expectations, no assumptions. Just humility, and a willing heart. A heart willing to be open, to be WRONG, to be taught, to be filled.

That little moment of understanding, of recognition, of clarity, is a blessing. There is a clarity. The story you’ve made up about “all that” is wrong. And now you have an opportunity to get better, to do better, to learn something new.

This transformation does not happen when you’re busy trying to be the smartest person in the room.

This is my current life theme.

I am accepting that I don’t always know. That there are things I think I know, that I really don’t know.

And I’m willing to learn.

I’m learning that some people who have been very dear to me, are themselves full of knowing. More painfully, I am seeing that they are not letting anything new come in. Especially not from me.

Because when you try to talk with people who are “full of knowing”, their argument is something this:

Who do you think you are?!

That stops the discussion, doesn’t it? If people don’t believe you have anything to say that would contribute to their understanding, it all ends there. If they believe they know more than you do, without bothering to ask, or listen, to what you do know, it all stops.

What do we say to that?

We say, “Who do I have to be?

There are people with no experience with sociopathic behavior, no knowledge of how they work. People with little experience with or knowledge of sexual abuse and sexual predators. They’ve never been trained to work with people with illness, with dementia, with alcoholism, and they don’t understand it. They don’t see the signs when it sits across the table from them.

I was one of those people. I still am, about so many, many things.

Now I know better. I know the areas where I still need guidance. I know I still have a lot to learn.

But I also now know what “blaming the victim” looks like. I now know what “killing the messenger” looks like. I now know what happens when you leave a group. I now know how to genuinely apologize. And I now know what a real apology is, and what isn’t.

And unfortunately, this means I also know what happens when you try to enlighten people who inherently don’t believe you have anything useful to say.

It hurts when I engage with people who are so convinced they know better, they will actually stop believing I am who I show myself to be. For example, I do not knowingly cause physical or emotional pain, even with people I find difficult. I may feel like being mean, but I rarely do or say mean things, not deliberately. (Okay, stuff slips out now and then, okay?!)

I do not argue with people lightly. In fact, I tend to back down, so I don’t lose my temper and say something that cannot be unsaid. When I do speak up, it’s when I realize there is a chance I can change the dynamic. Otherwise, I may seethe, but I rarely act. So when I’m accused of “being mean”, I am aghast.

I am not a lazy dog owner, I am not a cruel dog owner, and I’m not a “clueless” dog owner. But two Facebook “friends” called me that today. (Really, people?!) They totally dismissed my own experience with the discussion topic, and similar evidence given by others. Would they say those things to me, to my face? I doubt it. It’s easy to be dismissive on Facebook. It’s like giving someone the finger while driving. But if you wouldn’t sat it to me directly, don’t say it to me Facebook.

I’ve been called “over-sensitive”. I’ve been told that, as a redhead, I have a short temper. (What’s the excuse now that my hair is red by the miracle of modern chemistry? Oh…right. Genetically I have a redhead’s temper.) I’ve been told I don’t know what I’m talking about.

So…

Who do I have to be? And if you don’t respect what I do know, what I do have expertise in, what I have learned, then I can’t talk to you. Because you can’t–or won’t–hear me anyway.

This is what it’s about, my current life lesson. This is where I am right now. And this is why I’m here.

Yes, we all have blind spots. We may never completely “know” ourselves.

But I’m guessing that you, like me, have often seen a shadow, a reflection, the secondary evidence that there is something you’ve made assumptions about, the suspicion that maybe, just maybe, you are w*r*o*n*g. You get a moment of doubt, a sliver of insight that maybe there’s another side, another angle, to what you “know” to be true. And that maybe somebody else has more information, more experience, more insight than you do right now. One of the smartest thing I ever did was to admit how little I really knew about alcoholism. I thought I knew, then realized I knew nothing. So I asked a few trusted friends who did know, for advice. I listened, deeply, and well. Thank you forever, Karen. Thank you forever, Mary Ellen.

Here’s another tip-off: When you realize you don’t know quite as much as you think you do, do you bluster? Do you get defensive? Do you attack the other person before they can have their say? Do you call them “over-sensitive” and blame them for the difficulty between you? Do you dismiss them as “not as experienced as you”, when in reality, you do not know of what you speak? Do you find yourself always blaming others for your woes?

Does your conscience squeak just a little?

Do you ever wonder if maybe a little more knowledge, a little more insight, a little more understanding, might get you to where your heart really wants to go?

I want to learn from people that really do know more than me. I’m willing to ask the dumb question. Humility is hard, hard, hard. Especially when you are bright, knowledgeable, skilled. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable in order to grow. It takes practice. And the practice never stops.

And the people who are willing to do the same with me? I respect them 100%. This is part of “doing the work”. Being willing to ask. Being willing to listen. Being willing to learn.

Being open to what you don’t know.

Not trying to always be the smartest person in the room.

Those who don’t know what they’re talking about? And don’t know what I’m talking about here? They have their work to do. If it hurts me to be around them right now, well, that’s where I am. I have my own work to do. I can’t pick up theirs.

And all I can do is to write, to share, to give, to those people who are in the same place I am. People who are open to what I have to say. People who are also willing to look into the dark place in themselves that are filled with excuses.

People who think that maybe, just maybe, once in awhile….
I may know what I’m talking about.

ADVICE ON GETTING ADVICE, Part 3

Don’t make a half-hearted effort and quit halfway through. Don’t slink away with your crazy horse and sigh, “Well, I tried.” Give it your full attention, your highest intention, and your best shot. Give your art the opportunity it–and you–truly deserve. […]

Read my whole article, published at Fine Art Views, a marketing newsletter for artists.

ADVICE ON GETTING ADVICE, Part 2

My article, second in a series of three, appeared on the Fine Art Views marketing blog on February 13. You can read the entire article here.

Continuing my last column on how—and how not to– get good advice.

4) There’s no such thing as a sure thing. (AKA There’s no one thing that will make your career.)

Usually, the best advice is simply what gets you to your next step. There shouldn’t be a huge risk involved. I mean a HUGE risk. Putting the advice into play shouldn’t cost $10,000 or make you take a second mortgage your house, or take any kind of gamble that could ruin your finances, your resources or your marriage. (Unless you’re trying to get out of a bad marriage!) Sometimes life calls for that kind of risk. For those people just starting out, or trying to suss out the next thing, it does not….

Click here. to read the rest of the article.