CHARIOTS OF FIRE and the World Batik Conference

(This post was first published on Thursday, June 02, 2005 on my now-defunct Radio Userland blog.

In a few weeks I’ll be presenting a speech at the World Batik Conference at Boston College of Art. I’m speaking on self-promotion for artists, specifically the art of press kits and press releases.

The time is limited, and the message must be succinct. I asked one of the organizers what she felt I had to say would be the most value to their audience.

She didn’t even have to think about it. She said, “In other countries, there is a huge cultural bias against putting your art forward, of appearing too proud of your work. It’s seen as bragging or being boastful. People have a difficult time thinking about promoting their art and themselves. Can you address that?”

Sound familiar?

I’ve been thinking of it ever since. It’s not just artists in some other countries who have that bias.

It IS very hard to convince most people—especially women, especially artists—that it is not only desirable, it is ESSENTIAL we put our art out into the world at every opportunity. That it is not a SELFISH act, but an act of GENEROSITY.

That ultimately, it is the ultimate gift we can make to the world.

My favorite line from the beautiful and powerful movie Chariots of Fire, is when the missionary/runner Eric Liddell explains to his sister why he will indeed compete in the 1924 Olympics, though it seems to conflict with their religious shared goals and plans. She wants him to return to China with her, to pick up their missionary work.

He recognizes another way to pay homage to God:

“I believe God made me for a purpose; but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure. To give it up would be to hold Him in contempt; to win is to honor Him.”

When we are given a gift, we must remember that the pleasure the GIVER gets is anticipating and enjoying the pleasure the gift will give US. To renounce the gift, to deny its potential, is to ultimately negate the spirit in which it was given.

No good comes of that. Love, real love, is not served by that.

I truly believe it is the same with the gifts we are born with. Whoever/whatever you feel is the source of that gift—God (by any name or names), nature, DNA, random chance, the Force, the light…. It appeared in YOU. It’s part of what makes you…you know…YOU.

And note that the gift may not simply be what we are good at, but what gives us joy. Don’t confuse talent with passion. They may both be involved in the gift.

But what really drives our watch is not the precise movement of the second hand but the spring inside. (Or the battery. Or the electricity coming through the cord. Oh, never mind….)

Find what you are put here on earth to do.

Find what gives you joy.

Do it, and share it whenever possible with others. Tell it to the world. Show us.

Don’t even pretend you know what ripples it will make, or how it will all play out—we can’t know that.

But do know that whatever creative force in the universe you celebrate, will be pleased.

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To me, the heart of this movie is really about doing the work of your heart, whatever it may be. The look on Eric Liddell’s face as he runs! Pure joy….

 

THE BEST ADVICE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

I found this essay by Paul Graham today–advice for young people in high school, leaving high school, getting ready (or not) for college, and actually, for anyone else, too.

And it is exactly what I wish I’d known in high school. And college. And the first 30 or 40 years of my life. (I finally figured it out when I was 42, I think….)

I came across this by way of the Fine Art Views blog. Fine Art Views is a great resource for artists. It’s kind of geared towards 2D artists, but the advice is general enough for all creative folks.

I’m printing it out for my latest high school graduate. Pass it on to someone you know could benefit–it’s good stuff!