Pick Me Pick Me Pick Me

I have been thinking heavily about Seth Godin’s last two blog entries about the idea of “being picked” vs. “picking yourself” in this world of culture and ideas.  I have so much to say about this that I am coming out of the blog woodwork to write something down about it.

If you haven’t read the blog entries—I encourage you to read them here and here.  Essentially Godin brings into the question of the old old dynamic of working your tail off in order to be picked by the larger world of publishing, fame, notoriety, etc.  He argues that in these times, picking yourself is the realistic way to go—because that’s where it’s all going. Not surprisingly, he’s had some griping.  Being picked has been the CRUX of what most of us creative types have BANKED our little needy hearts on.  If we don’t get PICKED how and the heck can we be LEGITIMATE??

As a creative type who had no strong parental mirrors, I have spent the entirety of my life HOPING to be picked.  This isn’t to say that I haven’t TRIED being picked—I absolutely have.  However, the real truth of it is I have spent a great deal of my time hoping to be picked, which is to say, toiling away in the obscurity of my bedroom, wondering when I am going to be discovered.  I believed that if I did good work and people saw it, I would be picked.

Then I was picked and published and well, I had spent so much of my time hoping for this moment I did not understand that being picked is not an end, it’s actually a responsibility.  You STILL need to pick yourself in order to keep going in that picked world.  I had a lot of expectations about being published—99% were totally unrealistic.  Mainly, I thought it would launch me on a new more exciting and RESOLVED path.  I wouldn’t have to work so hard (HA!) in justifying my existence (double HA!).  I thought it would dry up my yearning for acknowledgement, my yearning for nurturing work, my yearning in general (triple HA!).

This is not what has happened—not even close.  3 years later, I feel no closer to the dream life I always thought would happen eventually.  Some of this—a great deal of this is my own damn fault.  In the PICK ME world—you are a best seller or you are dead.  Also in the PICK ME world, publishing is only half the PICKING.  You still need to go out and get PICKED BY THE PUBLIC.  I did not understand this at all.  I did not understand how the moment you are picked, you need to keep PICKING YOURSELF or the dream is dead.  Then again, “failing” to be a best seller HAS actually pushed me into a new journey–a new journey of how can I pick myself and not be so damn passive?  How do I not get stuck by the blinding hopeful lights of BEING PICKED and still get the work of my dreams done and out there?

The internet has created not so much a LEVEL playing field for the arts, but a NEW one that has less boundaries, some rules, but very clear trajectories.  This is exciting, but also daunting to those of us who dreamed of a certain castle of BEING PICKED. The internet is a shifting and murky place that can help and hurt any sense of getting anywhere with your work in the scheme of being picked and picking yourself.

Example: If you are still waiting to being picked, things like the TED talks can bring both inspiration and agitating pain—it’s become an industry of not only ideas, but of a symbol of being PICKED.   I would say South by Southwest also became something like that, as did smaller venues like Maggie Mason’s Mighty Summit.  Then again, using Maggie Mason as an example—she picked herself and ran with it, SO she could do the picking.  It’s sort of genius (sometimes I think in an evil way), but also a perfect example of how the internet has both created a sense of YOU CAN PICK YOURSELF and yet furthering the visual of YOU CAN BE PICKED.

I am excited by this idea of PICK YOURSELF, but I have no idea of how to transfer this to a model for individual writers and artists.  Currently, you either are already established somehow to have a crowd to source from like Amanda Palmer, or are established enough in the PICK ME world so it doesn’t apply to you, like Jonathan Franzen.  The PICK YOURSELF model works well if you are a publisher or a guru (or something combining the two), but as an individual creative type?  Not entirely clear.  I do think that even if you are working in the PICK ME model, you still need to be PICKING YOURSELF in order to wade through the waters successfully.  I think that what Godin so successfully gets across in all of his writings is that we are in a changing and shifting system of industry.  What we’ve known and counted on is dying and what is emerging is always changing.  I honestly don’t see how that works YET for the artist and writer starting out and trying to get SOMEWHERE in the world, and/or the market place with their creative work.  As long as there are cool kids, status, success, wealth there will always be a market of all of us hoping to be PICKED.  The question remains though, who will do the picking—you, them, or me?

10 thoughts on “Pick Me Pick Me Pick Me

  1. OK, now I’m depressed. I too am a complacent PICK ME-er. I’m 54, my first book was published last year, and a year later I have a tiny boost in income and not much else. Where are the plaudits? Where’s the applause?

    More effing work to do. I know this is a white person problem. Believe, if I’d be content working retail or in a factory, I would.

  2. Two things:

    1) I don’t think I made it clear that although I don’t know how the individual artist person works in the PICK YOURSELF mold, I am so so CURIOUS about this idea. I don’t feel depressed about it–I feel honestly intrigued.

    2) bwayne58: CONGRATS on the book! Don’t go down into the sadness–there is still hope (and room) for you! It might just take some experimenting and more vulnerability. This is a message for me too.

  3. Amazing post. I’m a visual artist and I see so much of pick me, pick me… “if only a big New York gallery picked me up”, and so forth. The internet provides a different metaphor for “picking yourself.’ In any model, passivity is the killer. So much is a out of our control, but picking ourselves isn’t. If fame or “enough” is a receding horizon, if we always, eternally want more, then we’re screwed anyway… the reason why folks who have “everything” sometimes end their lives. I’d like to pass this word along via a reblog of your post and links to Seth. Thanks, Summer. Yes, the real riddle is– how do we apply this to our own lives?

  4. Wow, what a timely post, just as I was having an existential crisis today about – among other things – this very subject. Much food for thought. Thanks.

  5. OK, I exaggerated the “depressed” part.

    But what’s so challenging for me is, if I’m going to “pick myself”, it means huge amounts of time blogging/ Facebooking/Tweeting, etc., in addition to doing my creative work AND holding down a full time day job. Even then, there’s no guarantee that all the time & effort spent will be worth it. I’m trying to get to a place where doing my creative work is reward enough even if I never get “picked”. I think it could be, but the truth is I need to make $ from it to live—my day job isn’t enough.

    I’d love to hear other people’s experiences. Thanks!

  6. bwayne58:

    There’s SO MUCH I want to respond to, and perhaps I’ll just write another blog entry (!!) about this, but I would like to say:

    1) What is your book by the way??


    3) what might help with your angst about the pick yourself aka marketing, etc. is actually an interview that Seth Godin did on the show On Being. I feel like I sound like a Seth Godin minion right now–I am totally not, I just think that at times he can sound very sane and very human about a very icky subject. It’s worth an hour of your time: http://www.onbeing.org/comment/1107625

    4) if anybody reading this wants to share their experiences of healthy & successful marketing or the PICK YOURSELF way please please share!

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