I know I’ve written about this before, and, in fact, I thought I’d written about it using this very title: Don’t Be A Diva. But when I looked for it, I couldn’t find it, and so I thought—duh—maybe it’s time to talk about it again. If *I* can’t find it, probably nobody else can find it, either.
I’ve interviewed a lot of artists over the years. Dozens. Maybe hundreds. Most of them were fabulous: enthusiastic, helpful, ready to talk. There have been a few, though, who have been just the teeniest bit not-so-fabulous, and the only reason that makes any sense is that they have come to believe their own press. You know how it is: you’re making art, and you’re teaching. You’re asked to write a book, maybe, do some tutorials and a DVD. You start to believe your bio: international instructor, best-selling author, artist with gallery representation. Self-confidence and pride in your hard work—those are good things, but when you find yourself thinking, “Huh. I really *am* all that,” and skipping appointments and missing deadlines, well: you have become A Diva, and not in a good way.
We all know who they are. Nobody says anything about it to your face if you’re A Diva, but we talk about you amongst ourselves. No, not in a gossipy way. No. But writers and editors and event organizers do, and when your name comes up, people shudder: yes, she’s doing really cool stuff, and yes, she has a following, but she’s so incredibly hard to work with that she’s just not worth the trouble. There are several people I can think of right now, people who are doing cool stuff. But they are people none of us want to work with: we’ve tried in the past, and we have suffered for our efforts. Deadlines that have been missed so many times they become a joke, phone messages never answered, emails lost in cyberspace.
There are people who do show up but who are so full of themselves they’re like the rock star in the dressing room full of groupies: you have an appointment with them, and they’ll talk to you, but maybe they’re eating dinner or having their hair done at the appointed time. I’ve called people at our appointed time to find them eating crunchy (really, loudly crunchy) food, taking a walk on a busy street, driving on the interstate, walking (quickly, out-of-breath-ly) on the treadmill. Sitting on the toilet (yes, indeed, and don’t bother wondering if people can tell what you’re doing: they can, even before they hear the flush).
Almost all the time when people interview an artist, whether it’s for an article or a podcast or a blog post, what they’re doing is providing free press. They’re providing exposure that you, as the artist, probably couldn’t afford to buy. Try to keep that in mind and think of it that way instead of thinking of it as a chance to show someone how important and busy you are, and you won’t be one of those people whose names always bring on a shudder and a grimace: “Oh, please. Not her. Anyone but her.”
For more thoughts on the inner workings of artists, check out The Pulse of Mixed Media by Seth Apter.
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