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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Resting on Laurels I Don't Have


An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied. ~Arnold Glasow

***

"So, why are you still working here?"

That is what one of my coworkers asked me today. She was very direct. She even had her hands on her hips, in an insistent stance. She meant the question in a nice way, though.

As much as I might complain and whine about my job sometimes, I do work with some very talented, bright and very funny, cool people (except for one, and that's all I'll say about that). For almost two years, I have played jokes on some, shared snarky emails and daydreams of where the nearest Sugar Daddy store is in town, and gone out for drinks, movies, lunches and dinners with even more. When I would walk in a little late in the morning, looking frowsy from a late night of tango dancing, some one would always ask with a smile, "Oh, tango again last night?" Or when I had my flamenco skirt and shoes in my bag and was on the way out the door, people would want to know, "How's that flamenco coming along?"

It's nice to be noticed.

Now, when they see me with my camera around my neck, maybe having just come in from lunch, they say, "Take any good pictures today?" And they mean it. I get little congregations at my desk to see one of my latest achievements. It's very sweet of them.

I've already sold seven books at work.

So someone who hadn't seen my book yet came over with a copy in her hand. Three of them had been pow-wowing at another's desk, and she had been flipping through it. She marched back to my desk and said, "So why exactly are you still working here? I can't believe you took these pictures! You should be in a gallery. You should be selling these books all over town!"

I babbled. "Wha..wah...wh--"

And another one piped up on the other side of my desk: "You need to get a grant. Seriously. Apply to the Getty Foundation and get out of here."

They already have all of these ideas. Go to this store. This museum. This hotel. Oh, the tourists here. And here. My head was spinning and my insides were saying, oh please, can't you do this part for me?

So now I have to give myself a little bit of a kick in the pants. I made my book, and I adore it. I figured out how to make prints I like and I can sell them, too. I show my book around and people love it. I have copies sitting on my desk (the stack is dwindling rapidly), all with the idea that I will take them into shops and hotels and show them and see if I can drum up some orders, and instead I've done nothing so far.

I'm resting on laurels I don't have. I need to cut this crap and get out there and show my stuff. But then I think about me trying to apply for a grant with the Getty Foundation and my mean little Dorothy Parker self just laughs (Just learned to use a camera at Easter, this year, for god's sake! Still uses the Auto function on her camera because she doesn't even know all of the settings yet. Who does she think she is, anyway?!).

This post is not a pity party for me and I know what I have to do. But I still want to have the world come to me, to be like Lana Turner at the soda fountain at Schwab's and get discovered and instantly become a star (even though that story isn't true, isn't it what we all want?). Isn't that what reality tv is all about? Someday I'll be discovered? That diamond in the rough, the one that only needs a little facet here and a little polish there and voila! Now I can show them all I'm not a total phony?

Wake up, tangobaby. You've got to hit the pavement and get to work.

Please help kick me in the pants. I need more feet.

***

Just so you know, up top are what the MOO cards look like, what I was telling you about here. They are insanely cute and I think all of you should get MOO cards. (See, I'm so good at promoting other people's stuff.)

On the other side, they say:

julie michelle
photographer

Okay, MOO cards. I know.

21 comments:

P September 17, 2008 at 8:28 PM  

Girl, if you love it, I say go for it. Silence your internal critic and be brave! Consider your butt kicked!

willow September 17, 2008 at 9:03 PM  

Go for the brass ring!!

Mtnhighmama September 17, 2008 at 11:54 PM  

I Love love love Moo Cards! A good friend of mine, and midwifery colleague, had a bunch done up in a thicker plastic with her contact information on the back, punched little holes in them and gave them to her clients to keep on their keychains. I thought it was brilliant, and the dads loved not having to hunt for phone numbers in the middle of the night.

As for the kick in the pants, if that dwindling stack of books isn't enough to be its own butt kicking then I don't know what would be!

A Cuban In London September 18, 2008 at 2:24 AM  

Hmmm...! I would urge you to be cautious. As someone who has worked with various artists from different fields in the last few years I've realised that sometimes your talent is not where you think it is but where your strengths take you. I met a musician who was a guitar virtuoso, yet right now he's happily working as a creative agent for a British arts organisation. He never realised that he had this massive potential for project management and coordination inside him. You are very good indeed, your photos attest to that, but I would advise you to look at the wider picture and not just at the seven books you have sold, quite deservedly I hasten to add.

Keep up the good work and I will be blog-rolling you, if I have your permission.

Greetings from London.

smith kaich jones September 18, 2008 at 4:56 AM  

2 stories here: 1. I once dated a guy whose brother was the head of adverstising at Time or some such magazine. Manhattanite. (Is that a word?) An artist. He said he would paint on weekends, but the thing is, he never did. He was TIRED by the weekend. So one day he ran into Scavullo the photographer who goaded him - convinced him to quit his job, scary as it was. And he did. (Of course, he had mucho dinero in the bank from all those years of that high-paying job & that made it quite a bit easier to walk away.) And he became somewhat famous. The Clintons' hired him 2 years running to design the Whitehouse Christmas cards. 2. After my uncle die 40 years ago, my aunt refused to go out & meet men, saying that one would just show up at the front door some day. Never happened.

All that said, I agree with A Cuban. Be careful. But keep on.

:) Debi

d i a n a m u s e September 18, 2008 at 5:32 AM  

Two Things:

Thing One: I'm high-tailing it over to blurb to order a copy of your marvelousness. But I want an inscription. Can that be arranged?

Thing Two: I'm on an Anne Lamott kick. I was going to work on a post using the following quote from one of her recent Salon articles. But I think it might be of use just now:

"The great novelist E.L. Doctorow once said that writing a novel is like driving at night with the headlights on: You can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey this way. It is the truest of all things; the only way to write a book, raise a child, save the world."


(That Lana Turner story isn't true? Say it isn't so.) This parenthetical bit doesn't qualify as a Thing. Just sayin'.

julochka September 18, 2008 at 7:25 AM  

what does MOO stand for? sorry for living largely outside of the linguistic culture. :-)

of COURSE you should try to sell your book and take tons of pictures and make another one!

but i understand the inertia. but really, what can it hurt? what are they gonna do, take away your birthday? :-) there's absolutely nothing to lose in trying. you do, after all, have a day job. :-)

Relyn September 18, 2008 at 7:44 AM  

A kick in the butt? I'm just not sure you need it. You are one of the most action oriented people I know. If you were me, you would still be plinking around thinking about someday doing something with this photography love you have. Instead, you have a book, moo cards, a successful blog, and a job that you like but leaves you free to follow other passions. If you ask me, you are doing just fine.

Not that you shouldn't visit galleries, etc. Just that you should keep on being you. Creating, living passionately, taking gorgeous pictures. And, of course, keep on telling us all about it.

NYC Tango Pilgrim September 18, 2008 at 8:04 AM  

TP says: go out there and show them those beautiful and storytelling photos. Selling is about being active...

And I lOVE LOVE LOVE your book...

Enough kicks in the pants?

Christina September 18, 2008 at 8:31 AM  

Again, I have no reason for the moo cards but I officially am going to get them.

So what, you shoot in auto! You get the job done and done beautifully.

You have a natural talent and were not lining up for your book just because your so cute! You really are cute! ; )

I digress!

Listen here love, a Getty grant? selling to hotels?Those are things I never heard or thought of.

These are all the things you can do to pave the way for those who don't have such kind people willing to guide them.

You can do it!

: )

studio wellspring September 18, 2008 at 9:25 AM  

i agree with relyn {surprise, surprise} tb, you are doing so fantastically well at setting wheels in motion and making dreams a reality. think how much you've accomplished & developed in just the past 6 mo's! it's very inspiring to witness.
side note: i've been using moo cards for a couple years now & still love them as much as the 1st day i got them. a very fulfilling prodcut!

Octavine Illustration September 18, 2008 at 10:21 AM  

i look at the book preview. wow. i'm so impressed/in admiration/proud of you. it's amazing. you are amazing. and you have been discovered. look at the amazing fan base you have here.
you gotta just go for it. it sucks at times (trust me) but when you are doing what you love, nothing else seems to matter (i had to explain this to my mother the other as she tried, to no avail, to get me back in the world of 9-5.
i said i would rather be poor and do what i love.
throw caution to the wind, you only live once.

oh, and i love moo cards. i have a whole stack of all my illustrations printed. they rock.
we should trade.

tangobaby September 18, 2008 at 10:46 AM  

Ooof! I have so many kicks on my behind now! Thanks guys!

;-)

Hi p,

It's amazing how Pavlovian I've become. I see you here, and automatically my mind flashes to that image of the baby panda. YOU are very smart. You have totally imprinted yourself on me.

I will now do whatever you say and since I know you've been to Boot Camp, you could seriously kick my butt and we both realize that.

Thank you!

Hi willow,

First I have to get on the merry-go-round, but I'll get there. I can hear the music...la la la.

ps. any book in your future yet?

;-)

Hi mtnhighmama,

Wow, a plastic MOO card?!! My goodness, now THAT is a fantastic idea. (But I have 200 of these puppies so I guess I have to use them up first, huh?)

I know you're right, and I should try to look at it more that way! Thank you!

Hi a cuban in london,

Don't worry, my dear. I promise NOT to quit day job (yet). I did that once before for something completely different and I learned many valuable lessons. I promise to take baby steps.

ps. I had you on my blogroll already but didn't ask your permission! I hope you didn't mind...and of course, I'm honored to be included on yours, too.

Hi debi,

I love your stories! Those are wonderful examples!

Ditto what I told a cuban. I won't do anything rash. Cutting off my hair is about as impulsive as I'm going to get right now, given what rent and food costs these days! The Getty's would actually have to adopt me, not just give me a grant, to make me reevalutate my day job at this point.

But thank you for being cautious on my behalf!

Hi d i a n a: m u s e !

I am SO excited to see you here! I would LOVE for you to have my book.

Listen, I am doing a preorder thing that ends on Saturday, so I can offer you a book at discount AND sign it for you. I will repost one reminder, but if you read this first, just send me an email with your mailing addy and then I'll send you the Paypal info.

(Unless you've boldly gone ahead and ordered one through Blurb and then we can figure something out, like a bookplate.)

And Anne Lammott is great. She has a wonderful way of putting things into perspective, doesn't she. (One of my all-time, hands down most favorite books for eternity is her Operating Instructions.)

So thank you for that quote.

And lastly, yes (sadly) the Lana Turner story is just one of many Hollywood myths manufactured for the viewing public (but then, what isn't manufactured for the viewing public these days either?). A FANTASTIC book on the subject is called The Star Machine, by Jeanine Basinger. There's a whole chapter on Lana Turner, and I tell you, the truth is even better than the made-up stuff.

Hi julochka,

I have no idea what MOO stands for (it's a British company, so maybe someone across the pond knows). Maybe they chose it because it's a cute name and gets some attention. It has nothing to do with herbivores, udders or milk, to my knowledge.

I think part of my brain goes to sleep while I'm at work and so I forget some of my goals. And then I go home and just do my other crap and keep not doing things I mean to do. But I will. And NO one can take away my birthday, no way, no how.

Hi relyn,

Every time, and I MEAN EVERY TIME, you write something to me, it makes me want to buy a plane ticket and come to see you (and perhaps move in and live with you).

How do you ALWAYS know what to say that is so perfect?! Always! You are amazing. Thank you, my friend.

That wasn't a kick in the pants but more like a hug. I like that too.

Hi TP,

Since you were my mentor for this first book, the fact that you love love love it makes me want to do even more. You can kick me all you want!

Hi christina,

I think you and I are somewhat in the same place, and we can help each other...get your MOO cards and it'll be a little fun step to keep you motivated. After all, you'll want to start sharing them with people, and then that will lead to something else, right?

Hi ms. wellspring,

Well, why am I not surprised that you know all about MOO cards. You're one step ahead of me. But the question is, why have I never seen one of them? I'm sure they're adorable.

Has it been 6 months already? Almost as old as the Peach!

;-)

Hi octavine,

You are a true artist and way way ahead of me in this sort of thing. You are definitely someone I can look up to as a role model, to be sure.

But you know the economy down here in the city. My profit margin on my things so far will buy me a nice sushi dinner once in a while, or keep me in AA batteries for the camera, but unless things took off dramatically, I'd never be able to afford to live here. So perhaps someday I might get there, but that someday is still kinda far away.

But I appreciate all of your wisdom and feedback. And I definitely want to trade MOO cards with you! OMG! Is a side bonus that they are like little trading cards, collectors editions! I want ALL of yours. I am NOT kidding.

xoxo

Psyche September 18, 2008 at 10:50 AM  

This is so funny, because you're the person I think of when I'm trying to motivate myself to take steps towards making a career from things *I* love. You are an inspiration to me.

You're doing great. Don't think for a second you're not brave. And don't underestimate the importance of baby steps. So many people think they have to take a giant leap if they're going to move forwards, and end up sitting still because it seems too scary. Baby steps are enough. If you're moving, it's enough. Every journey is made up of individual steps.

I know I've said this a million times, but I really, really recommend The Artist's Way (Julia Cameron). It's full of insight and tools for helping us realise our creative dreams and coping with the fears that go with it. Changed my life. I can honestly say I wouldn't be where I am without it. I probably would never have had the courage to take tango lessons, for one thing.

Kath September 18, 2008 at 10:52 AM  

The way I see it, by writing it down in this post, you're making it happen. The plan is solidifying in your mind. You are going to experience even greater success my friend!

robin bird September 18, 2008 at 11:02 AM  

goodness!!!! the responses you have gotten are tremendously supportive and helpful!! real life...not sugary, 'you are a darling' comments but really helpful thoughtful takes on your situation! you have good friendships that i know (from experience with you) you are cultivated.

i don't have advice for you because like relyn i see you as putting yourself out into the universe already. it happens that way for me... step, by step, by step. doing what is right in front of you. (like that fabulous E.L. Doctorow quote!) and as you are stepping along even though you feel like you are slow or hesitant you are gathering more photos, more experience and more skills. you talk to the universe it talks back.

XOXOXOXOXOX

paris parfait September 19, 2008 at 4:57 AM  

See, I keep telling you - if you can do all that, with that camera, think what you could do with more lenses! You are going places, Photography Girl! But until you get that grant and all those other opportunities unfold, probably best to keep the day job to cushion the transition. And when you're a very famous photographer, you'll already have a built-in fan base. :) xoxox

Red Shoes September 19, 2008 at 9:33 AM  

Yeah...they're right, you know. Get off your duff and make yourself a proper artist's career!

tangobaby September 19, 2008 at 4:38 PM  

Hi psyche,

You have me. I am going to get this book. I promise. Like this weekend! You've got me all excited to read it.

And thank you...I'm so flattered. Flattered and flustered, like "who, ME?!!"

Say, are you still planning a trip someday in this vicinity?

Hi kath,

I hope so. I'm trying to be open. I just wish I knew more about this art and had TIME. I would immerse myself in learning if I just had more time.

So you do what you can. I know you understand. And thank you!

Hi robin bird,

Everyone is SO incredibly wise and helpful to me. It's such an inspiration to be able to throw out an idea or a thought and have some immediate feedback and consensus and it helps SO much. I just don't think I could do half the things I do if it wasn't for you guys. Truly. The blogosphere astounds me with its generosity and sense of commonality and friendship.

Hi paris parfait,

I've become so attached to my little camera. The idea of starting all over again with a new one scares me, although I did take to my new software quickly, like a duckling to water.

Right now, the day job stays. It gives me enough comfort to continue without making me fearful about how I'll pay my rent and eat!

xoxo

Hi red shoes,

I will, but first I want to take that photo walk with you around your 'hood and you show me around. Maybe we can do photo session #2? My gardenia girl.

;-)

Red Shoes September 21, 2008 at 12:19 PM  

TB: oh my gosh yes.

Psyche September 21, 2008 at 9:40 PM  

Yes, I'm still planning a trip. I was supposed to be coming for a scouting trip a couple of weeks ago, but it fell through, and I've since decided I should stop spending money like water for a bit and focus on making some instead. But yes, once I've made progress with the funds, I'm coming to visit!