Friday, June 3, 2011

Brazen Self Promotion (Part 3 of So What Do You Do?)

Chaat guy.
It's not like I've never embarrassed myself before. I have no problems blaring Bollywood in un-Indian neighbourhoods while my passengers slouch low in their seats, and you all ready the entry about me standing in the crowded Karachi bazaar till I got the perfect picture of the chaat guy. It's that sometimes (most times), I don't particularly care if I do embarrassing things. Besides, lately, I've begun to explain much of my behaviour under the general umbrella of "I am an Artiste". Like promoting my blog, for example. When I began it, things were easy enough. I just posted it on Facebook, invaded people's email boxes with updates under the pretense of "oh, in case you don't check FB, here's a reminder", you know, basic stuff. But then things went steadily downhill.

The first noticeably obnoxious self-promoting I ever did was on one of my favorite grocery clerks at the local Trader Joe's. Fans know that contrary to advertising, TJs is in fact the happiest place on earth. Everyone there is just happy and chatty, negating the tedium of doing groceries. So this poor guy, being a good employee, asked if I'd enjoyed St. Patty's day and I said I had been working and had only watched from the coffee shop window as people headed to the pub next door. What work do you do, he asked. I explained. I read a  lot, he said. Oh, then you should check out my blog. And I stood there as he was forced to rip off a piece of receipt paper and accept my scrawled blog address with a scared sort of smile.

Was that a cheap move? Had I exploited the poor TJ's cashier and the entire company's friendly staff model to serve my own purposes? Had I breached some sort of cashier-customer code of conduct, like a shrink asking her patient out? A resounding yes to all of the above, yet once the floodgates had opened, there was no stopping me.

A couple of weeks ago, I accompanied a friend as she gave a ride to a few people. The thirteen year old girl we were driving mentioned she liked writing too. Yes, folks, indeed I did. I found a paper CD protector and plastered my blog address on it, passing it to her in the back seat as she thanked me with the same stunned-scared expression the TJ cashier had worn.

Did I do it so she could draw inspiration from my artistic journey? Or was it simply so she would one day buy my book? Again, yes.

As I said, this was a downhill journey and we now arrive to the bottom of the chasm. The most shameless (shameful?) self-advertising happened last weekend. It was my sister's wedding and as I welcomed my new brother-in-law into the family, I said, "[Husband's name here], we may not have much in common in terms of hobbies or eating habits, but we both share a love of my blog". At this point, I put one hand to the side of my mouth and fake-whispered the blog address to the whole gathering.

Over the top? Way over. Exploitative? Criminally so.

So the question is, is all this self-promotion going to get me anywhere? Shouldn't I just shut up and finish the book already, let my art speak for itself? Or is the world of creative arts so cut-throat, so difficult to break into let alone survive in that a starving artist must do what she has to to get her name out there? In fact, now that I think about it, is this a good place to sneak in a plea to all of you to help me promote the bejeezus out of my blog, scrawl on receipts, napkins, the backs of people's arms, bathroom stalls?

Yes. Definitely, yes.