A couple of weeks ago, I did two things that were extremely minor to the rest of the world but major to me: 1) I started promoting my work as much as I wanted, and 2) I stopped apologizing for promoting my work. Wait, no! I actually did three things, and the third is the most important: 3) I stopped apologizing for my work, period. Cue a huge side of relief and a little bit of a middle finger thrown up to the world in general. I’m done feeling guilty that some people think it’s “weird” I write about murder. I’m done feeling like I have to hide certain aspects of my success so that insecure people can feel better about themselves. I’m just done! Done with the weird freelancer apology dance: “Sorry for spamming you but here’s another article, it’s kinda long, no need to actually read it, LOL! Oh and while you’re at it, curious when my paycheck will arrive, not to bug you but it’s been four months, sorry for being a nag!” D-O-N-E.
It’s kinda hard to write about this subject without sounding bitter, because the truth of the matter is that I am a little bit bitter. I absorbed some not-so-helpful lessons from some not-so-helpful people for a pretty long time, and one of those was that people shouldn’t promote themselves, that women shouldn’t promote themselves, and that “artists” certainly shouldn’t promote themselves. I am not innocent here; I’ve cast my share of judgmental looks on people who are just out there hustling and trying to get eyes on their work. And I regret that. Somewhere in the ether there’s this idea that art is made impure by the vulgar stuff of self-promotion. Of course, all that attitude does is keep a lot of artists firmly in the “starving” category, but I’ve seen people use that argument to justify their own lack of success, too. If you never go hard for your own work, you can never fail spectacularly, and you can convince yourself that the world simply doesn’t understand you.
Again: I am not innocent. I’ve spent too long judging the way other people run their careers and not taking full responsibility for my own successes and failures. But it feels so great to be done with all of that now. Done! The best word ever! I don’t care if someone gets annoyed because I publicize my latest story on Facebook and Instagram and my newsletter aaand Instagram Stories aaaaaand again on Facebook one week later. It’s my work! IT IS MY WORK. The Tori Dot Gov business is a one-woman show: there’s just one woman over here doing all the pitching, writing, editing, copywriting, press release crafting, social media posting, newsletter sending, Excel spreadsheet-keeping, tax paying, Etsy shop-owning, financial plotting, goal-setting stuff of it. If you think I’m going to do all that and then apologize for the fact that my business generates product then you’re crazy.
See, the hard-but-liberating truth of the matter is that no one is out there thinking, “Man, if I could just find a really great and kinda cute and self-deprecating writer to hand this fantastic opportunity to…” No one is carefully watching what you do, waiting to hand you a trust fund/staff writer position. Recently, I found out that a man I once interviewed is in talks with a producer to have a movie made about his life. Another girl that I interviewed went viral because of my story and is now an international model. In both cases, I, the writer, was simply the conduit. Which I’m happy to be!!! (I don’t think I deserve to be an international model, guys! I think often the writer should only be the conduit!) But both of these situations reminded me that, career-wise, I have to be my own best spokesperson. No one’s going to read my article and approach me to write the screenplay; they’re going to go straight to the source. My work is rarely the most valuable thing in the room, you know? So I have to be my own mouthpiece; I have to create (and argue for) my own value. (Also, don’t come at me with any “but your value is so much more than simply a paycheck!” hand-wringing—first of all, get outta here with that argument by emotive language fallacy, and second of all, I love this stuff, I thrive on this stuff, and when it comes to my writing I am a cold hard ruthless capitalist who can and will measure her value in dollar amounts all day long!)
As a freelancer, as a writer, as a woman who is frequently assumed to be just kinda vaguely available all the time, it is VITAL that I’m in my own corner. I have incredibly supportive people in my life (Charlie, my CMO, being the most obvious example), and I have a badass agent and super-cool editors who are there for me, too—and not a day goes by when I am not incredibly, incredibly grateful for it all—but I don’t have a company behind me, or any source of income that is not a direct result of my work, or any safety nets other than the love and coffee-making skills of my family and friends. I have to be my own publicist, financial advisor, and racker-up of hustle stats. And that’s why I’m done apologizing for self-promotion.
Of course there are ways to do it poorly: constant spamming, tasteless posts screeched in the middle of national pain, the time Lindsey Lohan posted a sexy selfie and then tried to write about ISIS in her caption. But over all my attitude toward art, which is to say work, is that the best thing to do is to do it really well and really shrewdly. The hustle, the self-promotion, the self-confidence, the paycheck then allows you to craft the sort of life you want, donate to the causes you believe in, pour energy into being a good partner, family member, and friend, COMPOST EVERY SCRAP OF FOOD WASTE YOU CAN, and generally help others. Shrinking violets are not particularly beneficial members of their community, you know? That’s all. Bye. PS: Love you. PPS: Sign up for my newsletter.