Thursday, September 16, 2004


I've been known to be a complainer. But I'm been trying to change that, been trying to focus on the positive things in my life so that I can be a happier person.

But sometimes, you just gotta bitch. And there are plenty of things in the world to bitch about. For example...

I am a networker. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I have a diverse, socially eclectic group of friends and connections, and I work them when I need to. I like to make connections between people who I think might want to talk to each other--people who have common interests, need help on a project, etc. My partner, H., a freelance graphic designer, can attest to my networking skills--at least 70% of his clients have found him through me. I've hooked up friends with new clients, new funders and donors, and probably a few 9-to-5 jobs too. In my mind, that's the way our 'community' is supposed to work--we connect with people, we help other people connect, we build a stronger community, we keep the work (and the $) in the 'Family', so to speak. We help each other out. Scratch each other's backs.

Yeah, I'm blowin' smoke up my own ass, but this stuff is all true. I can network well--usually better for other people than for myself, but that's another story. The thing I want to bitch about right now is the utter lack of networking / back-scratching I've witnessed within my loose circle of creative colleagues. In the political world, this is not the case: everyone networks and introduces up the yin-yang.

Maybe there's some secret password that hasn't been revealed to me yet? If that's not it, why is it that when I attend a reading, I never get introduced to anyone? I always seem to know half a dozen people in the room who know everyone else, but I never get to meet those everyone elses because my contacts are so busy talking themselves up or whatever it is that they do that I am left to my own devices. When I have subtly asked to be introduced to someone, the introduction is usually so nondescript that the person I wanted to meet is thoroughly underwhelmed. Most of the time, I end up introducing myself to people--I said I was a networker--but am always left feeling that I should be getting more help. I mean, I've helped a lot of people meet other interesting folks.

Is this just the way it is in our 'community', folks? Is it too much for me to expect that people will help me out in the interest of keeping our community going, and of helping another struggling artist out? Or am I just trippin'? Or am I just so bland and boring that no one wants to connect me with other folks? Maybe it's just that people think I know everyone already? (I'm the kind of person who introduces people to each other like 3 times just in case they haven't met already, so I just don't get the whole 'I think they know each other already so I don't need to introduce them' thing). This stuff is on my mind lately because I would love to be in a writing group--and I wouldn't mind starting one--but I don't feel like I trust folks I know enough (based on the 'to-each-their-own' individualism I've experienced) to ask them to read my still-tender writings, to be at that level of intimacy with me creatively.

Any insight on this phenomenon would be much appreciated--tips, hints, clues to the roots of this bizarre behavior. I, for one, am tired of doing all the work myself. I want some help, people! My back is fuckin' ITCHY!

Okay, I feel better now. Nothing like a good bitching session to make a girl feel right again.



Anonymous said...

story: once, when i started a new job i felt like an outcast. i didn't feel like i could connect with anyone. for months, no matter how much i put myself out there it always seemed like i could never connect with people. then i finally had my turning point: i was sitting deliberately by myself one day, not wanting to talk to anyone, when one person approached me and sat down. next thing i knew there were 10 people at the table where i had hoped to find some solitude.

point: i continually forced something i wasn't prepared for. once i dropped the issue, it resolved itself and i saw things more clearly.

having said that, i feel you. i am not a networker but i've experienced this networking thing you speak of. (you even hooked me up with H. and believe me i know you're the reason!) all i can think of is this: things happen for a reason. you have your role and you do it well. give and you shall receive, but perhaps in other ways. stay strong and don't lose that giving spirit!


Anonymous said...

This seems to me to be a phenomenon that lies along a continuum, one that I was sucked into, alienated by, and eventually felt distaste for while in the Bay Area during and just after college in the mid-90's. (I dont think it's limited to the Bay Area, just happens to be where my adulthood was cultivated.) It's a sort of protectionist attitude when it comes to socializing. Keep the competitors at a minimum. Increase one's own status without getting visibly involved in the messy affairs of naked ambition or, frankly, networking. It's an extension of the normal clique-ishness of high school -- it follows us to college, then manifests surreptitiously in the post-college art/literature scene, as you described.

I think in any arts scene there will always be a glut of art stars and wannabes, making everyone act possessive of their contacts. But there's another dimension operating here: because of the nature of the leftist/progressive art/lit world, there seems to be an inherent (or posed) distrust of hyperbole and perceived hierarchy, two things that could be argued are intrinsic to the art of networking, if networking is to be encouraged as a positive part of socializing.

You simply have to be motivated to receive praise, status and attention for being a who's who, and you have to feel valued for whom you can connect people with. With neither motivation nor reward, natural networkers (social butterflies to a degree) won't be attracted to the scene, and those who try (sincerely, like you do) will not find positive reinforcement. The leftist world's (at times) dour emphasis on authenticity and downness, without the lighthearted acceptance of, even attraction to, scenes, events, rubbing elbows with hoo-hahs etc., can put a damper on networking in general. There might even be a perception of selling out attached to "making the scene" as well (connections to powerful people, blowing smoke up each other's asses, the frivolousness of partying). But the irony is that everyone's got the itch to make the scene under their skin, it's just not cool to make it publicly known.

There's also the psychological aspects of the art/lit world in general. It's all about personal expression and recognition, making it very self-oriented. And there's also plain textbook insecurity that I venture is widespread among poets and authors. As you pointed out, there is a difference between the art/lit world and the world of politics.

Just my thoughts.

- o