In this issue ~~
* Success, Fame and Visibility
* Creative Tip
* Wise Words
Fame and Visibility
"Success is far more perilous than failure." So
said Noel Coward in his play, Design for Living. We all strive fervently
for success, but when we actually get there, it can challenge
as well as reward us. Success changes your life irrevocably.
You receive more attention, opportunities and privileges, as
well as financial rewards, but the increased visibility can also
limit your privacy, make demands on you and inhibit your creativity.
Certainly, fame has its benefits. I believe it was George
Carlin who said that the best part of fame was not having to
wait on lines anymore. Our culture needs heroes, so we put celebrities
on pedestals. You may find yourself being offered artistic opportunities
that would never have come your way before, along with personal
privileges. You may make more money in one week than in the previous
five years. But we also live in a society that sets impossible
standards for our heroes, and then turns on them when they can't
maintain, or even reach, those standards.
As artists, we're often sensitive people, and visibility opens
us up to people's projections and criticisms. They may idolize
us and expect us to be flawless human beings, the ideal mother
or father they never had, or confuse us with the characters we
play or our public image, and then become angry when they see
our human imperfections or our reluctance to fill that role for
them. We've seen how theatre and other critics make an art of
skewering performers and artists, to the delight of their readers,
insensitive to the hurt they may be causing the object of their
criticism. Sadly, the public feeds on this type of press, epitomized
by the tabloids, and perpetuates it.
Fame is a double-edged sword, and we may find ourselves ambivalent
about our newfound notoriety. We crave attention, but when we
get it, we may feel exposed and vulnerable. An acting teacher
of mine once commented (to a student whose hair was covering
her face during a scene) on how we become actors because we want
to be seen, then we get up on stage and do everything to hide
ourselves. While fame brings with it certain freedoms, the ones
that come with anonymity may become limited. On "Entertainment
Tonight," one teen celebrity commented that being famous
made it embarrassing to go shopping for underwear.
Despite these negatives, it's against our nature to strive
for anything less than our best, and many of us do want the
opportunities that come with success and fame. If you feel –
or hope – that some level of celebrity is on the horizon for
you, the best thing you can do for yourself is prepare for this
event the best you can – physically, mentally and emotionally.
~ Get to know who you are – your values, your needs,
what really matters to you. Spend time getting to know yourself,
perhaps journaling or talking with close friends. One successful
author who has achieved some fame said that the best thing she
did to prepare herself was therapy. She got very clear on who
she was and what she really wanted from her life, so that when
fame arrived, she had a solid foundation on which to stand, and
it didn't throw her.
Know why you're doing what you're doing. If it's for the fame,
fine, acknowledge that. But be aware that goals like fame and
money, on their own, often don't stand the test of time. Consider
striving for fame and money as a means to a greater end, such
as more fulfilling or exciting artistic opportunities or to reach
a larger audience with your work. In What Price Fame?, Tyler Cowen questions
whether fame doesn't "goad artists, scientists and politicians
to reach higher and take the kinds of risks that ultimately enrich
all our lives." Now, there's a goal you can sink your teeth
~ Develop trust with the people in your life. Once
you achieve some level of success or fame, you'll encounter people
who will want to be around you for ulterior motives, and even
some of your friends will expect to benefit from the bounty of
your success. Begin to develop your "trust antenna,"
and surround yourself with people who continue to support and
be honest with you as your success grows.
~ Be prepared for your relationships to be tested.
People will receive your success differently. Some will come
forth and celebrate with you; others will be jealous or expect
something of you. When my publishing company published its first
book, some of our friends bought the book to help us out, while
others got angry they didn't get a freebie.
~ Learn to set boundaries. You need to know how much
you can handle and take care of yourself. For example, I attended
a workshop with a famous teacher/author who was inundated with
questions during the breaks, but made it clear that once the
workshop was over, she would leave immediately. If you get mail
or e-mail that upsets you, have someone screen it for you. Screen
your phone calls. Fame has its demands, and you need to preserve
your time, health and sanity in order to continue your success.
Learn to say "no" kindly, but firmly.
~ Be careful about getting caught up in the trappings of
success. Your new privileges can be fun, but they can also
distract you from the work that got you there in the first place.
Again, remember what matters to you. Sure, enjoy your success,
but keep one foot on the ground.
~ Stay in touch with what you love about your work,
so as success waxes and wanes, you still get and retain the gratification.
The thrill of success is fleeting. Connect with the joy you get
from your work, rather than getting addicted to the high of fame
and feeling pressured to keep it up. Also, stay in touch with
your artistic vision, however it evolves. The adoration of your
public can be compelling, and it can be easy to stray from your
own vision to please them. There's nothing wrong with responding
to your fans, but be sure that it's aligned with what you want
for yourself and that you're not compromising your values or
~ Create a solid foundation for yourself, both emotionally
and financially. Success can challenge your creativity, your
privacy and even your morality. You may receive some extremely
tempting offers that ask you to compromise your principles. When
you have a good emotional support system and financial assets,
you give yourself the freedom to make choices from a solid, grounded
place, rather than selling out because you need the money or
~ Be prepared for the negatives. Take your reviews
and criticisms in stride, and don't give them more weight than
they deserve. If there's a criticism you feel is valid, then
take it into account. But keep in mind that both positive and
negative reviews are simply opinions, and people love to express
them freely and, often, carelessly. You're still the ultimate
authority on your work. Remember that many accomplished artists
had visions that were controversial in their time.
~ Stay humble. Your talents are a gift given to you
to share with the world. Be proud of them, enjoy them, but stay
grounded. It can become very seductive for the part of us that
loves power to see others as inferior. Even as a small press
owner, I found that some writers began treating me deferentially,
and it would have been very easy to treat them as "underlings."
Remember to be grateful for all that comes to you, and when the
time is right, give back to your audience and to those coming
up in your field who can benefit from your experience.
~ With fame comes power, and with power comes responsibility.
Whether you like it or not, your image and behavior become a
model for your fans, some of whom may be kids. You can wield
your power for the greater good. Many celebrities have used their
visibility to start or become a spokesperson for a charity, or
to support a political candidate or cause they believe in.
~ If you know someone who has achieved a level of celebrity,
be compassionate and trustworthy. You may feel jealous, but
remember that fame doesn't erase personal challenges, and your
friend may need your support more than ever. You'll want the
same compassion and trust when you reach their position.
So, if you're fortunate enough to find success and fame, enjoy
it and make the most of it. There's no question that it will
change you, as any life experience does, but you can choose how
you will change. You can continue to live and make choices from
your values and principles, rather than being tossed about by
the temptations. Remember why you chose to do your work in the
first place, and stay in touch with your love for it. Be prepared
for the pitfalls, and you'll enjoy the ride that much more!
Prepare for success by choosing the image you want to convey,
and begin dressing and behaving in a way that supports the successful
image you see for yourself. Act "as if" you're already
there, and other people will also start to see you as the successful
person you intend to be.
"Our dreams, goals, and ideas come from our values. .
. If what we are doing does not come from what we care about
most in life, it is meaningless."
~ G. Lynne Snead, Joyce Wycoff
"What we must decide is how we are valuable rather than
how valuable we are."
~ Edgar Z. Friedenberg
"It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent
for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I
was too famous."
~ Robert Benchley
(click on the book graphic to see a
description at Amazon.com)
Power, Money, Fame,
Sex: A User's Guide . . . Gretchen Craft Rubin
The Frenzy of Renown:
Fame and Its History . . . Leo Braudy
What Price Fame?
. . . Tyler Cowen
High Visibility: The
Making and Marketing of Professionals into Celebrities
. . . Irving J. Rein, Philip Kotler, Martin Stoller
Celebrity and Power:
Fame in Contemporary Culture . . . P. David Marshall
Claims to Fame: Celebrity
in Contemporary America . . . Joshua Gamson
A Massive Swelling:
Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease and Other
Cultural Revelations . . . Cintra Wilson
Illusions of Immortality:
A Psychology of Fame and Celebrity . . . David Giles
© 2001 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.
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