Over the years of being an amateur in various disciplines and arenas, I’ve made some mistakes and watched other people make mistakes with what appears to me to be a code of etiquette for amateur artists. I’ve also seen people with impeccable etiquette!
- Never misrepresent your amateur status. It’s sad and bothersome to see an amateur who inflates their accomplishments with the intent of representing themselves as a professional. It’s a form of denial. It makes them look foolish. And it diminishes their art in the eyes of those that know better. It’s the name dropping, the woulda/coulda/shoulda, the constant smoke-screen of bullshit about past, present, and future projects. It’s a self-perpetuation of self-delusion with an intent of getting others to help perpetuate the lie. This has to stop. Besides the fact that it makes us look like fools and diminishes our art, it perpetuates the perception of amateurs as wannabes and hacks. Not all amateurs wanna be professionals. Some amateurs, in fact, have obtained a level of mastery with their art, but have chosen to remain an amateur. Some of my all-time most memorable moments in music, theatre, writing (etc) have been in amateur settings. It is a high form of art that exists only for the sake of love of art. Embrace it in yourself and in others. Art is so subjective. The moment you call yourself a pro or aspiring pro, you’re offering a different set of lenses for people to view your art that may ultimately diminish its value in their eyes. Instead of only judging and enjoying your work on its merits, they will be judging it on whether it is truly worthy of professional status. Don’t do that to yourself unless you are truly ready to aspire to professional status.
- Learn how to accept a compliment. We as artists are constantly striving to improve our art. It’s part of the process. But as soon as you put it out there for the world, it is no longer a process, it is just art, and people will have an opinion about it in it’s present state. If you are fortunate enough to receive a compliment, the only proper response is:”Thank you. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed what I did.” Anything else is insulting to the tastes of the patron. The worst thing you could say is: “Thank you, but….[I wish I would have…or I thought I sucked, etc.]”Also, don’t immediately jump into a diatribe of how wonderful you thought you were, your preparation, your futures plans, etc. If they want to know, they will ask.
- Show respect for professionals and aspiring professionals. You will undoubtedly encounter, perform with, show with, or share with pros or aspiring pros in your art, and if not, you will at least have the opportunity to talk about them. These are people who have chosen to dedicate their lives to their art; for that, they deserve your respect, no matter how you feel about what they do. Don’t bad mouth pros (or anyone in your discipline). And when you work with them, be supportive and respectful. It only diminishes you in the eyes of people around you if you’re disrespectful, not the pro. Common example: “[professional] stinks. Sure, they’ve sold a million, but that’s just cuz people have bad taste.”You’ve not only insulted the pro, you’ve insulted a million potential appreciators of your art.
- Don’t use your amateur status as an excuse for unprofessional behavior. Professionalism is not about being paid, it’s about respect for your colleagues and patrons…and who knows, maybe one day you will decide to aspire. Don’t you want to have a reputation of being a professional in terms of your behavior?
- Never force your art on someone. There is nothing wrong with promotion of your art. After all, how else can you share it with the people who appreciate it? But don’t push it on people. Don’t be that guy who walks in with a printed copy of their latest short story and places it on their buddy’s desk and stands there waiting for them to read it. This is awkward. People will begin to avoid you…trust me, I know! Although you might have a few friends that truly love what you do and want to be advised of your latest masterpiece, most of your friends will not give a flying flip…if they did, they would be asking you for it instead of you having to bring it to them. Advertise broadly, not targeting this person or that (unless they’ve signed up for individual notifications). If it’s sufficiently advertised and it’s any good, the people who want it will reach out and take it.
When you follow basic etiquette with your art, you put yourself in the optimum position for sharing it.