On Becoming A Soulless Self-Promoter

My sincerest apologies that my blogging productivity has dropped off as of late.  One big reason for this is that my family is preparing for the birth of our fourth child, and as you can imagine, that has consumed much of my time and energy.  Hopefully when we adjust to being a family of SIX (did I really just write that?), I’ll be able to blog more regularly again.

But there is another reason that I haven’t been able to blog much, and that is that I have lost some of my motivation.  I used to blog solely for my own enjoyment and the encouragement of others, but now I’m supposed to use my website to build a following that will convince publishers that I am a worthy investment as a writer.  This requires a lot of networking and a good deal of self promotion, which has been terribly uncomfortable for me, as I am by nature not very prone to putting myself out there.

I needed some encouragement to this end, and fortunately, I stumbled upon this post by Donald Miller.  You can read it yourself, but in summary, he says that self-promotion is not nearly as negative as it feels or appears to others.  It is simply a representation of how much you believe in what you have to say, and how willing you are to get your message out there.  And in that way, self promotion, despite its name, has nothing to do with self – it’s about your creation, product, book, art, music, whatever.

I found this post extremely comforting, and fervently nodded in total agreement as I read through it.  I came to the conclusion that Donald was dead on, that it was okay to put myself out there and promote both myself and my blog and prospective book, because I believed in my family’s story, and the God that I believe sustained us through a difficult time.  I was ready to promote the heck out of myself.

But then I made the mistake of scrolling down a bit further, and reading the comments section following his article: page after page filled with blog url’s and people shamelessly plugging their book or blog or whatever.  You know, stuff like this:

“My dream is to be an author someday and until then, I write. My current blog can be found at http://FAKEURL.com/. I hope to have an associated Twitter account soon. In the meantime, feel free to tweet my personal account @FAKEURL or leave comments on my blog. Thanks!”

Blech.  And it was then that I made the realization:

No matter how you dress it up and justify it, people who talk about themselves all the time are still annoying as hell.

As much as I respect Donald Miller, he’s just dressing up a turd.  Self-promotion is by its very nature self-aggrandizing and selfish and aggravating to others, no matter how noble your ends are.  He’s such a good writer that he very nearly manages to make it seem palatable, but the fact is that when you see self-promotion in its purest form, like on a comment board of a website, you realize it for what it is: a bunch of people who act like spambots, trying to out-squawk each other in an already deafening world.

But this is the unfortunate reality of how the publishing game is played: it’s based on numbers and platform and popularity.  Now, I’m sure that publishers would protest mightily at this icy assessment, but I don’t think that it’s far off the mark.  I’m not sure how else you can explain why the rubbish sentiments of famous people are published in such abundance (AHEM).  If you want to get published, then that is the game you have to play.

Self promotion is not a noble pursuit that we should be totally cool with, but a necessary evil if you really want something badly enough.

But when you think about it, this type of dynamic of “playing the game” can be found in nearly every aspect of life.  You REALLY want to get ahead in a corporate environment?  Then be prepared to kiss butts, because that’s the game.  You REALLY want to get married soon?  Then be prepared to kiss frogs, because that’s the game.  You REALLY want to publish a book?  Then be prepared to annoy all your friends with constant requests to read this, share that, like this and comment on that.  Sure, there are the privileged few who get to bypass that process by virtue of their wide connections, enormous talent, or deep experience.  They make an end run around the game and cross the finish line, pride somewhat intact.

We all want to be that person, but very few us will be.

For the rest of us, we need to make a calculated decision between how much we want to achieve a goal, and exactly what we are willing to do to achieve it.  And the ratio between those two will dictate how much butt kissing, frog kissing, or shameless self promotion you are willing to do.  It’s more important for us to come to terms with our decision than it is for us to waste precious time and energy trying to delude ourselves into thinking that we can have it all, all the time.

But there is one caveat to all of this: friends.

Sure, it takes a lot of pride-swallowing to promote your own blog to complete strangers.  But it is not nearly as annoying and unnatural when a friend shares it with others of their own accord, because they like you, and they like what you have to say.  Sure, it sucks to be on the hunt for Mr. or Mrs. Right, and to put your butt out there in the dating scene.  But it sucks far less when a friend is looking out for you, hunting with you, and for you, maybe even vetting out the riff raff, like that guy who has a custom made XBOX controller – never a good sign, ladies.

And so in this delicate dance between our means and ends, we should never forget the importance of human relationships.  It is our friends and family and community that allow us to achieve our goals and dreams while protecting our integrity and sense of self.  And the more we speak up on behalf of the ones we love, the better we all are for it.

ALL THIS TO SAY THAT IF YOU ARE MY FRIENDS, I EXPECT YOU TO TELL OTHERS ABOUT MY BLOG.  Thanks.

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16 thoughts on “On Becoming A Soulless Self-Promoter

  1. A friend who runs a ministry for homeless folks posted this just a second before you on facebook: “I find it hard to write about the work I do and not feel like I am an egomaniac.” Yes, I shared your blog post with him : )

    1. YES! amy, you have officially qualified for friendship, congratulations! attendant with this position comes many great benefits, like a signed copy of my soon to be published book, and a free baby dedication. Must be redeemed in year 2012, not valid in all states.

  2. Thanks, Peter. Greg just shared this post with me because my mom & I are starting our own catering business, and I cringe at the whole self-promoting thing, too. But, we need to be able to pay our bills, and if our business is going to fly, I have to stick my neck out there…tactfully. Many blessings to you as you seek to be published. I enjoy reading your stuff, and I am sure thousands of others will, too!!

    1. thanks kari! and the best of luck with the catering business. great thing about food is that so many of us think with our stomachs…

  3. Ahhh…..so true. And I wonder…how much of the cringe is due to being Asian? (Sorry to play the race card LOL) the other day i was helping a brand new Christian (a Japanese college student) write out her testimony, one she’d read aloud just before being baptized. As we talked, I edited her testimony, adding: “I was always a nice person, but…” and finally she carefully asked in Japanese, “What do you think about saying that? It just seems so weird!” To her, even THAT felt like self-promotion and it made her somewhat uncomfortable! I inwardly marveled at how American I am (although clearly more bi-cultural than many of my Asian American friends) to not have caught that sentiment.
    …sometimes I hedge in sharing my own personal testimony too, bc I feel like ppl will be uninterested or irritated [that I’m wasting their time], but I will say it was truly a Holy Spirit-led moment when I ended up sharing my testimony of God calling me to be a medical missionary to this college girl. She immediately connected my testimony with her own adolescent dreams and calling!!! And with that, I KNEW without a shadow of a doubt that I need to heed the leading of the Holy Spirit and not my flesh, not my fears that I’ll sound like I’m self-promoting… who am I to determine what God will do in and through me?

    1. i think wanting to fit in is natural to all humans, but definitely exaggerated in asian culture. we do prize those who stand apart, but only by virtue of their excellence. and that excellence must be recognized by outside sources, you know what i mean?

      and i def agree with the Spirit led part of what you said too. there are surely times when what seems like self promotion is really God trying to use you to tell His story – being able to tell the difference between the two, is not easy, and requires a good deal of spiritual discernment in its own right!

  4. Good thoughts, thanks for sharing your struggles and distaste for self-promotion, of which I share in many ways also. To frame using your preferred category, then, how many friends can you build relationships with, especially new friends that you don’t know yet? And, to rethink the publishing “game”, if you change the game, you don’t have to play by their rules. What is the “game” you’d want to be a part of, and how much does money play (or doesn’t play) into it?

    1. that’s a really good question! by virtue of being a father of almost 4, i scarcely have enough time to maintain relationships with friends i already know. any suggestions to that end, i.e. how an introverted homebody makes new friends in new networks without making it seem like i’m using them for…you know…. networking?

      1. I don’t have enough time to maintain all of my friendships too, because most of us have to work for a living.

        I have lots of ideas, not ever short of those! Being introvert doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive to having more friends. (Then again, I know some people who have a really (unrealistic) high bar for what they consider a friend vs. an acquaintance.) You might be at the point of having to leave your comfort zone as you extend your circles, and that is the kind of faith we’re called to, yes?

        A good number of “effective” ministers online and offline claim to be introverts too, i.e. Dave Gibbons, Erwin McManus, Francis Chan, Tim Keller, Ron Edmondson http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/158266-7-pitfalls-of-being-an-introverted-leader.html Adam McHugh http://www.introvertedchurch.com/ etc etc etc

        And, when it comes to networking, that doesn’t have to be necessarily a bad word, it can be a genuine and sincere interest in helping others, cf. Philippians 2 http://ebible.com/nkjv/philippians/2 “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

        Just as you don’t only minister to people who are your friends, and you don’t only minister to people in the same room with you (which I would think would be more draining for introverts), you’ll develop your own style of how you minister to people asychronously whether in print, video, online, or whatever. Just do it.

      2. Maybe we should all be setting up groups of people/friends simply for networking – and referring to them as something other than friends so that there’s no blurring of lines or confusion (“frenections”? “proliferators”? …). Perhaps it’d be easier to be open about those kinds of interactions so that with the agenda clear, no feelings get hurt. And if genuine friendship develops, that’s a bonus. The only criteria in developing a ‘frenection’ with someone would be that you genuinely admired their work – you don’t have to know them as a person. But, in essence, perhaps I’ve just described blogging and the sharing thereof. And I’m having trouble getting even my ACTUAL friends to spread the word on mine!!

      3. hi alison, thanks for visiting! yeah, it’s a really tough issue for those who are personally not comfortable with self promotion, but are in a field where self promotion has unfortunately become indispensable. but i think there are some groups that are coming out that are exactly along the lines you describe, and i think they call them writing guilds. one of my REAL friends are in one, and i think their primary purpose is to support each other as writers, and out of that, real friendships develop. i have been thinking about joining one, but i’m just too darn busy to invest in yet another group, what with pastoring a new church, raising four kids and playing video games. whoops, not that last bit…

  5. Hi Peter – I couldn’t agree more with your feelings on self-promotion so I’m afraid that it will always be shameFUL rather than shameLESS when/if I can bring myself to do it. We’re brought up to not ‘blow our own trumpet’ and then we’re told that, even in job interviews we have to ‘talk ourselves up’ – it’s a switch I haven’t taken to, I’m afraid. And in a world where people consider that tweeting their lunch ingredients will be of interest to others, it does seem that things have changed. But I’m stuck in the ‘modest’ generation and will be dragged kicking and screaming into self-promotion. Irrespective of the success I get in bringing my writing to a wider audience, though, I think I’ll always draw the line at some things but I think that line is still a bit far off just yet so I’ll take solace in the fact that I’m not the only one cringing and recoiling at the prospect of what’s required simply to get more than friends and family to read your work. (Hope your friends have done what’s expected and taken heed of your last sentence … and that mine buck up and do the same!!) Thanks for a reassuring post.

  6. Peter, love reading your blog. you and carol are uniquely missional — it’s inspiring. thanks for living a different kind of life.

    i’m going to forward your blog to my friends. –jackie

    p.s. is it bad that i still cringe that i wrote the wrong date down to bring you and carol food five years ago? still wanting to send some food over to you…

    1. haha, thanks jackie! i don’t think i even knew about the wrong date. but if you still feel really bad, then i won’t stop you from sending us food. you know, to assuage your conscience…

Comments are closed.

On Becoming A Soulless Self-Promoter

My sincerest apologies that my blogging productivity has dropped off as of late.  One big reason for this is that my family is preparing for the birth of our fourth child, and as you can imagine, that has consumed much of my time and energy.  Hopefully when we adjust to being a family of SIX (did I really just write that?), I’ll be able to blog more regularly again.

But there is another reason that I haven’t been able to blog much, and that is that I have lost some of my motivation.  I used to blog solely for my own enjoyment and the encouragement of others, but now I’m supposed to use my website to build a following that will convince publishers that I am a worthy investment as a writer.  This requires a lot of networking and a good deal of self promotion, which has been terribly uncomfortable for me, as I am by nature not very prone to putting myself out there. Continue reading “On Becoming A Soulless Self-Promoter”

16 thoughts on “On Becoming A Soulless Self-Promoter

  1. A friend who runs a ministry for homeless folks posted this just a second before you on facebook: “I find it hard to write about the work I do and not feel like I am an egomaniac.” Yes, I shared your blog post with him : )

    1. YES! amy, you have officially qualified for friendship, congratulations! attendant with this position comes many great benefits, like a signed copy of my soon to be published book, and a free baby dedication. Must be redeemed in year 2012, not valid in all states.

  2. Thanks, Peter. Greg just shared this post with me because my mom & I are starting our own catering business, and I cringe at the whole self-promoting thing, too. But, we need to be able to pay our bills, and if our business is going to fly, I have to stick my neck out there…tactfully. Many blessings to you as you seek to be published. I enjoy reading your stuff, and I am sure thousands of others will, too!!

    1. thanks kari! and the best of luck with the catering business. great thing about food is that so many of us think with our stomachs…

  3. Ahhh…..so true. And I wonder…how much of the cringe is due to being Asian? (Sorry to play the race card LOL) the other day i was helping a brand new Christian (a Japanese college student) write out her testimony, one she’d read aloud just before being baptized. As we talked, I edited her testimony, adding: “I was always a nice person, but…” and finally she carefully asked in Japanese, “What do you think about saying that? It just seems so weird!” To her, even THAT felt like self-promotion and it made her somewhat uncomfortable! I inwardly marveled at how American I am (although clearly more bi-cultural than many of my Asian American friends) to not have caught that sentiment.
    …sometimes I hedge in sharing my own personal testimony too, bc I feel like ppl will be uninterested or irritated [that I’m wasting their time], but I will say it was truly a Holy Spirit-led moment when I ended up sharing my testimony of God calling me to be a medical missionary to this college girl. She immediately connected my testimony with her own adolescent dreams and calling!!! And with that, I KNEW without a shadow of a doubt that I need to heed the leading of the Holy Spirit and not my flesh, not my fears that I’ll sound like I’m self-promoting… who am I to determine what God will do in and through me?

    1. i think wanting to fit in is natural to all humans, but definitely exaggerated in asian culture. we do prize those who stand apart, but only by virtue of their excellence. and that excellence must be recognized by outside sources, you know what i mean?

      and i def agree with the Spirit led part of what you said too. there are surely times when what seems like self promotion is really God trying to use you to tell His story – being able to tell the difference between the two, is not easy, and requires a good deal of spiritual discernment in its own right!

  4. Good thoughts, thanks for sharing your struggles and distaste for self-promotion, of which I share in many ways also. To frame using your preferred category, then, how many friends can you build relationships with, especially new friends that you don’t know yet? And, to rethink the publishing “game”, if you change the game, you don’t have to play by their rules. What is the “game” you’d want to be a part of, and how much does money play (or doesn’t play) into it?

    1. that’s a really good question! by virtue of being a father of almost 4, i scarcely have enough time to maintain relationships with friends i already know. any suggestions to that end, i.e. how an introverted homebody makes new friends in new networks without making it seem like i’m using them for…you know…. networking?

      1. I don’t have enough time to maintain all of my friendships too, because most of us have to work for a living.

        I have lots of ideas, not ever short of those! Being introvert doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive to having more friends. (Then again, I know some people who have a really (unrealistic) high bar for what they consider a friend vs. an acquaintance.) You might be at the point of having to leave your comfort zone as you extend your circles, and that is the kind of faith we’re called to, yes?

        A good number of “effective” ministers online and offline claim to be introverts too, i.e. Dave Gibbons, Erwin McManus, Francis Chan, Tim Keller, Ron Edmondson http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/158266-7-pitfalls-of-being-an-introverted-leader.html Adam McHugh http://www.introvertedchurch.com/ etc etc etc

        And, when it comes to networking, that doesn’t have to be necessarily a bad word, it can be a genuine and sincere interest in helping others, cf. Philippians 2 http://ebible.com/nkjv/philippians/2 “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

        Just as you don’t only minister to people who are your friends, and you don’t only minister to people in the same room with you (which I would think would be more draining for introverts), you’ll develop your own style of how you minister to people asychronously whether in print, video, online, or whatever. Just do it.

      2. Maybe we should all be setting up groups of people/friends simply for networking – and referring to them as something other than friends so that there’s no blurring of lines or confusion (“frenections”? “proliferators”? …). Perhaps it’d be easier to be open about those kinds of interactions so that with the agenda clear, no feelings get hurt. And if genuine friendship develops, that’s a bonus. The only criteria in developing a ‘frenection’ with someone would be that you genuinely admired their work – you don’t have to know them as a person. But, in essence, perhaps I’ve just described blogging and the sharing thereof. And I’m having trouble getting even my ACTUAL friends to spread the word on mine!!

      3. hi alison, thanks for visiting! yeah, it’s a really tough issue for those who are personally not comfortable with self promotion, but are in a field where self promotion has unfortunately become indispensable. but i think there are some groups that are coming out that are exactly along the lines you describe, and i think they call them writing guilds. one of my REAL friends are in one, and i think their primary purpose is to support each other as writers, and out of that, real friendships develop. i have been thinking about joining one, but i’m just too darn busy to invest in yet another group, what with pastoring a new church, raising four kids and playing video games. whoops, not that last bit…

  5. Hi Peter – I couldn’t agree more with your feelings on self-promotion so I’m afraid that it will always be shameFUL rather than shameLESS when/if I can bring myself to do it. We’re brought up to not ‘blow our own trumpet’ and then we’re told that, even in job interviews we have to ‘talk ourselves up’ – it’s a switch I haven’t taken to, I’m afraid. And in a world where people consider that tweeting their lunch ingredients will be of interest to others, it does seem that things have changed. But I’m stuck in the ‘modest’ generation and will be dragged kicking and screaming into self-promotion. Irrespective of the success I get in bringing my writing to a wider audience, though, I think I’ll always draw the line at some things but I think that line is still a bit far off just yet so I’ll take solace in the fact that I’m not the only one cringing and recoiling at the prospect of what’s required simply to get more than friends and family to read your work. (Hope your friends have done what’s expected and taken heed of your last sentence … and that mine buck up and do the same!!) Thanks for a reassuring post.

  6. Peter, love reading your blog. you and carol are uniquely missional — it’s inspiring. thanks for living a different kind of life.

    i’m going to forward your blog to my friends. –jackie

    p.s. is it bad that i still cringe that i wrote the wrong date down to bring you and carol food five years ago? still wanting to send some food over to you…

    1. haha, thanks jackie! i don’t think i even knew about the wrong date. but if you still feel really bad, then i won’t stop you from sending us food. you know, to assuage your conscience…

Comments are closed.