Art Marketing Action: Resist the urge to be The Fixer

Have you ever caught yourself saying this about another artist: “He could be so much more successful if he would just . . . “? Or “She’d sell a lot more work if she would just . . . “? If so, you might be a Fixer.

You’re frustrated because you recognize the talent in your artist-friends, and you want them to succeed. So, you start sharing with them what you’ve learned — perhaps some self-promotion or business tips from this blog. You can’t help yourself! You know what needs to be done, and you are excited to share the information.

Patrick Howe

Patrick Howe, The Sun Who Became a Pig and then Forgot He Was a Sun. Oil on board, 8 x 10 inches.

Here’s the thing, though. You can offer all kinds of tips and advice to other artists, but it won’t do any good until the artists are ready. You can’t help people who aren’t prepared to receive.

When people aren’t ready to do the work, they make excuses. As you know from reading my book, some of the more familiar excuses for not promoting one’s art are “I don’t want to bother people!” and “I’d rather be in the studio!” An artist can have all the talent in the world, but without the strong desire to share her art, she won’t become a full-time professional artist. She’ll keep coming up with excuses! The motivation has to come from within her. It can’t be forced from outside.

As a friend, your job is to accept your artist-friends for where they are with their art. It’s not your job to push and prod and motivate. At least it’s not your job until you’re given permission to do so or have been asked.

Resist the urge to be The Fixer

Trying to mend situations and find solutions for someone who isn’t ready for your help is like banging your head against the wall. See what a huge energy drain this could be? You’re frustrated and your friend is annoyed. This creates unnecessary tension in your relationship.

You don’t need these headaches! You need all good energy for your art.

FINAL WORD: It’s not your job to be The Fixer. Your job is to focus on your own work and take care of yourself before you try to take care of others. Your other job is to accept your artist-friends for where they are at any moment in time.

Related

Refer your artist-friends to the following resources until they’re ready for your personal help.

I’d Rather Be in the Studio! The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion (particularly the chapter on setting goals)

Where to begin when you want to sell your art (from my Hot Posts)

Forgive yourself (for not being able to do it all)

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22 comments to Art Marketing Action: Resist the urge to be The Fixer

  • Another name could be “The Advisor.” I’ve found that sometimes (many times, actually) artists/friends aren’t really looking for advice, they just want someone to bounce ideas off, to vent to or just to listen. The temptation to jump in and advise them on what they should do is sometimes hard to resist, but advice is really much better received if it is asked for!

  • OH!! I absolutely LOVE this! I wonder why it takes someone else to tell me what was somewhere within the cobwebs of my mind, before I finally accept the pure wisdom of it. I have tried to help other artist’s before, even to the detriment of my own self and of course it only leads to frustration and even caused friendships to be more distant. I love the release of responsibility here within your advice. “They may not be ready!” Why hadn’t I realized that before? I have not been ready for so many things in my life, and would certainly not want someone pushing “me” during my time of insecurities or whatever. I used to not sell my work at all, just did my sculptures and painted, then lined them up. I loved them, they were a part of me, and I was just not ready to let go of them. People would come over and ask me where I was showing my work. I wasn’t, and didn’t want to, so I would answer, “No where right now”. They would then offer tons of advice. Yet I was at a place of finding my heart and it was a safe place for me to look at my stack of work. “I wasn’t ready.” I am over that in regards to my art now, but that journey will always be a part of me, and when I look at images now sold from that period, I smile, knowing they are in someones home, hopefully blessing them as they did me. That could be the case for others as well, or a zillion other reasons. Thank you! I feel a huge weight gone and more understanding of me at the same time. .

  • I guess I approach my Fixing in a different way. I have one artist friend who’s come along way in the last few years and I take all the credit! LOL. I don’t tell her what she should do but I tell her what I’m doing. “I’m sending my newsletter today” , “My goal this month is to contact 20 galleries”, “I’m entering X juried show”. I try to lead by example. If she doesn’t follow that’s fine but for the most part she’s interested and we can share our results

  • Interesting article, and it’s timely for me. I’m gearing up to organize a new social media project for our Regional Arts Council, and when I got your email I had to stop and ask myself if I was trying to be a fixer.

    But on reflection, I’ve decided that’s not what this project is about and plan to go ahead. Seth Godin has been writing lot this summer about tactics versus strategy, and strategy is what I’m trying to build right now. Thanks for the double-check!

  • Great advice Alyson. Part 2: Beware the energy drains. If your artist friends want to vent and complain to you without making changes for themselves, don’t let them have too much of your time. I can’t spend too much time with those folks. I don’t explain much, I just cut them off when it gets too negative with” My experience is different, or I don’t see it that way. ”
    If they want to know more, they have to ask, and not try to convince me I am crazy for being an optimist.

  • I have been asked for advice by two artists ( over the past several months), and what I gave them were examples of things to do. Both artists thanked me and then came up with their own ideas and did things their own way and in their own time. So what I told them got them thinking!
    At the other extreme, I recently shared some really good calls for submissions with another artist. We discussed the details. I took advantage of the opportunities, but she did not–and then she stopped communicating with me. Then I came upon her online, making some odd requests for software and receiving some flack for it too. I think often people/artists put their *enthusiasm* not just their energy in the wrong places, or have the odd stance that they art artists so should receive everything free.

  • Thank you thank you thank you, for this post.
    I think sometimes many of us that are passionate about art and just as passionate about business can suffer from “closet coach syndrome”. We know what works for us and think that if our artist pals would just try some of the same approaches it may work for them. It is so draining.
    After being reproached by my best girlfriend twice in one week I promised her I would not offer her any other unasked for advice and instead would support her in other ways. So I am going cold-turkey with her and I avoid talking about her professional life at all for right now. She knows she can come to me if she wants advice.

  • I’m not sure where I heard this quote but I think its true.
    “unsolicited advice is always taken as criticism”

  • Oh how true as always Alyson. It strips my nerves!

  • I know what you are saying, but I think that more specifically, if you are not called to that type of position, you will indeed be irritating…I do think that there are fixers out there who have helped to heal many artists lives who have gone slightly astray…I’m sorry, but there are good people out there who are called to do this kind of thing, & I bless them for it…Meddling is another thing…

  • Peggi: “Advisor” sounds much more desirable than Fixer.

    Kathy: You just wanted to share your enthusiasm and knowledge. Now you don’t have to. You can keep it for when the time is right.

    K: Way to go! That’s a much better way. And you can throw a private party for the success she has had–with you and yourself.

    Pam: Often we volunteer our time and become Fixers. But most of the time we are contributing and will get just as much out of it. I’m all for volunteering!

    Carla: Amen!

    Marie: Sounds like there might be some jealousy in between the two of you. ???

    Rebecca: As long as you don’t avoid being her friend, which I’m sure you won’t. I hope it doesn’t become awkward.

    Bill: Love it!

    Sari: I think I agree. You’re saying that the person called to this kind of work will know when the other person is ready. ??

  • Great Work Alyson! Like Charlie Brown says, “I think I’ve lost control of the whole world.” Question is why is he (or are we myself included) trying to control the world?

  • Yes, you dear sweet “called to the job” healer…You know when the other person is ready…& we all love you for it…

  • Thankyou Alyson, I’ve been pouring a lot of my energy into an online community. I was hoping to energize other artists like myself and get them excited about furthering their careers. instead I get complaints when nothing is happening and no responses when I set up challenges or opportunities. they sound excited about the ideas and then do nothing when it is time to act. your letter has come at an excellent time for me, I will continue with the group but I am no longer going to put energy I don’t have into an energy drain. thanks for reminding me – I do like to be a fiixer!

  • Original watercolour & contemporary paintings by British landscape artist MJ Forster. View or buy contemporary art prints & paintings online.

  • Thanks Alyson for this article!
    I would love actually one day to have a young artist approaching me and ask me for the help. This is exactly what I have done recently with several experienced artists, and not all of them were “Fixers”… meaning, there are both sides for this “relationship” and not everyone are willing to receive help, like not everyone is willing to give it….
    I am blessed that one of the artists did have the inclination to be a Fixer, and i am doing my best to listen to his advices…

  • Thanks Alyson, for your insightful comment to my post. I gave it some thought and wonder why I am so often a dunce about such things as jealousy.
    When discussing the film *How To Draw A Bunny*, I mentioned that I had studied with poet Diane di Prima for 3 years. Diane was filmed for How To Draw A Bunny, since she knew Ray Johnson, but her part was edited out and only viewable on the DVD in the extras. Others have told me that they knew Ray Johnson too. I’ve received emails and made connections due to this. It’s an interesting conversation topic, IMO. There are lots of famous people and they are famous because they know a lot of people, that’s kind of how it works…I wonder why people do’t realize this more…

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  • Very interesting post – thank you!

    It’s made me think and the conclusion I’ve come to is that I’m often in the opposite position when it comes to helping other artists with their art (not the business side of things!). So many people have suggested I should teach art over the years and they’re still doing it but beyond giving encouragement, it’s something I’m unwilling to do. Not because I don’t want to be helpful but because I’m not sure to what extent art can be taught. We all have to find our own way and at our own speed.

    When it comes to making suggestions or giving advice, I think it’s fine to do that in a blog post because then people can take it or leave it and it needn’t affect anyone’s relationships. But I do, I hope, avoid using ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ and always make it clear that I’m just putting forward suggestions and that nothing is written in stone.

    I have a background in teaching (literacy mostly) and I do have a very strong urge to see everyone realise their potential in all sorts of ways. I hate waste, in particular, wasted potential. But one of my favourite quotes that stops me wading in and over-helping, is: ‘Beware of ghosties and ghoulies and people who are only trying to help!’

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you for this vital post. Fixing doesn’t work and sounds a LOT like judging. Fixing leads to arguments because the fixer sounds like a pedantic, patronizing know-it-all and the fixee feels dumb and small. It is a huge issue in my creativity coaching practice–on both sides, fixer and fixee. You can’t push a string.

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