Jeffrey Overstreet on the Muppets and Self-Promotion

Jeffrey Overstreet, author of the Auralia Thread series, has an excellent article in Image Journal today--the second of a two-part series in which he reads The Muppet Movie as a parable of the creative life. It caught my attention because I have recently introduced my kids to the Muppet Show. Last time I saw the Muppets, I was too young to appreciate how much creativity and love went into that work. I've tried to picture Jim Henson in a room with investors trying to raise the money to make his dream a reality: "It's a variety show with puppets, see. The host is a frog and we'll have about six elaborate sets for each weekly show..." But I digress. What struck me most about Jeffrey's article had nothing to do with the Muppets.

You can try to stir the writer’s life and the self-marketer’s life together, but they’re oil and water. Publishers sent me a guide detailing what “successful” authors do: Build websites about themselves. Create their own fan clubs on Facebook. Pursue their own endorsements. Volunteer to blog on “influential” websites. Organize readings, book-signings, and giveaways.

Following instructions, I feel I’m standing on a street corner wearing a sandwich board with my picture on it and shouting, “I’m awesome! Go tell everyone I’m awesome!”

Later, coughing dust across blank pages, I fail to find any sparks of inspiration. Do I even want to try again? How can anyone find inspiration in the midst of so much striving and pressure? I careen between embarrassment and an egomaniacal fever that comes from self-promotion. On a good day, I read nice notes from readers. On a bad day, I feel like a fraud.

I've never heard this expressed so clearly, but it gets right at the trouble with this new world order in which publishers expect authors to devote themselves wholeheartedly to self-promotion. It's not simply that self-promotion is time-consuming. The real problem is that can short-circuit that part of the creative process that requires quiet and even a kind of apparent aimlessness.

Here, again, is the link to that article. I commend it to you.