I really like what recording artist Burna Boy says to GQ:
Unlike a lot of other people, I’ve had to go through never-ending steps to get here, whereas other people have taken the elevator up. I’ve always been too heavy for that kind of elevator, so I had to take the stairs. Now I know every floor and everything on every floor.
His “momager” Bose Ogulu (quotation marks from the Billboard article!) explains an example:
We spent a lot of time and money planning to go around the world. We ran through the label’s tour support pretty quickly, so we were using money he’s making from shows in other places, particularly in Africa, to bankroll our initial touring. Yes, it has been hard, but there is no way we’re performing 16,000- to 20,000-capacity venues when we didn’t start with 3,000.”
The thing is, there are elevators, and they definitely make the creative journey faster (and possibly easier). But what nobody tells you is the elevators don’t start on the ground floor. They start on the tenth floor, maybe even the 20th, depending on the game you’re playing.
That means you, and everyone else, will need to take the stairs to get to the first set of elevators. It sounds dumb, but everybody’s still waiting, and the elevator never arrives.
Stairs: responding to each person who reads or experiences your work, connecting with them directly, submitting and promoting it, getting it in the right rooms, staying motivated to get to the next staircase.
The lobby may be beautiful and have some great company, but you don’t want to sit there for too long. The elevator doesn’t start down there.
Nik Göke has written something similar on the topic. Zed A. Shaw also wrote an interesting response to my latest blog post on self promotion.