When I was about fourteen our teachers went on a partial strike and refused to write school reports. My English teacher decided that the reports were for our benefit not our parents’ and that she would read out in class what she had prepared to say about us. She probably regretted this as soon, the class became bored (and probably embarrassed), and a pattern began to emerge. If she said something nice a chorus of “ooooh’s’ would emanates from the back rows and if she said something bad a sarcastic round of communal tongue clicking would commence. Bravely, she soldered on until she came to me.
There was something good to say, and ooooh’s duly awarded. But then she adopted her stern tone and looked admonishingly over her glasses and said, ‘But, you are very bad at simply following the rules. You seem to want to be the one making them.”
There was a confused silence. No ooooh’s. No clicks. Then my best friend Karen, whose eyes were rimmed with against-the regulations-black eyeliner and always was a bit gobby, blurted out, “So? That’s not fair. You keep telling us to THINK.”
Karen got sent out of the room. The teacher moved on to Craig’s report (which we all knew would have no oooh element) and life went on. And to this day I frequently think of that teacher and how, well, absolutely right she was. And I still don’t know why it was bad.
So, when I decided recently it was time to start a newsletter, now that I have several exhibitions planned and some actual news to put in it, I started to look at what should go in a good newsletter. I looked at a lot of examples and read a lot of blog posts from those sites who say they know how to do these things and I considered what the purpose of my letter was. And then, jaded by the experience of those sites, I drew up a Not To Do list of all the advice and so called rules I am most certainly not going to follow in my attempt to get you to at least give my newsletter a try. ( Go on. Please. I don’t mind at all if you unsubscribe later if you hate it. You can sign up here.). I am going to put in some true confessionals about what’s really going on in my studio, some thoughtful stuff about mindsets and the business of being an artist. Even some helpful tech tips and definitely some inspiring eye candy from other artists and the like. But I am, most definitely not doing these five things.
1. Pop ups
If you do me the courtesy of coming to read my blog, I will not suddenly obscure the whole screen with a pop up asking for your email for a newsletter you have never heard of and, if you were a first time reader, wouldn’t know if you wanted until you had time to read the blog I had just obscured. I am truly grateful for any time you spend reading my words and I will treat you with respect.
2. Free gifts for signing up
I may well give you free stuff in the future. Here or via the newsletter. But not for signing up. Because then it’s not free. It’s in exchange for your email and that’s not a gift, it’s a contract for valuable consideration. (Trust me, I am a lawyer). Drives me nuts when people do that. Do they think we are daft? Give me your email and I’ll give you a newsletter. Don’t like the newsletter? Unsubscribe and I’ll give you your email back. But I’ll still make the newsletter available for you in the future if you change your mind because I won’t get snotty and hate you for unsubscribing. Sometimes you just want to declutter your inbox. That’s how it goes.
3. Try to sell you stuff and hide the price.
What’s that all about these days? Long, long emails with a ‘send an email for details of the cost’ at the end. That’s drives me nuts too. I am pretty nuts in general these days because this is a very common practice now. I am not likely to have much to sell anyway. Nothing at the moment. But if I ever do: short details. Price. Maybe a link to more details should you want it. You are smart people. That’s all you need to make your mind up. You don’t need to be sucked into correspondence to prove you are a worthy, committed purchaser.
4. Broken up articles
There’s probably a term for this it’s that prevalent but I don’t know what it is. And as I shall never do it I don’t need to know. But I am talking about when you get an email and you start reading it and just when it’s getting juicy there is a ‘read more’ link and you get sent off to a website and tipped out of the email programme, which is where you chose to be. And worse, usually the article starts again from the top so you have to reread what you just read. The logic is that you should use your newsletter to drive readers to your blog. Fine. But I don’t want irritated, unnecessarily redirected readers to read my blog. I want happy, coffee in hand, willing readers to enjoy coming to my blog. In fact I don’t really mind if you don’t even come to the blog but just read it on a blog aggregator or via email subscription. Because the point of my blog, the motivation to do it at all, is to provide entertainment, information and inspiration to you. Not to get you to do something for me. You are welcome on my website any time. But on your terms.
5. Give you tweet instructions
You’ve seen them. A key sentence underlined in the newsletter and the italicised instruction in parentheses (tweet this). Because of course you can’t possible decide for yourself if something is tweet worthy. I might as well start the newsletter: “Dear Cretinous marketing-puppet…”
So, that’s what I am not doing. I am sorry if this comes across as cranky and sarcastic. It is a bit, although really I am just trying to be funny. Because that’s pretty much how I am after a long day at work, and the one thing I am going to be doing is be authentic. It’s not that I am going to tell you everything. Believe me you do not want to know everything about my boring life. But I am not going to brand myself into inauthenticity. Oh and I am not going to blog every hour as one site suggested. (Every HOUR???).
I’ll write about the failures as much as the successes ( because actually, I am not sure there is much difference). I will tell you when I struggle as well as when I am celebrating. I want to write more about what it is truly like to build up an art career whilst also holding down a day job, about what excites, inspires and enthuses me. About the obstacles and who or what helped me hurdle them. About the decisions, the mistakes, the triumphs. So, yeah, there will be words. I can’t do those posts where you get an image and three lines. I am authentically verbose. But if you want to skim the words and look at the images that’s OK too. Because, if you think about it, I’ll never know!
So, if you fancy any of my words or just my images, this blog will always be here. But also as for Feb 5th (5pm UK time)) there will also be a six weekly mini- magazine newsletter available for you. Simply sign up here. The first one is themed If not now, when? If you read this after the 5th February and miss the first one sign up anyway, but also send me a message and I will email you personally the one you missed.