Nobody cares about where you came from, your education, your source, even your art, unless you lie. Whoppers (Milli Vanilli, Brian Corman), scratch your head as to why (Jonah Lehrer), irrelevancies (Scott Thompson), criminal (Martha Stewart). The price of faking it is huge. Despite all of our own individual failings and skeletons, public fraud is unacceptable and erases the credible, even amazing work you may have done or are doing.
I am sure psychologists, sociologists, and pundits galore can give you their version of why someone would fabricate a version of themselves or their work rather than accept their own reality. My thought here is only to recognize that the risk is enormous, quite literally a career killer. The path back from almost anyplace is easier than the path back from fraud. Drugs, rape, dog-fighting have shorter shelf lives than fraud. Once you break trust with clients, employees, vendors, colleagues, and the public at large we are more than reluctant to give it back. Not fair, just true.
Okay. So do not lie about anything. No great insight there. But how about do not describe yourself as derivative of anyone or anything? How many of you in your “elevator pitch”, effectively say, “I’m just like so and so, only different”. You can kid yourself to think that it is the easiest way for someone to understand who and what you, your art and creative business are all about. You would be wrong. As you describe yourself as derivative, you allow the receiver’s perception to be defined by how they think of who you are derivative of. If you say that you are the next Michael Kors, only hipper, the hipper part is lost to how whom you are talking to feels about Michael Kors.. Oh, and heaven forbid, the person is in the same room (or table). You would have just legitimized their creative business while throwing yours under the bus.
And if you are willing to go down the derivative path, you will lie. You have to. You will have set up expectations to meet those that would hire the artist you compare yourself to. Except you are not them and the value you deliver has to be intrinsic to who you, your art and creative business actually are. Ultimately, you are going to have to have your clients walk with you on your path or you are both in for a very rough road. To do so, you are going to have to undo the half-truths, innuendos and mistaken presumptions that got them to work with you in the first place. Yeah, just not a place I want to be. The price of a short-cut to yes is an eternity of explanations that will never be good enough.
Leaving the short-cut means you have to close the door to illusion. Everyone’s perception of you has to be based on what you are willing to lay open for everyone to judge. You have to be grateful for not being for everyone. Generic has no place in creative business. You will have to accept that it is only arrogance that allows you to work with the wrong client or the client that believes you to be something you are not. You must know that saying no is just as important as saying yes, even if you (desperately) need the money. In your no will be responsibility to find the yes for your client. Integrity is respect for you, your art and your creative business most of all, above and beyond respect for your clients, employees, vendors and colleagues. Little fibs turn the order of respect upside down. And upside down respect leads to death by a thousand cuts, most often because it becomes almost impossible to go right side up. Go the other way and perhaps you will see the little lies as not so little after all.