What’s in a name?

Life in the Artist’s Lane: What’s in a name?

All sell and no substance.

Sometimes a person doesn’t live up to their signature. This is the only way I can describe the meeting that I recently attended while I was in California.

The day started out early, with great excitement. On the way there was chatting and anticipation between my daughter and me. We would start with a continental breakfast, and then we would hear the speaker, a well-known writer. She had sold 6 million copies of one of her books, with many of her other books hitting the same mark. She was going to speak on one of my favorite subjects.

I thought that it was going to be a perfect day. How could it go wrong? This was going to be a name-dropping experience. I knew that I would come home telling everyone about her.

When it started, 300 women and I sat waiting for the speaker to walk on stage. When she became visible there was a standing ovation and the women roared and clapped. Someone great had just entered our presence, you would think.

I was nesting among my belongings — a notebook, pen, purse, and I was ready to hear and write down something that would change my life.

It wasn’t long into her speech that I was looking around for a clock. “What time is it anyway, and how much longer am I going to be able to endure?,” I wondered. I noticed the clock on the back wall and inconspicuously I looked at it from the corner of my eye. It was only 10 a.m., I had two more hours before lunch.

Oh me.

My daughter had bought the tickets and I wanted to at least appear as if I was enjoying it. OK, what can I learn from this? I was going to redeem the day. My eyes darted back to the clock, by that time it was only 11:15 , and I am ready for lunch. Everyone was sitting very quietly. My mind was churning, and I thought that I must be making too much noise moving back and forth, so I convinced myself not to look at the clock again.

As the speaker spoke, she read quotes from her many books and reminded the ladies how they could remember where to find the quotes. She had colored coded them all. She raised up a pink book for the subject on women, a gold book on God. There were purple, orange and green. She had all the colors covered.

She was selling all the time that she was speaking. “Is everyone aware of what she is doing? Apparently not,” I thought. During the break the women flooded the book table and snapped up every book there was. Then the announcement came, “We have sold out of books, but we will send them to you the next day, no tax, no postage or shipping.” What a deal, the women said, “Ahhhhhh! How generous the speaker is,” and they continued to buy.

I noticed during the lunch break that the attendees were not talking about the things she had said, but just ordinary things. I wanted to talk about the day and stir up a conversation. I said to the group, “So, what did you take away from the morning session?” My daughter whispered to me in a quiet voice, “We will talk later.” That was my first clue that someone else had seen through the speaker, but everyone else went back to talking.

The speaker didn’t say much in the afternoon session, but she answered my silent question of “How did she get where she is?” With a nervous laugh she told how someone had come up to her and asked her to write a book on a certain topic. She just happened to be in a place where there were publishers and a lot of clout in the publishing world. Every writer dreams of a moment like this, when they would be published without all the rejection letters and hoops they are forced to jump through.

I leaned over to my daughter and said, “This lady has been in the right place at the right time.” I thought for a second and quickly added, “We have all been in the right place at the right time. Thank God we have been delivered from too much success and very little substance. I wouldn’t trade places with her for anything.”

The rest of the afternoon, I continued with my thoughts. She didn’t live up to her name in my estimation, but have I? I wondered. And maybe it was unfair of me to put my trip on her. She seemed to be having a lot of fun talking about her books.

We might never sell 6 million copies of a book and our name might not draw crowds. We might not hang in a New York gallery, but it’s OK. If we have studied to show ourselves approved and we seize the opportunity to live up to our name, then when we have something to say, people will find it noteworthy.

From a commercial view, the speaker hit the mark. I am sure that she went away feeling very successful and that those who carried away bags of books thought she hit the mark also. For me, I carried away a good story. It wasn’t quite the mark I had wanted to hit, but it was a reminder to me that we are responsible to live up to our signature.

This line of thought intrigues me. I’ve got more to say on it, so jump in next week to see where it goes.

Final Brushstroke: Substance comes with a price, and living up to a good name is hard to come by.

Quote for the Week

“Every good painter paints where he is.” — Jackson Pollock.

Visit the Pagosa Sprngs Artisans’ Co-op Web site, www.pagosaspringsartists.com. We are still receiving works by artists and craftspeople who want to become a member of the Co-op.