Kiini
Ibura
Salaam

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The Swarm Effect

Posted on 12 May 2012


People love stories of overnight sensations and instant stardom. And people (including this person) love to ask why? Why isn’t it working? Why is it working for them and not for me? Why am I not seen and heard? And this questioning can make you bitter and your bitterness can turn your invisibility into a repellent. Adding injury to the insult of (perceived) failure.

Of course an overnight sensation is rarely overnight. There are years and years of pushing, promoting, working that are invisible to the outside eye. We are in a new era, an era in which a voice can be amplified many times over with the push of a button. This makes it easier to be heard, but no matter the amplification, you still have to speak to be heard. Creating a swell, or a swarm, of attention means constant sharing—which is surprisingly difficult for some of us, even those of us whose art form consists of speaking.

I recently participated in the promotions for Under the Needle’s Eye, an anthology of work from my 2001 Clarion West group mates. We all sent out promotions emails to our groups, we all tweeted and posted to Facebook, and we all wrote blog posts. Interestingly those posts were so much more than simple acts of promotion; they were gifts sharing different perspectives on a commonly-held experience. (Benjamin Rosenbaum; Patrick Samphire; Emily Mah; Ari Goelman; Raymund Eich; and Kiini Salaam)

We are all so full of stories and experiences—a swarm of stories, if you will—and while it’s easy to think of the work of promotion, it’s amazing how sharing yourself, pushing yourself to share more to create a swell of activity and content for others, you are really just building more human connections that—while intending to promote your materials—actually give so much energy, open-heartedness, new dimensions, information to the world.

The older I get, the easier it is to seal myself into my own insular world. Putting myself on the promotions path is actually putting me on the path of more sharing, more community, more reflection and more sharing.

I just received a post about this year’s great migration of the red admiral butterfly. The butterflies are so ubiquitous, one article states, that even “non-butterflying people take notice.” Isn’t that the point of promotions, to make you and your message so ubiquitous that even people who would usually not be aware of you sit up and take notice? For me, nature is an empowering teacher, one that makes me more open to push myself to evolve. I have to say, I am so tickled watching other people’s swarms build. And I’m happy to be caught into the gusts created by their swarms and to create a swell of my own.

Be well. Be love(d).

Kiini Ibura Salaam