Escape the PMWP (Poor Me Whining Phenomenon)

As I head out on a road trip, I thought I’d update and repost a favorite newsletter from 2004. This may have been the seeds of The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion!

Escape the PMWP

I first started watching “The Apprentice” television show when an member alerted me to an episode in which the participants' assignment was to sell art. That episode confirmed that you have to believe in your product (your art) before you can sell it to the public.

In the same show, The Donald said something else valuable that anyone in business should heed. He said, “I don’t like excuses,” and then promptly fired the whiney woman who had been making the excuses and driving her team members crazy. (It was the first episode I had watched and I couldn't wait to see her fired. She had been driving me crazy!)

Laurie Potter, Japanese Maple.
Laurie Potter, Japanese Maple. Pastel on velour, 16 x 40 inches. ©The Artist

Nobody likes excuses. Nobody.
And, yet, some people don't seem to have enough of them.

Here's a sampling of some of the most common I have heard from artists (ABS=Me, PC=Potential Client):

ABS: You should be attending gallery openings and getting to know people in your community.
PC: The galleries around here are terrible. I don't know anyone there and they only show contemporary work. I hate the work they show. Anyone could do it.

ABS: You also need to be building up your mailing list.
PC: I don't have time. I have two kids and a demanding spouse. Plus, I have this other part-time job. I don't know how to start a database. Besides, I wouldn't use it.

ABS: You use your mailing list to keep your name and images out in front of people—at least three times per year. You're trying to sell your work, aren't you?
PC: Yes. I need to sell my work. But can't I just get an agent or a gallery to do it for me? [You can just hear the whine in that!]

ABS: How are they going to find out about you? Do you expect them to just knock on your door?


This is the Poor Me Whining Phenomenon (PMWP) that afflicts so many people. Thankfully, most artists who now contact me for help are ready to get down to business and accept the responsibilities that go along with wanting an art career. I won't work with those who aren't. I won’t work with whiners, complainers, and excuse-makers. Why? Because I know that no matter what I say I cannot change their PMWP attitude. No matter what I suggest, they're going to find an excuse as to why they should be exempt.

You're Responsible For Your Success

Nobody is responsible for your success–or lack thereof–except you. Of course, there will always be bumps along the road that are not your fault. Get a good set of shocks and ride out the potholes.

Related: Top 8 excuses I hear from artists and 6 Principles of No-Excuse Self-Promotion

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16 thoughts on “Escape the PMWP (Poor Me Whining Phenomenon)”

  1. I love “Get a good set of shocks and ride out the potholes.” Great post as usual, Alyson. It reminds me of the phrase “Wether you think you can or can’t do it, you’re probably right.”

  2. Nicolette Tallmadge

    Nice wake-up call. Reminds me of a past blog post I did about what it takes to market yourself online. It’s a lot of work and no amount of whining will change it. Same is true with your artist business. You can hire people to help you, but you really can’t get people to make you “successful”. That part is your responsibility.

  3. An early related lesson for me was in the Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain book. The idea of dropping negative people from your life. They are generally also the whiners or excuse-laden.

    I have a dear friend that I’ve realised is a whiner. I think it came as a surprise because she’s built her business well, but I wonder if she’s hit a plateau. She has excuses for why she can’t pursue new levels of wholesaling/production. And it isn’t always the obvious “business” issues either! We both recently have been having physical problems that are interfering with our work. I decided that I would pursue some physiotherapy, surely even a high short-term cost would be well worth it in the long run? My problem is now manageable, there’s no daily paint and I have exercises to prevent further damage. She refuses for various reasons, excuses abound. Now I just try very hard in any situation to not sound like that. 🙂

  4. I too love Alyson’s line about getting a good set of shock absorbers for the inevitable bumps in the road. I’ve had the good fortune to get to know a few really famous artists pretty well and have learned much about painting from them.

    Two in particular I had always thought of as just about as successful in the gallery/museum world as possible. Yet each of them blew my mind when they started confiding to me they felt they had been treated unfairly and had been overlooked by the art world in favor of lesser artists. What art world were they talking about I wondered?

    The lesson I got from this was to be careful of falling into bitterness. It is natural to suffer disappointment, anger and sadness when a hoped for opportunity falls through, as it will from time to time. I’m no stranger to bouts with those emotions. But we owe it to ourselves and to our artwork to stay aware of the good stuff on our plate at the same time. In the last month I’ve had a few setbacks, but also some breakthroughs. Just today I learned an important art museum has added a large painting of mine to their permanent collection. Now should I dwell on that or those set backs for the rest of the month…?

  5. “You are responsible for you success” or failure, there is no one else to blame for that.
    Great post Alyson!

  6. Thanks for this reminder. Whining and blaming is just so uninteresting! Sure things can be difficult but we don’t have to add to it with our own commitment to struggle.
    Every time you bring this no-nonsense ‘tude up, I appreciate you even more. Keep it up, we need to hear it!

  7. I just got a replacement hubcap for my 1995 Pontiac Firefly & an antenna for the one lost at the carwash when we forgot to roll it down…I’m going to look into some better shocks tomorrow…(Ok, who says Alyson is only an art biz guru?)

  8. Kathryn Dyche Dechairo

    I think we’re all prone to the odd day where we get our ‘whine’ on. I try to shake out of it though, get fired up and move forward.

  9. O.K. you got me. I’ve been feeling pittiful about how caring for my four children this summer has “kept me out of the studio” really, it has been a challenge–daredevil 16 month old. The irony that prompted me to write is that I just hate it when my kids whine and bicker!

    Thanks for the wake-up call. The reality is that my kids are free models and my greatest inspiration.

  10. One of the things every mature human being must finally come to iunderstand id that we have responsibilities and sometimes a responsibility that we’d rather not have becomes paramount. When that happens one must cease bemoaning it and just do what you can. There can be a reason why one is not doing something now and that’s fine. Accept the hopefully temporary limitation and do something else that can be managed. Worrying will only take up valuable time and energy and keep one from adapting.

    It is not a matter of ignoring one responsibility for another but adapting in order to account for both. Sometimes the plane can take off immediately and sometimes we have to wait for the wings to be de-iced.


  11. I like the “de-icing” analogy! The idea of adapting is very encouraging. I like the hope that I can keep my responsibilities and my art career. When it comes to living, afterall, we all have to do what we can when we can. I am learning not to be discouraged by temporary limitations, thanks Patrica!
    Recovering whiner

  12. Tina: The plateau theory is interesting. Maybe she’s scare. I know I sometimes feel this when my next step is going to be a big one. And I could probably catch myself whining. Good reminder.

    Philip: Ah, a lesson in gratitude! If we’re tired of the news focusing on the negative, we have to be aware of how we do it to ourselves. Congratulations on the museum collection!

    Sari: Happy to help with the auto fixes, too. Um, but you really shouldn’t take my car advice.

    Kyrin: I caught myself, too. I was complaining about how a loved one was always complaining about something. Then I said out loud “I’m as bad as she is!”

    Patricia & Lisa: I, too, like the de-icing analogy. Thanks for including it, Patricia.

  13. Excellent post. We all need to remember that we are responsible (that is response-able) for our success or failure and how satisfying it is to overcome obstacles for ourselves. Thank you for the reminder.

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