Songs for the Struggling Artist

Sometimes I Need Applause

My life in the arts began with performance. I also wanted to be a writer but it was theatre that tipped the balance. From the first time I stood on a stage, I was besotted. As the tightrope walker in the first grade circus, I pretty much just tiptoed in a line on the stage but pretending to be doing more was a thrill. The applause was intoxicating. I loved performing. Passionately. Talent shows were MY time. I got into plays as soon as I possibly could. The response was immediate and applause felt better than just about anything else ever.

Having a performing career however did not feel as good as I had hoped it would. The moments onstage and in rehearsal were sometimes euphoric, sometimes routine and sometimes devastating – and all of that was the best of it. The rest of it was the worst and it’s why I more or less gave it up.

I started recording songs in my living room when I didn’t know how else to comfort myself in 2016 – but despite the performative craft and context, singing for a microphone is not, in fact, performing. There is no audience in front of me. There is no immediate return on the energy given. There is no applause.

I started to think about this distinction of experience after I released the albums of the songs that came out of my podcast. As I prepared to send the first one into the world, I had a sense of excitement, an anticipation. I wondered what would happen.

And then I released it. And nothing happened. Like, no response. Not for weeks, actually. Dropping an album was less like dropping balloons into a party and more like dropping something off a cliff. For a performer used to working in a live medium, the lag time between sending something out and seeing a return was shocking. I did it 4 times this year, with four albums and each one was a similar non-event. The same is true for podcasts, my fiction and the blog. The response tends to happen on its own time. If people say anything at all (and they probably won’t) it will be weeks or months down the line. This is an aspect of making things that is taking me some getting used to. It is a completely different model of creation.

I’m very happy to not have to depend on an audience’s immediate reaction to something anymore and to not have to first gather a large group of people into a room to do something is great but I do miss applause.

I feel silly about it but I have a performer’s heart. I felt sad a few weeks ago and I was trying to understand it and found myself telling my partner that maybe I just needed some applause and he gave me some and darned if I didn’t feel better.

I mean, maybe sometimes it’s just that simple. Sometimes I just need applause. Not everyone does. My partner, for example, has no interest in applause – but luckily was happy to provide some for me.

I’m curious to learn how those of you who work primarily in non-time-based media handle the lag between release and response. Do you have methods for managing the wait as people listen or read, slowly, at their own pace (as they should, of course!) Or do you just find nice people to applaud for you occasionally? Or maybe you don’t need applause at all? I wish I were like that. But I have to acknowledge just how valuable applause is to this former elementary school pretend tightrope walker.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Anchor, click here.


Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes


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2 Comments so far
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Well, I just love you. You are one of my favorite creators. As for why you don’t get all the applause from *me* that you certainly deserve – I blame social media. I have so very many wonderful friends who are creating and performing and I feel like I can never keep up with everything they are doing. Even without a job of my own, I am always behind in watching/reading/listening to what they are doing – not because I don’t want to, but because I just simply can’t. And I lose track of what I haven’t watched/read/listened to yet. I know you weren’t asking for an explanation or an excuse, but just thought I’d think out loud.

I absolutely understand the desire for applause. I think the feeling of creating into the void and hearing only silence for weeks would feel heartbreaking, especially since you do put your heart and soul into what you create.

I don’t know what the answer is. But I hope you know that when I do read/listen to what you create, it gives me great joy, moves me, makes me think.
(I am still afraid to listen to those lullabies, though, b/c I figure I’ll just shatter. But this is a good reminder that there are three OTHER albums from this year that I can enjoy.)

Love you lots.
– Kate

Comment by Kate Sugarpants

Well – this is about the sweetest loveliest comment in the world. Thank you! I love YOU! And listen – I think you are one of the A number 1 best applause givers. For serious. Like – really. So don’t feel like you’re falling down on the job, my friend. Absolutely no one can keep up with all this craziness I get up to and you are really keeping pace. Believe me. It’s like, my mom and then you. So – feel good about your level of participation.
I also blame social media and the change in culture and how any of us do anything anymore. It’s like – a thing I make on the internet or that I email to someone shows up in the same place as somebody’s work email. It’s like – I don’t know. It doesn’t make for a festive, giving atmosphere!
And I wouldn’t worry about the rest of the lullabies making you cry. They’re for kids! They’re fun! And even the one that’s for a lost child is meant to comfort the child, not make them cry. But you are under ZERO obligation to listen to it or be shattered. Skip it with impunity! Many have cried upon listening to it, so it’s not an unlikely scenario. (And, I haven’t publicized this yet, but the whole lullaby album is now up on my website and is secretly hiding in plain sight. It’s been there for a day. And it is invisible! 0 views! Shhhh. The other four are the cover albums.)
But we are all overtaxed, I think. Particularly artists, because we have all the artists’ stuff to read and see and watch and listen to. We need fans who are, like, not artists – and desperate for some art!

Big big love and thanks to you my friend,

Comment by erainbowd

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