Songs for the Struggling Artist

Real Talk About Imagination

Real Talk. I am not actually a dragon. I wish I was one. But I’m just a human lady person who is impossibly angry. I am not actually a witch, either. Surprise. I have often dreamed of having such powers but I don’t, in fact, possess any particular skill in magic.

What I do have, though, is a well-practiced imagination and an understanding of the powers of make believe. Sometimes pretending makes things better.

I mean, I have been a rage fountain these last couple of weeks – just spinning around and round, watching rage pour forth from me like a sprinkler. It comes out in situations that do not merit such a response and after a lifetime of being nice and sweet and making things easy for everyone around me, I do not really know how to handle my new rageful reality. Imagination and embodied expression are my only safe outlets. And what’s wild is how it actually works sometimes.

For example, as my friend and I stood talking next to the subway entrance, some man in khaki pants seemed to find us terribly compelling. He walked by us a couple of times and finally started to approach us. We did not stop our conversation or look at him but I opened my hand, made a little whooshing sound and combusted him in my imagination and darned if he didn’t just turn around and walk away. That’s magic.

The thing of it is – now is the time for fierce imagination. It is not going to be possible to free ourselves from the dystopia ahead of us without some really bold and vivid dreaming.

In simply imagining a world wherein I am as powerful as a dragon, wherein the world is re-made with women unafraid to walk down the street at night or anywhere, everywhere, I find it very hard to return peaceably to the world we live in. I cannot tolerate the old stories. I cannot stomach victim blaming. I am newly and freshly furious that women have had to accommodate ourselves to a world that has not seen us a human beings for five thousand years. It’s as if I’ve woken up in new horrible world but I’ve been living here the whole time.

I don’t want to see one more woman raped or murdered on screen. I don’t want to see any more harassment on the street. I don’t want to see a single woman disempowered. I don’t want to watch one more wife in a sitcom get laughed at and dismissed. It feels like the only thing I can tolerate now is some other more imaginative world.

We need our dreamers now. We need our sci fi creators, our afro-futurists, our utopian other worlds. I have no stomach for anything else. I know it is virtually only in our imaginations that women can have real authority or agency or power – but imaginations can turn into reality and can lead to real life transformation. It’s time to get to work with high level imagination.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one 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


Want to help me imagine the future?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page


Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat.



Hope Hangover

I thought I’d sworn off the stuff. I was trying to be level headed about things – you know – not indulge in too much of that magical thinking that my theatrical tribe is wont to rely on.

But when I got that unexpected vote of confidence from an establishment organization, I felt a surge of hope. And my imagination – the one I use to write things and create art with – went a little bit wild. I got drunk on hope. I knew while I was drinking all that hope these last four months that I’d probably pay for it pretty hard later but while I was downing hope, it felt so good.

And when the rejection came, I sobered right up and woke up with a hope hangover.

This is why people will tell you not to get your hopes up. They’re trying to help you avoid a hope hangover – the kind that makes you feel like you were such an idiot to take in all that hope before and swear off hoping in the future.

The hope hangover is no fun. It makes it seem like everything you ever did was a futile waste of time and energy and gives you no fuel for whatever you need to face in the future.

But – just like the hope that came before it – I knew the hope hangover would pass. And this one did. It lasted about 24 hours and then it was over.

I’m not sure, though, that I shouldn’t have let myself get my hopes up at all. The hope hangover is survivable. I think, in a way, we have to allow ourselves a little hope bender sometimes, or else we slide deeper and deeper into a sense of futility. A little dose of hope, followed by a hope hangover is better than no hope at all.

One thing that decades of working in the arts can do is give you a sense of your own artistic patterning, like, what you can expect in situations that were once unfamiliar. For me, I have (more or less) learned to ride the emotional waves of the highs and lows of artistic life.

For example, I remember when I was a kid, doing shows in community theatre. I did a couple of plays and after the third or fourth one, I started to recognize that once the shows were over, I slipped into a bit of a trough emotionally. But I gave it a name – the Post Show Blues – and the next time a show ended, I was prepared for the dip. It wasn’t quite so scary and it didn’t feel permanent the way it had the first few times. It serves me to this day.

This hope hangover thing is a similar useful model for me. It allows me to actually feel my feelings, to enjoy the highs of dreaming, of possibility, to drink the frothy fun of a transformed future. In other words, I can get my hopes up and just know that I’ll wake up from that dream a little hungover.

And luckily, some new good news came in not long after the previous disappointment passed. So I am actually hopeful again at the moment. But fully prepared for the probable hangover.

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 and more. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes


You can help me keep me hopes up

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page


Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat.


How to Congratulate an Artist
January 9, 2018, 10:45 pm
Filed under: advice, art, dreams | Tags: , , , , ,

Note: I’ve noticed that quite a few people have ended up at this post by googling “How to Congratulate an Artist” and while I do think what you’re about to read here can be helpful in answering this question, I’ve written another post that might actually be MORE helpful for finding out what you want to know and that post is here: How to Talk to an Artist

And now, on with your regularly scheduled blog post:

When the New Yorker published my friend’s poem, I wasn’t surprised. I was thrilled and excited and proud but, as I’d fully expected such a thing since I first encountered my friend’s work, I was not surprised in the least. Frankly, I was surprised it took the New Yorker as long as it did. I congratulated the New Yorker on making a good choice rather than my friend for being chosen. This is because, in addition to being a fierce admirer of my friend, I am a fierce admirer of her work and always have been.

I have people who do the same for me – people who love me, yes, and want the best for me but also love my work, believe in it. They are the ones who are just waiting for others to come around to their opinions. I started to think about this recently after receiving some surprising good news regarding my work. I told one friend and she was excited and thrilled and also (and this is the important bit) wholly unsurprised. “It’s about time,” she said. “Oh yeah. Of course. I knew it.”

And there is something so powerfully affirming about this response. The belief is firm and unwavering – even when no one else seems to hold her opinion. And I feel precisely the same about her work and cannot believe the world at large has not beaten down her door for it.

Others I shared my good news with were actually stunned. In a way, I suspect, they’d slipped into questioning my art’s worth right along with me. It’s not that they don’t love me. They do – and that love is fierce and unwavering but it does not necessarily extend to my work. So when the world suddenly gives me approval, they have a readjustment period of looking at my work through the lens of the world’s approval. And you know – if you love me, you’re not actually required to love my work. It is not a pre-requisite . But those that hold space for both me AND my work are the ones I turn to in the darkest moments. And I rely on them in ways that I am still coming to appreciate.

Those of us who dedicate ourselves to the Arts and/or Entertainment are often asked questions like, “Why don’t you write for the movies? Why don’t you get on Saturday Night Live? Why don’t you publish a best seller? Why don’t you get on TV? Why don’t you get Oprah to produce your show? Why aren’t you on Broadway yet?”

These questions can all be reframed to be more helpful and supportive to the people who make things. Try: “Why haven’t the movies snapped you up to write for them yet? Why hasn’t Saturday Night Live recognized your comic genius? Why haven’t the publishing houses beat down your door? Haven’t they realized your work will make them pots of money? Why is TV blind to your radiance? How is it possible that Oprah hasn’t been informed of your work? Who is holding those Broadway producers hostage that they haven’t come calling?”

Sometimes it’s very weird to be congratulated for someone else’s decision about one’s work. The congratulations usually come in response to something that the artist had nothing to do with, that is, someone else’s approval. The fiercest supporters are the ones who congratulate an artist on the actual work before anyone else ever cares about it. I am exceptionally grateful to have such people in my corner.

My wish for my fellow artists this year is to have supporters as fierce and dedicated as mine are. I want everyone who makes things to hear congratulations on their actual work and “Oh yeah, of course” to any success it finds. If you love a struggling artist, don’t wait to give them your admiration or support. Give support to the work itself and not just the trophies. Anyone can be proud of an artist for winning awards but a top tier supporter is proud long before the awards ever appear.

You can help support me

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page


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 Soundcloud, click here.screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am


Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat.


“So Others May Dream”
May 29, 2016, 11:53 pm
Filed under: art, dreams | Tags: , , , ,

My grandfather retired from the Army several years before I was born so I’d never had much of a sense of his military life. There were souvenirs and stories about it but I had very little connection to it, or interest, frankly. I grew up in the Peace Movement – going to demonstrations and hanging out at the Peace Center so the military seemed very far away from my life. Since my grandfather’s death, however, I’ve had more contact with the military than I did in all the years before and it’s given me a new appreciation for what the military does and can do.

My grandfather’s military burial at Arlington National Cemetery, for example, was one of the most compelling pieces of theatre this (lifelong) theatre maker has seen. My theatre brain has been turning over the question of how to make something that powerful and packed with meaning ever since.

My mother donated my grandfather’s ring to West Point so we were invited to the West Point Ring Melt Ceremony. We gathered at a refinery to see the donated West Point class rings melted down to become part of the class rings of the 2017 graduates. The symbolism is incredibly effective. The graduates of West Point are called The Long Gray Line and the continuity between generations was remarkable and moving to see.

At the dinner before the ceremony, I discovered that each class had a motto – a phrase that was particularly meaningful for them. I heard many mottos about honor and duty and service – all of which sounded like what I imagined the military to be. The class of 2017 – the ones who were to receive the donated rings – chose the motto, “So Others May Dream.” I found myself incredibly moved by it. I was moved in a way that took me by surprise. I think it helped me understand what all that talk about “service” in the military is all about. I have understood that I am meant to thank people for their service and that they have fought for my freedoms and so on. But it was all very abstract for me.

“So Others May Dream” touched me because I am a dreamer. My artistic practice demands that I have time and space for dreaming. This idea of serving to make space for others’ dreams made me feel what The Service really wants to be about. Or at least the class of 2017’s idea of The Service. I wondered if it was not a coincidence that the West Point magazine recently had an Arts issue and highlighted that famous Churchill response to the idea of cutting arts and culture. He reportedly said, “Then what are we fighting for?” In a world where arts can be made to feel expendable, it touches me that these cadets will fight for my right to make art and for my right to dream.

I’m not convinced that every inch of the military is this altruistic. None of the complicated messes of the Military Industrial Complex go away with this new perspective I have. But Dreaming goes a step beyond Serving which warms the cockles of this artistic heart. It also somehow gives me hope for a more compassionate military in the future – with these young leaders at the head of it, I have a little glimmer of hope. I have a much keener sense of what it means to serve and to sacrifice, having seen bits of the military in action and I’m proud now to know more about my Grandfather’s lineage in these traditions.


You can help me dream by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page


This blog is also a Podcast. If you’d like to listen to it, click here.

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat.

“Thank you for Your Smile”
May 16, 2016, 12:09 am
Filed under: dreams, education | Tags: , , , , ,

At the bakery, the clerk said, “Thank you for your smile. It’s refreshing.” And I thanked him for his because his was, too.

In my teens and 20s, I was thanked for my smile very often and just as often derided for it. As in, “What do you have to smile about?”

I hadn’t been smiling quite so much in the last ten years. I’m a smiler generally but I think the wattage of those smiles had been quite seriously diminished by the last decade. Having a full on smile exchange at the bakery made me realize how different those smiles had become. I had not been thanked for a smile in some time.

Something shifted back into place recently, something that allowed me to smile the way I used to – with all the shine behind it. I suspect that the catalyst for this was (weirdly) my college reunion.

In college, I was a pretty sunny kid. I strained against my super hip uber cool campus because I wanted to be around other sunny people and have some fun. Fun wasn’t really on the menu much where I went to school but I found ways to make fun and I was pretty confident that I could do anything I put my mind to, especially if I smiled while I did it.

But life can kick a person around. Particularly a person who chooses to go into the arts. Maybe especially if one goes into the arts in NYC. But it wasn’t NYC that kicked the smiling out of me. It was graduate school in Sunny California. Graduate school displaced my worldview, maimed my inner optimist and generally left me sadder and (maybe?) wiser. I was on fire in my undergrad years. Even when I was unhappy and struggling, I burned with optimism and ambition. Graduate school was like a big bucket of cold water.

I suspect that by returning to the place where I once felt unstoppable, I re-ignited my inner fire, which allowed me to smile again, which made everything better. The way that guy’s smile made me feel better, and the way my smile made his day better. It’s like I got some magic back – like I remembered what it felt like to burn bright.


Become my patron on Patreon and, for as little as a dollar a post, you can make a big difference in this artist’s life.

Also – this blog is now a podcast that (at the moment) only my patrons will be able to hear. If you’d like to hear a podcast version, become a patron!


Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page


Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat.

American Theatre’s Indecent Proposals

You guys. In my previous post, I really wasn’t mad about this translation thing. I had stuff to say about it, sure, but I had no angry feelings about it. Translations are nothing I hadn’t really dealt with before. But then I read the American Theatre magazine article about the project. And now I AM mad, y’all. Not about the “translations” – I give no real shits about them. But I’m mad because I just finally understand a) how this translation project came to be and b) why we’re talking about it.

The American Theatre magazine article talked about the origins of the project, among other things. It revealed that this project is the result of a “dream” of a long-time patron of the OSF. In other words, a wealthy man who has spent years giving money to one of the biggest Shakespeare institutions in America had a whim and the festival leapt to accommodate it. In other words, this is a story about the power of money.

If you or I said, “You know what I’d like? Some Shakespeare translations…” – OSF would have sent us straight to the bookstore for a copy of No Fear Shakespeare and that would be the end of it. But this guy wants translations. He’s paying for them. He gets what he wants. Which would be one thing if he were doing it himself. That is, if he found the writers on his own and commissioned them and put out the press releases himself, it would be different. But we wouldn’t be talking about it in that scenario. Headlines in our major publications would not read “App Developer Commissions 36 Writers.” He could have spent all that money on cars and it would likely have the same effect on American Theatre.

What we have here is a complex and potent mix of the respectability of OSF and the power of one wealthy patron. Because this guy is paying OSF to do it, he gets his dream AND the stamp of approval of the Shakespeare Festival with the biggest footprint in the country. And it ripples across the nation, changing the landscape as it goes.

I think part of the reason people are concerned about this particular shift in the landscape is because it seems out of line with OSF’s mission. And not just like an organization that funds cancer research suddenly funding a symphony but more like a cancer foundation suddenly funding cigarettes. And because it’s an important cancer foundation, suddenly people start to think, maybe cigarettes CAN help with cancer. It creates cognitive dissonance. The largest Shakespeare Festival in the country starts doing something, everyone starts to feel like they should be doing it too.

And that’s where things get really sketchy. Because, as I’m discovering, these plays are not just hanging out in Oregon – no, no, Shakespeare Festivals all around the country are reportedly signing up to get on board this money train. I don’t think the impact will be big or long lasting but for a little while here – the American Theatre is going to have to deal with one guy’s “Dream.” This means one theatre company’s desire to please a patron radiates to stages everywhere.

This gets under my skin because this is how so much crap gets done in this country. We’re not getting these new “translations” because people asked for them. (Good lord, if we’re getting translations we’re asking for, I would LOVE to get my hands on some actual good translations in other languages. Would someone publish affordable, readable Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, French or Russian translations? Please?) We have “translations” because one guy with a lot of money wanted them. If you’re a big donor to a major arts institution you can pretty much have what you want. Which – again – would be fine if we were talking about straight up patronage – from patron to artist. But non-profits are supposedly for the benefit of the public. They’re meant to be for us, the people, and instead, this example shows, they are really for the donors.

Whose dream are we going to produce next? The guy who loves Beckett but wishes he were just a little more optimistic? The mogul who thinks Arthur Miller is great but would really be so much better if he were boiled down to a Power Point Presentation of meaningful moments? I don’t know, man. Maybe I’d be singing a different tune if someone offered me a ton of cash to fulfill his fantasy. It’s possible I would. I’m pretty sure I’d “translate” a play myself for the right price. But, I saw that movie Indecent Proposal and I don’t think I’d like where it would lead me.

This is what we get with a capitalist model of art. We get what someone else pays for. This guy pays for American Theatre for a while, as a whole – he gets to have it and it doesn’t matter what we want. No one asked for this. It was just one guy’s “dream.”

If we had public funding for the arts, then we would have more of a voice about what was actually meaningful to us. In places where the people pay for the arts through taxes, there is real ownership. You can say, “This is our building. This is our theatre. We paid for it. We want a voice in what gets done there.” People advocating for gender parity and diversity in the UK have made much good progress using exactly this tactic. Until we have publicly funded art, though, the people that do pay for it are really the only ones deciding what happens on our stages. That’s why the majority of American plays produced are about wealthy couples on the Upper East Side of New York City. Because guess who’s paying for most of the play development programs and new productions?

OSF isn’t doing anything other theatres aren’t. Non Profit Regional theatres all over the country are producing shows because Broadway producers are paying them to put their shows up on their stages. An investment banker who funds lots of Musical Theatre at the Public Theatre, gets to have his musical produced there.

We don’t see diversity on our stages because it’s not what the current donors want. We could increase theatre’s diversity in a heartbeat with a series of large donations. I see now we’ve been going about our activism in entirely the wrong way. We don’t need diversity committees and speeches at theatre conferences. We just need dollar bills. With enough money you can clearly have anything you want at any American Theatre.

Anyway. I’m not mad about the translations. I predict no significant impact on my life. But I am mad to have more evidence for how vulnerable American theatre is to the worst sides of capitalism. This is how we do it. But I don’t have to like it.


Be a real patron. Donor to Artist. Support me on Patreon.


Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page

How to Get Inspired
September 17, 2015, 10:34 pm
Filed under: advice, art, Creative Process, dreams, music, theatre, writing | Tags: , , ,

It may seem like artists just walk through the world waiting for inspiration to hit us – like it’s something that just comes upon you, like a lightning strike out of nowhere. And while this sort of thing CAN happen, it is pretty rare. If you want to get struck by lightning, it makes sense to search out the appropriate conditions and locations. It makes sense to go where it’s raining, for example – and to stand where lightning might be more likely to strike.

I started to think about inspiration while on a trip to Greece. I didn’t go expecting to be particularly inspired. I knew I’d be stimulated and edified and that the experience would enrich and enliven my work in lots of ways but inspiration was pretty much off the table.

And perhaps here would be a good place to pause and talk about what inspiration feels like to me – what I think of as real inspiration. For me, it is a rush of feeling. The closest comparison I have is the feeling of being in love. There’s a tremendous receptivity, an open-ness, a widening of the field – as if I were normally looking at the world through a keyhole and with inspiration, I suddenly see things in 360. Ideas rush in – some of them fully formed, some just little seeds – and I feel like I vibrate at a different frequency for a while. The feeling of this state is so powerful, an idea born from it will often sustain me for years afterward.

It’s different than just having an idea. I have those all the time. Inspiration is being lit up by ideas. If an idea is a lightbulb, inspiration is 25 strings of them.

So it was that a few days into my trip to Greece that the lightning struck and turned on all those bulbs in me. The ideas rushed in – there wasn’t time to write them all down – and it felt marvelous to be in the throes of receiving such gifts from what I was experiencing.

It had been so long since I’d felt this way, I had forgotten what it felt like – forgotten that it was possible. And I wondered about the conditions that created it. I wondered how I could court that muse, so to speak.

First, I couldn’t expect the muse to arrive. She has to show up when she wants, how she wants.

Second, I went to a place that held some power for me. My work has always been influenced by Greek mythology so there was a probable potency to Greece for me that might not have been present elsewhere. Even in Greece, there were cities and places that were beautiful and thrilling and engaging and edifying but that did not pull the trigger on the inspiration gun nor sustain it.
I have had similar experiences in other places that held power for me. Certain locations in London, for example – or Italy.

Third, I had several quiet moments with which to just soak in what I was seeing. Long car rides through beautiful scenery, for example, or writing by the water. It would have been hard for the muse to show her face if I’d been on a crowded tour bus cramming in the sites.

Fourth, and this is probably obvious but – Novelty is powerful. Just going somewhere new and foreign is a key ingredient.

It was an extraordinary privilege to get to go to a place that could give me this kind of inspiration. And in thinking about it, I realize that there are ways to court inspiration in more economically possible ways than traveling halfway around the world. I was struck with a small scale inspiration wave when I went to the National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC. for example.

But even in this small scale example – I didn’t go to that museum cold. I knew there was some work by my favorite painter there (I’d discovered her there!) and I went to pay homage. When I saw a painting I’d never seen before however, quite a few strands of light went on and the play that came from it is now finished and ready for a reading. I didn’t go there to get inspired. I just went to see my favorite painter’s work. I didn’t go to Greece to get inspired. I just went to see the site and culture that has given me so much material in the past. And I think this is how you catch the muse. You come at it sideways, armed with a little bit of love for something and when inspiration comes, it pries you open to love even more.

Inspiration hadn't kicked in yet when my mom took this photo. . .but space was clearing for it.

Inspiration hadn’t kicked in yet when my mom took this photo. . .but space was clearing for it.


You can help me stoke the fires of inspiration by becoming my patron on Patreon.


Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page



%d bloggers like this: