Songs for the Struggling Artist


A Big Disappointment (and How to Go On)

When I was in college, I had one goal and one goal only and that was to be part of a particular Shakespeare company I’d been inspired by a few years earlier. While I was still in school, I auditioned for them and secured my very first acting job at what was then my dream company. The fact that I was making $50 a week did not matter to me in the least. I was on track for the life I wanted. I thought I’d just keep working there forever and my artistic destiny was set. But then I had rather a rude awakening when none of us were cast in the next season.

I picked myself up, dusted myself off and worked in Atlanta, Roanoke and Memphis before returning to audition again a year later and got to do another season of Shakespeare with them. It wasn’t long after that that I moved to NYC and away from performing.

But that theatre where I started is firmly imprinted on me. It was formative in my aesthetic, my career path and my sense of self. I’ve done a LOT of other things since then and grown and shifted in lots of directions I’d never have predicted – but there’s something about that company that will always have a quality of home for me.

So when this writing opportunity with them came up, it had a sense of fated poetry to it. Artist returns to artistic home in a new role to a new beginning. It also had a curious quality of uniting what has always felt like two parallel tracks that would never meet – that is, my Shakespeare identity and my feminist playwriting identity. I just generally assumed those two aspects of myself would never have much call to meet (aside, of course from the devised Shakespeare piece I made a few years ago – where I used my dramaturgical skills to “write” with Shakespeare’s words.)

Anyway – something about the call for submissions for this just felt like little blocks of fate, slotting one into another. I wrote a play VERY QUICKLY that grappled with things in Comedy of Errors that I have always struggled with and found I’d woven together two strands of my artistry that I hadn’t known I could. Because I know the company well, I wrote it with them in mind. I saw their space, I saw their actors. It came to me more easily than almost anything else I’ve ever written. Part of me thought, “They’d be crazy not to select this play. It is for them. It is their aesthetic. It will showcase their particular skills. It gives their actors – particularly the women – opportunities that they don’t often get – and because I’m a former actor in their company from twenty years ago, this press release just writes itself.” As a friend of mine said, “That’s a marketing gold mine. They’d have to choose you for that alone.”

But I am pretty used to rejection and pretty used to not being the choice of the status quo so I was actually pretty delightfully surprised to be first a semi-finalist and then a finalist for what would be a life-changing prize and a kick ass opportunity to return to an artistic home.

When I received the email that I was a finalist, I started to fantasize about what would happen were I to get it. I’d return, not just to a theatre that was once a home, but also my home state. I’d finally get some recognition as a playwright in a well-publicized prestigious situation. It would have paid me more money than I have ever made in a year.

I began to acknowledge to myself that it was something I really wanted. (Generally, I try not to do this. I just apply for stuff and move on.) I thought about it a lot. It started to feel a little bit like when I was in college wanting to work for this company. I started to feel like the poetic circularity of the thing meant that I was destined to get it.

When the rejection came this morning, it hit me harder than any rejection has in a long while. The O’Neill was hard but I never really thought I’d get even as far as the semi-finals so I wasn’t surprised not to get an acceptance there. But this one, I knew I had a shot. The poetry of the story was too good.

But real life doesn’t really work like a story. I seem to have to learn this lesson over and over again. I suppose that’s the peril of being a story maker. I am infinitely vulnerable to good stories. (For example: I cannot be 100% positive that I didn’t partly choose to go to the graduate school I went to due to the serendipity of my sharing a name with it. This would not be a good reason to go to a school, btw.)

I have twenty plus years of practice at dealing with rejection. When the American Shakespeare Center (then known as Shenandoah Shakespeare Express) didn’t hire me in 1996 as I expected them to, it was a shocking betrayal that took me a while to recover from. Here in the spring of 2018, I saw that rejection email from them, felt the blow to my solar plexus and then just got on with making things. I finished recording a song for the podcast and practiced the choreography for the Nelken line I’m joining this weekend. I’m grateful for the decades of artistic practice that has helped me put my eggs in multiple baskets so that when, say, the playwriting basket falls to the ground and all my eggs break, I can just reach into the music basket or the blogging basket, as I’m doing now, and I know I’ll have eggs enough for an omelet later.

I can’t say I’m not sad to not get to see my play performed on that damn beautiful stage by those actors I tailor-made that play for. I am fucking sad about it, no doubt. But, I now have a play that is much more easily produced than most of my other work. I have a prequel to Comedy of Errors that maybe one day someone else might want to do.

It’s sad. I’m sad. And the Hope Hangover (a phenomenon and song I wrote about recently) will be brutal, I know. But I have weathered disappointment consistently for the last two decades. I can do it some more. The thing to do when you are disappointed by art is to make more art. It is the only way through.

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.

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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

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You can help me deal with disappointment

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. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

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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.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

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. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 



And Now: The Rejection We’ve All Been Waiting For

First, the good news. My play about Medusa and Perseus was a semi-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference. They asked that we not share our semi-finalism status – so I’ve been sitting on this particular piece of good news since December.

What’s funny about this part is that because the O’Neill is such a prestigious situation, I had never applied to it before. I was sure I’d stand a snowball’s chance in hell of making it in (not because I don’t believe in my work but because I know how these sorts of systems tend to work) and because they charge a fee to apply, it just didn’t seem like a judicious use of the limited resources at my disposal before now. So I became a semi-finalist on my first pass. Which never happens. So that’s all good news. Or it was good news several months ago.

It is good news that I couldn’t share with you until the letter arrived in the mail today (Paper again! Much appreciated! I’ll wallpaper a bathroom yet!) and the good news became bad news. So – in sharing the bad news that the play isn’t moving forward into the finals, in sharing the rejection, I also get to share the good news, for those who aren’t my Patreon patrons, or people I’ve seen in person recently.

I can’t deny that it is a disappointment. This is the rejection that I have felt most acutely of the dozens and dozens these last few years. This is not because I expected to get it – I didn’t – but because becoming a semi-finalist, for something I didn’t think I stood a chance for, birthed a little butterfly of hope in me. It helped me apply for more things than I ever have before. That butterfly gave me a much needed boost and it has been flying around spreading the pollen of hope these last few months.

So watching that little butterfly fly away now is a painful loss, of course. It has left behind a lot of good but I am sad to see it go.

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And here, below, are some other recent rejections. These application fees added up are roughly equivalent to my patronage for this blog post. And my patrons are the reason that I felt I could apply for those things. I am ever grateful for their support. I would never have met that hope butterfly at all were not for them
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Space at Ryder Farm Rejection
This place gives off a vibe of insidery insiders so I’m not at all surprised I’ve been rejected here again as I’m a pretty outsidery outsider. (*Working on a post about this outsider thing. Coming soon!) But I keep applying, despite a general suspicion of insidery insiders, because the only way to know for sure what it’s like inside is to get inside somehow.
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VCCA
This was a kind of odd rejection. It was a “We’re sorry we don’t have enough space to offer you right now but maybe you’d like to be on our waiting list?”
I mean, sure, yes.
Of course, they didn’t respond to my email requesting clarity about how to do that – so….not so sure it was a real waitlist suggestion.
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Edward Albee Residency
A couple of hours after the big letter from the O’Neill, I got my annual Edward Albee Residency rejection. It doesn’t really sting so much since I’ve gotten it so many times before and bless them, they don’t charge a fee to apply or send a wordy rejection. It’s, like, a few sentences. Bing, Bang, Rejected.

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*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

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

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, too, can help me ease the sting of continual rejection

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message

*

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. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 



Rejection Season 2018
March 27, 2018, 12:20 am
Filed under: Rejections | Tags:

The last time rejection season came around for me, I thought I was inventing the experience, or the concept of a rejection season. But – in the Official Playwrights of Facebook Group, the last few weeks, everyone has been talking about rejection season. I guess this thing I observed and thought only happened to me, happens to many other people. So many, in fact, that this rejection season thing becomes a thing everyone talks about as if it’s real. And so it is.

I applied to many more things than usual this January so I expect to get more rejections than usual. Here’s the first batch:

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Opportunity to Create – ART/NY

I haven’t gotten a grant from ART/NY for the company in ages. This is likely mostly to do with not producing quite as much as they would like. When they ask for our budgets or financial statements, they’re looking at whether or not we can be responsible with their money. And when we haven’t spent much money in the previous year, they don’t want to give us more to allow for our crazy plans. But if they did, we’d have more money on the sheet for next year, which might increase our chances.

What I proposed was a reading series inspired by Mary Beard’s book Women and Power. I think it’s a pretty good idea. But – without some seed money, I just don’t think I have it in me to make it happen. More and more, I feel like the hoops I have to jump through for company grant funding just aren’t worth the trouble.

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Akrai Residency

This was for a residency in Italy, which I would have loved to have done. I spent my junior year of college in Italy and I haven’t been back since. My language skills are rusty but would return pretty quickly I think – and I’d love to see what a residency in Italy would do to my writing brain.

When I was there in college, I really began to tap into songwriting. Some of my favorite songs I ever wrote, I wrote that year. The theme of the residency was Tempo Lento – Slow Time. I kept thinking the theme was Tempo Lungo which is Long Time – and it has been a long time since I’ve been to Italy. And it may be a long time still. Non andró alla residenza perché mi hanno rifiutato.

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BAU Institute at Camargo

You can tell you’ve been applying for things for a while when you see the names of things change. I know I applied for something at Camargo before but someone must have taken charge of it as it is now the BAU Institute and the Camargo side of it has receded to the location, not the title. Maybe it’ll be an entirely different place the next time they reject me.

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

 

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

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, too, can help me ease the sting of continual rejection

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message

*

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. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



Some Very Competitive Rejections

“It’s very competitive,” they said.

The rejection notice, for a residency at U Cross, informed me that their applications are very competitive. I find this a funny thing to say. Partly because I can’t imagine it would take the sting out of rejection for anyone but also because I sort of feel like, if you have to say that, it’s not actually that prestigious a situation. This is a thing I haven’t applied to before so it’s a relatively unknown organization for me. I’m sure I learned lots of things about it when I applied but I have already forgotten them.

What’s also funny to me is that I received an actual acceptance from an actually prestigious organization recently and there’s none of this sort of self-inflating language in their materials. This is generally true that those with actual power and prestige (almost) never feel compelled to self-advertise. This is why having Donny Twimp in office is so baffling.

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In other rejection news, at a friend’s suggestion, I have begun to explore the possibilities of doing voice overs for games. It is super fun to investigate. I submitted for the first time a few weeks ago. I recorded a couple of different characters. It’s a relatively steep learning curve but a fun learning curve! They did not call and I was not surprised. It would be crazy to get an acceptance on the first voyage out.

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There’s a program to work at senior centers in the city. It need to be called Sparc and now is called Su Casa. A couple of years ago I did it in Manhattan and we put on a Romeo and Juliet at Lenox Hill Senior Center. I applied to Su Casa in Queens this year to work on devising a piece around “The Angel in the House” with seniors – particularly senior women – but my proposal was rejected. I’m not particularly surprised – generally the visual and literary arts do better in this context – but I do think it’s rather a shame as I have a bucket of experience on this front.

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And finally, the Drama League says no again. I never remember what I applied with for them but whatever it was – it ain’t happenin’.

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*Wondering why I’m telling you about all these rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

You, too, can help me ease the sting of continual rejection

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message*

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

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

 

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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. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



Something Old and Something New
November 22, 2017, 1:00 am
Filed under: Rejections | Tags: , , ,

One of the funny things about spending years applying for (and getting rejected from) things is that you start to see patterns in the application cycles, as well as the rejection cycles. I know when things I have applied for before have had changes in their structure or staff because their timing shifts.

And because of that, I was 99.9999% sure I’d already been rejected by the New Victory Theatre before my friend from there passed along my rejection via Facebook messenger. But, that was the first time I’ve gotten a rejection notice via that platform – so that’s new, even if the rejection is old.

And the Queen’s Council for the Arts, which is an organization I’ve been rejected by in the past, had a new funding opportunity: commissions. And I am really glad to see funding taking this turn – I’d love to see more of that kind of opportunity – even if I did get rejected from this one. (97 applications. 4 receive commissions.) The organization rejecting me is old but the program is new. In any case, I’d love to see the new thing in this rejection drama be a juicy acceptance. But we never really know where that’s coming from.

And since none of the many residencies I’ve applied for have panned out, I’m making my own, with the support of two of my patrons here on Patreon. So – in my Make Your Own Acceptance project, I am in Vancouver now to finally take the time I need to edit my first draft of my novel for young people. I don’t need no stinking official acceptance letters, y’all. (Not true, I’d like a basket of them but this is a great thing, too.)

*Wondering why I’m telling you about all these rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

You can help ease the sting of rejection by becoming my patron on Patreon.

 kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message

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

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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. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 



The Library Rejection
September 3, 2017, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Rejections | Tags: , ,

Decades of rejection can give many of us a pretty thick skin for this sort of thing. We assume we won’t get the thing we spend hours (or days or weeks) applying for. We assume the reward for the work of applying will be naught. That doesn’t mean getting rejected most of the time isn’t discouraging. It is, greatly. But I’ve found the will to keep doing it mostly due to the generosity of my Patreon patrons and my chronicling of the rejections.

But every so often, without meaning to, I discover that I’d gotten my hopes up too high. And I discover it in the crashing disappointment that I find myself in upon learning of the rejection.

This most recent crashing disappointment was partly a surprise because of a particularly potent mix of long-shot and being perfect for the thing. The thing this time was a residency at the Boston Public Library for a book for young people. Now – it was a long shot because I have spent most of my life in the arts in theatre, not fiction, so I don’t have much of a fiction resume. But I was kind of perfect for it because my book for young people takes place in a library, in which librarians are the heroic figures and is called The Library Book.

I mean, it’s like, made for a residency in a library. So I simultaneously thought, “They’ll never give me this” AND “My book is perfect for this.” And I guess both things are still true.

I had been, without really realizing it, waiting for this rejection letter (or the acceptance, I thought maybe an acceptance? This time?) I was planning some dates for my theatre season and realized I wasn’t comfortable booking dates because a part of me was still waiting to hear from the library folk. So I looked at the application again. There, I saw that it said that they would notify the recipient by June 30th – which is now quite a while ago. So – I guess they’re not bothering to tell the rest of us that we’re out the running. Sometimes I don’t even notice I haven’t heard from a place until I look at my list. Sometimes it has no impact on me at all. This time it sunk me like a lead balloon. And logically – it would be a real pain in the neck to relocate to Boston for 9 months – so maybe I should be relieved. I should be. But I’m not.

 

*Wondering why I’m telling you about all these rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

You can help ease the sting of rejection by becoming my patron on Patreon.

 kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message

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

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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. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist




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