Songs for the Struggling Artist

In which I try to justify why having 5 jobs is a good idea.
November 8, 2013, 12:04 am
Filed under: art, business, education, Feldenkrais, Shakespeare, theatre | Tags: , ,

If I were to follow the advice of the literature (books, motivational speeches, business pamphlets) about how to achieve success, I would drop everything but the One Big Goal and throw everything at it until I reached the finish line. Success literature is pretty uniform in its belief that success is only achievable with all cylinders firing in one direction. I have, historically, attempted this strategy. I usually end up broke, in debt and discouraged.

This fall, I am attempting a whole new strategy, one that I’m sure every single Success Author would disapprove of. I’m not sure I approve of it myself. It seems pretty crazy, truth be told, but I’m diving in anyway.

I keep shaking my head at my own folly in attempting to start two freelance businesses while trying to maintain a third. (Not to mention a fourth and maybe fifth, additional focus.) I am now a Feldenkrais practitioner searching for clients, a freelance Shakespeare Consultant nurturing old (and new) ones and as ever, continuing to promote my theatrical work with my theatre company.
In the past few months, I’ve built two new websites and started two new Twitter accounts. Absolutely no one would advise me to do this this way. But I have to make some kind of living and none of my freelance identities is enough to support me on its own. And after over a decade of work with my theatre company, I know I can’t count on income from that source.
Additionally, I’m still picking up the odd Teaching Artist gig. I also try to write this blog regularly, so as not to lose the lovely readers I have and maintain a writing practice, both with prose, plays and on my other blog. There’s also that novel I finished a few months ago that I’d like to polish up and figure out how to put it into the world. What is that? 5 jobs? 6? All of which require my pushing them forth myself. I must be crazy.

Then, in the shower this morning, as I was wasting my precious time wondering how I could be so foolhardy, I realized that I’ve been in training for this kind of focus my whole life by virtue of the fact that I went to school. We are, most of us, trained to maintain multiple foci. Everyday, we spent an hour on English, an hour on math, an hour on social studies, an hour on Art of some kind (if we’re lucky) and an hour on science. (Or some variety of this.) Maybe we learned something else afterschool. Then we’d go home and do homework for all five of these very diverse subjects requiring very diverse skills and perspectives.

Thinking about my career as if it were the logical extension of my school career gives me permission to believe that I’m not setting myself up for failure. I’ve just got a full academic load. I don’t expect it will always be this way. I may end up going to a conservatory for one of these subjects once I graduate from this busy period but for right now, when I can’t guarantee that any of these new (or old) things will be sufficient, I need to keep up with my schoolwork in many subjects at once. It’ll be difficult, sure, but I’ve done it for years.

I think a lot of us artists are flummoxed by this difficulty of a singular focus. Would a dancer prefer to only dance? You bet. If a dancer only dances, will she survive? Odds aren’t great and no amount of “You can do it if you just work hard enough” literature will change that. Most of us cannot afford a single focus. So rather than falling for the debilitating belief that we’re doomed unless we get tunnel vision, I’m wondering if we can embrace the way we were raised and become straight A students in as many subjects as we can fit into the day.


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