Songs for the Struggling Artist


When You’re Winning
April 28, 2016, 9:08 pm
Filed under: art | Tags: , , , , , ,

I got some good news and I posted about it on Facebook. It generated hundreds of likes and bunches of comments. People love good news.

I love good news, too. It feels like, when I “like” someone’s good news on Facebook, that I’m saying, “I like you and I want good things to happen to you. So yay!” It is a very clear interaction in a world of mystery. Someone has some success and I get to cheer for them. When I got cheers like that, it felt great.

But getting that flurry of support also felt a little strange. I’d won an award. It was categorically good news but I was struck by how little I had to do with it. I apply for things constantly and the answer is, 99 times out of 100, “No.” The actual thing I did in this case was to continue to apply in the face of so much rejection. This is the one hundredth time I applied for something and finally someone said “Yes” and in a way, it felt like the crowds were merely getting onto the “yes” bandwagon. Someone else did something (by accepting me) and the approval from so many people was for this thing that I had almost nothing to do with. It felt strange. Like the likes weren’t for me but for the people who gave me the award.

Facebook plays a large part in this, of course. The algorithm is such that posts like my award move to the top of the posting pile. The “Good News” I included in the post, probably triggered a few algorithmic points but the many “Congratulations” boosted it even more. It’s a trend that becomes a trend because it’s trending. And so hundreds of new likes happen. And people who haven’t seen me in their feed for months or years are suddenly getting this one post. So to them, it probably seems like I’m winning all the time. Meanwhile, things I actually make (like shows, or blogs, or songs) barely get a look.

It made me wonder how we can better support one another even when we’re not winning, when the approval machine is not working in our favor. I wonder how we can support and encourage one another when we actually MAKE things, when we make a show or write a blog, story, song, play, etc. I think, in the past, I’ve thought of “liking” these sorts of posts as a kind of review – like, “I liked this show you made. I endorse it.” Or “The blog you wrote was relevant to me.” Like, a mini review via clicking. Conversely, I’d abstain from “liking” a show I hadn’t seen, a blog I hadn’t read, a song I hadn’t listened to. I’d also abstain from clicking things I wasn’t really a fan of, despite being a fan of the person. I think now, after my experience of winning for a moment, I’m going to be a lot more liberal with the like button. I want to support my fellow artists/makers/humans for the things they actually make/do and not just other people’s approval of those things.

But while I was feeling weird about my sudden Facebook “success,” I had a strong sense of gratitude for the people supporting me on Patreon. Because the folks on Patreon have my back on everything I write. They’re there for the posts that hit, the ones that strike the Facebook algorithmic fancy, and the ones that don’t. That is, they’re supportive of my MAKING things, not just the things other people approve of.

We’re pack animals in a way. We pile on to the things the pack has given approval to and let the “unliked” go it alone sometimes. I’m experimenting with how to bring our pack instincts to the act of MAKING things and not just receiving the approval and acceptance from outside ourselves. Patreon feels like a good start on that but I wonder if there are more ways we can applaud one another for what we do not just who approves of us.

Ideas?

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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



You Win Some, You Lose Some
March 30, 2016, 10:37 pm
Filed under: advice, art, Rejections | Tags: , , , , ,

First, the customary news – I got a rejection notice from the MAP Fund. The MAP Fund is hilarious because they have an EPIC application process. The first stage is a letter of intent. (LOI.) In most grants I’ve seen, the letter of intent is just that. It’s a letter you write to say you’re interested in applying. The MAP Fund’s LOI is like other grants’ whole application process. There are so many questions, things to fill out. It is not even close to being as simple as a letter.

 

If they accept your LOI, then you have even MORE application to do. What those things you have to do in the next phase, I have no idea. I’ve never gotten that far.

 

This is one of those grants that, if I weren’t engaged in this accounting of my rejections sponsored by my patrons, I would definitely not bother to do. But if I were to get it one year, it would be super fantastic so I should probably keep at it. Rejections are the norm. Acceptances are the exception.

 

If I were giving advice to someone about taking on this sort of life, I feel like they should know that. That it’s not a win some lose some situation. It’s a mostly lose, and every so often, if you’re lucky, you win one. It’s not even like you get 1 out of 3. You get one out of 35. For me, it’s not You Win Some, You Lose Some. It’s: You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You WIN one! You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You WIN one! You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some, You Lose Some….

 

But I am grateful for the ones I win. The one I got most recently was the Colleen Porter Artist Residency Award which allowed me to go to Montreal for the International Performing Arts for Youth conference. It was a great opportunity, a great experience and also so gratifying to get a “yes.” And an enthusiastic yes, at that.

My spreadsheet of applications and rejections is a pretty solid block of No. The Yes is so good.

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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 can help me weather the storms of rejection by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Also – this blog has been turned into a podcast. If you’d like to hear it, click here.

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Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page

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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



What I Wish I’d Said to the Losers

While judging the semi-finals of the English Speaking Union’s National Shakespeare Competition this year, we, the judges, were asked if we wanted to say anything to the participants after the winners were announced. Without a moment’s hesitation, I exclaimed, “No!” – somehow horrified at the thought. About two blocks away, however, I suddenly realized exactly what I wanted to have said. I found I wanted to have spoken to the students that hadn’t won, to the ones who had worked so hard on their monologues and sonnets for this competition and suffered a big disappointment at the end of it.

This is what I imagined I’d say to the “losers”:

I was in EXACTLY your position many years ago. I, too, lost my region’s ESU Shakespeare competition and now I’m here judging it. And frankly, the experience of losing something like this will better prepare you for a life in the theatre than winning ever will.

No one in theatre wins all the time. Even the most successful people, the ones who seem to work constantly, will go through periods of profound rejection, of unemployment and loss. There is no way you can win more than you lose in this business. And when you’re winning, you’re still losing. Let’s say you book an amazing Broadway show, for example, but accepting it means you have to give up the play written by your best friend that you’ve been promising you’d do for ages. And that’s the best case scenario. Most actors have to get rejected from hundreds of gigs before booking anything at all.

From where you’re sitting now, it might seem possible to keep winning and winning and winning. I know that’s what I thought I’d do. Look! I made it to Nationals in Dramatic Interpretation! I won Best Actress at the State Drama competition! I got the lead in one school play after another, while simultaneously conquering college and community theatre shows. I really thought I couldn’t lose. So this ESU Shakespeare loss really cut me deeply.

But losing was the best thing for me. It gave me fire to win at the next thing. And if I’d been dissuadable, it would have dissuaded me from pursuing theatre and Shakespeare. (Oh, if only I’d been dissuadable. It is such a heartbreak rollercoaster world out here. It is the worst. And also the best. And also the worst.)

So to the losers of this thing, while I know it feels terrible to lose (it really really does) take some comfort from knowing you’re getting a head start on this whole life-in-the-theatre thing that the winners won’t have. And winners, don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to lose in the future.

 

honorable mention

 

 

 

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