When we’re young, it’s easy to commit to being an artist with wide eyed enthusiasm and charming naiveté. When it comes to actually being an artist, the whole endeavor becomes clouded with distractions.
There are constraints and requirements outside of your artistic career that take up a lot of your time and attention. You must pay rent. You must eat. You must socialize and be able to afford some form of entertainment to keep yourself sane. Sometimes it feel likes you have to maintain a whole second life on top of the first one and that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. It’s too easy get caught up in the “everything else” of our lives.
This even applies within artistic projects. With a webseries, you are forced to take on multiple areas of responsibility. Very few people have just one position, mostly due to small budgets. It is easy as a producer/writer/designer, to forget entirely that one of the prime reasons you started the project in the first place was to provide yourself with an opportunity to tell a story onscreen as an actor. This is what I call, “Too Many Hats Syndrome.”
In addition to this problem, most people can’t take time off from their lives to spend on creating a new project. You have to do it in the so-called “down time” from your other career. Sometimes when I look at my work schedule, I have to stop and ask, “When, exactly, am I supposed to be pursuing this second career?”
This brings me to the biggest distraction of all. There is a point at which your “day job” becomes your job. Your art is your career, your day job is your fall back. Day jobs are supposed to net you enough gains that you can pursue your dreams when they don’t pay off as well as they should. More often than not, you find yourself spending increasing amounts of time trying to build a resume for a skill set you don’t even like just to pay your bills.
Recently, Bryan Vu, our “webmaster-at-arms” for This Is Art, offered to redesign my personal website. Currently, my website is a wordpress hodge podge of projects, tabs, resumes for performance, resumes for professional positions- overall a giant mess. He wanted to give me something clean that would really represent what I do in a striking and eye catching way. I asked Bryan if he thought I should include a resume for professional office administration positions somewhere on the site.
“What for?” He replied incredulously.
“I should have all my resumes up there, shouldn’t I? In case a perspective employer googles me? I don’t want them to think I’m not serious about office administration or whatever I’m interviewing for.”
“You’re a professional performer and a writer. That’s how you should represent yourself.”
I started to disagree with him before it hit me. “I am a professional performer and a writer!” I realized with renewed fervor. Somewhere along the way I had forgotten to look at myself in the mirror and recognize my success. I don’t intend to be a receptionist for the rest of my life so why insist on telling the world I was one?
Maybe, I told myself, the very thing that is holding me back is the fact that I haven’t let go of the extraneous things in my life that make me feel secure. On Bravo’s Inside the Actor’s Studio, I’ve heard many successful actors claim that they never would have been successful if they had clung to a back up plan. I suppose, if you never commit yourself fully to your artistic aspirations, then you don’t have to fall as far if you fail.
It’s a brave thing to declare yourself an artist, but truly being an artist bears the responsibility of that burden. You will starve, you will pay rent checks late, you won’t always be able to go out with your friends when they ask you, or take luxurious vacations when you desperately need them. Now this is not to say that you have to live with spartan dedication to your craft, but there are things you can do in order to stay focused on your career in its early stages.
#1: Time Management. You will be exhausted all the time. Plan ahead and figure out when you have to get everything done outside of your day job schedule. More importantly, commit to it. If you say you’re going to spend time on your new monologue, or go to a networking event, do it. Additionally, if your day job becomes your job, its time to start looking for a new one.
#2: See Art. Every time I see something I love, it inspires me to continue working on my craft. If you let your artistic mind flatline, then you’ll leave a huge space open for all those distractions to tumble through your front door and bury you. Study the people you love and learn from them.
#3: Journal. Even if you’re not a writer, it’s important to stay self aware. Day jobs eat creative brain cells for breakfast. Journaling or free writing allows you to check in and remember what’s important to you emotionally and artistically. Keep yourself and your heart open. It’s a vulnerable experience, but in that scrutiny and weakness is the beauty and truth you should probably be exploring with your art, whether it manifests in a new idea for a character, or a self depricating stand up routine. You have to be in touch with who you are at your best and at your worst. For an easy start, try Oh Life. It’s an online private journal bank that emails you every night to remind you to write SOMETHING- anything. You simply reply to the email and it stores what you wrote in your private journal. It’s unassuming and you don’t have to risk having your private thoughts discovered or read by anyone else. Take five minutes and get started. That’s all it requires. When? On the subway, drinking coffee, on the toilet if you have to. Get your mind working! Writing a journal will be a constant reminder that you are an amazing, breathing organism with the gift of creation beating soundly in your heart.
#4: “If God calls, pick up the phone.” Lady Gaga said this in an interview and it’s absolutely true. No one is constantly inspired to make art twenty four hours a day. If inspiration strikes, let the adrenaline pump through your veins and get cracking! Don’t put off your ideas. These will be your most productive and most magical moments as an artist, even if it means waking up from a dream and writing down your ideas right then and there.
#5: Declare yourself. Whether it’s on your website or at cocktail party, be who you want to be. Your website is your creative calling card. You can be everything you dream of, even that wild artistic mastermind who only has a chance to emerge after quitting time. When people ask you what you do, tell them, “I’m an artist.” If people judge you, so what? People may never accept your choices in life or who you are, but if you can’t come out of the closet to yourself, then you’ll never succeed.
So, I’ll start. I’m Anne, and I’m an actor. Who are you?