The Artist and The Living Wage … (yup we actually need money.)

10153704_10154733203235375_3048398080565867322_n

I’m about a year and a half into my grand decision to abandon my solid career for my dreams. Everyone loves a dreamer, right? And because of this I have the pleasure of reveling in and mentally supporting myself with, atta-girls, “likes”, favorites and retweets, and the affirmations of minor/major accomplishments. Since none of the aforementioned goods are legal tender in these United States, I’ve dived into the bottomless abyss of student loan debt. Now, the end is in sight. The end meaning my ability to live off college loans (which has been FAR from ideal) and be as ambitious as I wanna be in my artistic endeavors. In short. Shit is about to get real and I’m about to have to hustle in ways I hadn’t even began to imagine. I am fucking terrified.

I’d watched the artistic hustle of friends over the years as I nestled securely in the bosom of my bi-weekly paycheck and did theatre as my low/no paying side gig. I admired my friends who were full time artists greatly, supported them (with actual spendable money) when I could, and doubted my ability to support myself in the same way.  After all, how could one endure the constant disappointment and inconsistency that comes with being an artist trying to make a living wage? Even Oprah supposedly has a tough time paying artists :/. This could be because despite our undeniable contribution to the culture and day to day life in this country, artists in American society are greatly undervalued. Art programming is often the first to be cut when it’s time to tighten the old proverbial belt, ironic considering  the presence of thriving artists is a key indicator of a civilized society ( … wait, now it makes sense). Nonetheless, my admiration morphed into inspiration and I eventually moved forward into a life as a full time writer.

Though I leapt into the safety net of a grad program (an opportunity not afforded to or affordable for most artists … even me). I have made a few forays into marketing my art and myself for profit. The results have ranged from moderately successful to dismal failure. The plain truth is, I’m not good at it, at least I don’t think I am. It takes a great deal of tenacity (which I have) and the ability to endure humiliation (which I don’t have … yet). Case in point:

I was visiting my old job (a place I love/d) to visit and to rally the troops for what was at the time my second crowd funding campaign (*gag*). I felt safe enough in this environment to solicit because I knew these folks, while not rich they had fairly stable sustainable income, and I knew they believed in me. All was well and I was about the business of rounding up folks interested in donating when one person, who shall remain nameless but he knows who he is, chirped in the most insidiously shady of manners …

“Oh, you’re here collecting money again.”

I immediately felt like a cheap, worthless, moocher which I know on the conscious level of “his shit not mine” was a “choice”, but nonetheless it was incredibly hard to move on through the campaign after that. Every time I’d post or talk about it I heard him in the back of my mind.

“Oh, you’re here collecting money again.”

It was excruciating fucktard macabre dance in my mind to the tune of …

BUT

I got through it, and have since done yet another crowd funding campaign (*gag*). I’m learning the business of being an independent artist, which there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of forgiveness or support for in this crazy crazy world, but what’s my other choice? Quitting? Well fuck that. I was born to do this thing I do with words and it took me too long to figure out that it was my talent to hightail it away now. I’ll look for support where I can find it (while trying to keep a modicum of self respect). I’ll engage in employment that keeps me knee deep in what I love, and for what it’s worth I’m a pretty beastly grant writer. In short, to Mr. “Oh, you’re here collecting money again.”, your living and psychological manifestation, and any subsidiaries that may exist: Fuck you. I’m a writer. I deserve to be one, and I deserve a living wage because what I do matters. Try watching tv, movies, the news and any of the mundane activities of your everyday life in a world without us.

Ok, that was harsh. But seriously, if you don’t “get” artists being paid, it’s fine. You have a right to not care/contribute to their success, but at the very least, don’t shit on them with words or deeds. If you love artists and want to see them succeed SUPPORT them … with money. If my broke ass can do it, there’s a good chance you can too. It’s pretty easy set aside a tolerable amount of cash you can live without each week (it can seriously just be $5) take that money and donate it to a crowd funding campaign or buy an artist you know a meal or help pay for printing for a writer, buy a gift card to an art store for a painter. Little things mean ALOT and really fuel the fire when doubt enters to drain the creative process.

To those who actively support independent artist or the arts in general. THANK YOU. You make grace, beauty, and the artistic process possible.

Welp, I’m done. I hope you’ve been afforded a little understanding of what it’s really like to be on my side of the creative world and if you’re here with me: Rock On!!!

Below is a film that is essentially this post acted out in the world. It was directed by classmate and sisterfriend Carol Garlick. She’s an amazing screenwriter and human being. You will know her name. Oh yes, you will know her name :)

Rosie.

I’ve Been Meaning To Write.

Have you been meaning to write but are:

  • Too busy?
  • Too lazy?
  • Waiting to get a really good idea?
  • Afraid of sounding stupid?
  • Afraid of your writing apparatus?

typewriter transformers (2)

Stop it dammit. Stop it right now. Come to this workshop and get help from the queen of procrastination herself: Stacey Rose 2nd year MFA Candidate NYU Tisch School of The Arts and creator of From the Rose’s Mouth.

Let her procrastination be your literary celebration! Bring your ideas, a modicum of willingness and prepared to be inspired.

Newbie and Oldbie writers welcome!

refreshments and non-threatening writing apparatuses provided

When: Saturday January 3, 2015

Where: Dupp & Swat 2424 N. Davidson St. Charlotte, NC 28205

Cost: $20 in advance  $25 at the door

LIMITED SLOTS AVAILABLE … so don’t procrastinate.

Optional Reading List:

On Writing by Stephen King
The Creative Process by James Baldwin
and Year One: Thank you. Thank you. just so you know who you’re dealing with.

For Brenda: or The Head Pop

Approximately three days into my decision to stop letting alcohol, drugs, and other fuckeries ruin my life, I was pretty convinced that I’d made the wrong choice. I’d joined this club where so many people had had lives so much worse than mine (or so I thought at the time). I had an education, a solid profession … two in fact … And a few coins in the bank. I was pretty sure “I” didn’t belong with “these” kind of people. Since, I was told early to look for the similarities and since the life I was living three days before was likely to have me dead or in jail, I kept coming. I kept looking. Then on November 12, 2009, in a room full of candle light and shared pain, I heard my story. It came raw, uncut, and with the wit of a PhD, beccause she was one. It was a woman I would come to know as Brenda R.

Now, Brenda and I didn’t have d.o.c or even occupation in common. What linked us is that we were both smart, and somewhere deep down felt that addiction was just another thing to be out smarted and in my case, solved via achievements. As I listened to her bitterly push through the story of her early recovery, I identified so closely with the sense of resistance she had to the process. She recalled that no matter how hard she bumped her head, she’d always go back for more. Sounded like me in a major way, and not specifically as it related to chemical addiction (it did), but also behavioral addiction and the general inability I had to get my shit together (the latter of which I can still lapse into until this day).

Brenda was a living breathing indicator that this was indeed where I belonged. I listened to her a lot in those first months. I’m not sure if she ever knew how much.  She was the raft I held on to until I looked around and realized that I was more like all of “these” people than I was different and I was able to let go and embrace the process. Brenda was a no bullshit kind of lady, and could be slightly intimidating until you got to know her and found out that tough exterior was wrapping up one of the warmest and most beautiful people you could ever meet. She was honest even when it didn’t paint her in the best light. There’s a recovery saying that goes “you can’t save your face and your ass at the same time.” In the time I spent with Brenda I saw her live this consistently, though she may not have lived it perfectly.

Shortly before I left for school Brenda was diagnosed with cancer. She fought it with the same tenacity in which I saw her fight addiction. She was weak but feeling good enough to come to the going away dinner some of my sisters in recovery had planned. At that dinner she opened up like flower. I saw a side of her I’d until that point never seen. She was gentle, open, and reflective. We’d been in one another’s lives for over three years at that point and I didn’t find out until that day about how educated she was and how much she’d accomplished in life while wrestling with the monster of addiction. Humility was definitely another of her strong suits. She sent me off with kind words scribbled in my travel journal and the gift of our shared experiences in my heart.

photo (1)

I saw her for what would be the last time this past Summer. Her cancer had worsened and it was clear that every moment I’d spend with her needed to count. Once again my sisters in recovery and I gathered together to hang out, fellowship and show one another love.  We talked, ate food, laughed, and cried together  we hadn’t in a long time. Brenda, had been struggling emotionally and it’s clear in hindsight that she knew her time in this world was drawing near its end. Rather than trying to put on a brave front she openly discussed her fear of death in a way that I had never seen anyone do before. It was truly brave and made me feel an incredible gratitude for finding recovery. Through the process I’ve learned that you can face all fears in a way that might not always feel good, but it will liberate you like nothing else can. I’m not sure, but I can venture a guess that when Dr. Brenda Richardson closed her eyes for the last time earlier this week she had fought her way through to acceptance of what was to be.

At one of her anniversary celebrations I once heard her talking about the sound one starts to hear around the point of their 5 year anniversary. The sound? “The popping of your head out of your ass.” Today, I celebrate 5 years clean and if I’m still enough, I can barely hear that “popping”, that clarity that comes with time and effort. If I turn all the music off, shut the door, and get real quiet … maybe I’ll hear Brenda in her matter-of-fact tone talk about how she fell short in one way or another, but that she’s gonna keep comin’ until she gets it right. This is for Brenda, in honor of her ferocious spirit, powerful mind, and vulnerable heart. Though I’ll miss the hell out of her, she’ll live on through my recovery practice. My face will often not be saved, my ass will be wholly protected.

Rosie.

A Cop and a Southern Gent walk into a Starbucks.

A police officer. White male. Decent looking. Walks into a Starbucks in Charlotte, NC. I park my car, get out and enter the Starbucks behind him. I find him online talking to a “Southern Gent,” the kind that might rave about his time at Ole Miss over mint juleps on a Sunday afternoon. They are mid conversation. Sounds like their talking about the dangers of being a cop and how effective the vest can be. I only hear them mocking Michael Browns death. The Southern Gent thanks him, then buys him a coffee for all he does for all of us. By that time, I’m seething. I am literally shaking in anger. I watch the Southern Gent condescend to the all Black staff like they are simple minded Darkies who need looking after and clear simple direction if they are to understand the complexities of making a latte.

He and the Officer continue their chat. They talk German Shepherds and kids. I think about how my kid would not likely be safe from a German Shepherd they were holding the leash of. The cop gets his coffee and he leaves. I’m so angry I can’t see. Did they do anything to me? Nope. Was I justified in my anger? Probably not. My anger stems from having to view the world through the lens of a Black woman for 38 years and a Black mother for 15.

For those who feel I’m racializing things when I don’t need to,  please give me another way to see the world. As it is not one bit of fuckin’ fun living with this bubbling just underneath the surface, this fearful cautiousness that has me on edge when I’m around my white friends drunk and scared to death their gonna say something stupid because I’ve made them feel comfy, or when that rage crashes to the surface after a knowing look, the sound of a certain southern twang, the sight of a police car when I’m on the road alone at night, when I’m in a room full of white men and I’m the only Black female; even when the men are ones I know, love and trust. I NOTICE it. And I wish like hell I didn’t, but I do.

Post-racials, I’m begging you, PLEASE give me a solution that isn’t grounded in guilt, denial and which includes you actually owning up to the fact that racism is as alive today as it ever was.  If you can’t, or if you continue to perpetuate the lie of post-racism and victim blaming, then the La-Z-Boys are in the back … be seated, and be grateful that I have enough self awareness to understand that I don’t have to act out on my anger/frustration because I feel it. If Darren Wilson had been a little more self aware and a little less hell bent on acting out on his privilege maybe Michael Brown would still be alive.

Rosie.

Funky Town.

I’m in a funk of my own creation.
So I heads to a meeting,
To find a sum
Piece of mind
Cause clearly
I’ve lost it.
On the way, I stumbled upon
The Projects
(or A projects as it were.)
It was an eerie
Regnägleppod : Doppelgänger
Of the one I’d grow’d up in
It felt foreign
Yet familiar
Like an old shirt you find
Years after you’ve outgrown it.
I thought about how

My life was then
How futile any attempts to
LEAVE
Seemed.
And then the gratitude reigned down
In sheets
And I was grateful
And I was grateful
And I was grateful

Rosie.

Year One: Thank you. Thank you.

At approximately 3:05 pm on this day I completed my first year of graduate studies at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.  Almost immediately I began to feel this huge sense of gratitude  for the road that got me here and the road ahead.  I wept on the train for happy reasons this time (v.s. my in ability to tolerate one more round of “show time” on the 2 train). None of this was on the trajectory for me even 3 years ago, and even when the blips did start to show, I was very doubtful of my ability to get accepted to a “reputable program” and excel in any way.  The truth is I wouldn’t be here had I not had the kind words, good deeds, financial support, and sweeping generosity of others.

To my family: You’re the greatest. Thanks for supporting me even when you didn’t quite understand what it is I’m going after. One day it’ll all make sense.

To my friends: Your love, light and laughter keep me going on sooooo many days.  You have no idea how many times I look back on our text conversations/emails or listen to voice mails just to feel connected when I feel like an idiot or like I’m all alone in this thing (yes, this makes me weird … and a little stalkish, but you knew this about me already.)

To my classmates: My special group of comrades in the trenches, who get how emotionally crippling it can be when plot lines don’t make sense, or your protag doesn’t have a proper antagonist, or when your story doesn’t have a dramatic arc, but by god is it fucking funny. Thank you for the time spent looking at my work and sharing your opinions in an effort to help me make it better.

(and to my Tisch Asia crew … YOU MADE IT MUPHUCKAS!!!! Party up!   I look forward to growing long friendships with you all that with any luck leads to us swimming in a sickening amount of cash … that we can then hand over to the government for our student loans.)

Ok, this is getting longer than I wanted it to be and I don’t want it to come off like some douchey acceptance speech, but I do think it’s proper to stop, observe, and give thanks because I definitely didn’t make it this far on my own.

Salute!

Rosie.

p.s. If you’ve stumbled upon this blog at a point in your life when your deciding whether or not you’re good enough for … whatever … fuck that. You are. Just do it. You never know where it might take you.

and this … cause dammit it’s inspiring

Judgement Day.

I was struck by this bit of Divine insight while journalling about my meditation today and thought it could be helpful to other creatives or just human beings:

When taking critiques of our work (whatever your work is) it might be helpful to think of yourself as being an observer from the inside of your house during a powerful storm. You see and hear things you think are “good”.  You see and hear things that you think are “bad” but overall you won’t be consumed by them.  When the “storm” is gone and the notes/recommendations are given. You allow yourself time to recover from what you heard and saw, then open the door, go outside, and start cleaning. Consider the notes/recommendations as you clean and hold on to those things that you feel in your gut to be truth of your work regardless of what the notes/recommendations are. Let go and follow the bits of advice you know to be true even when your ego is telling you otherwise.

All right.  I’m done channeling.  Happy working y’all.

Rosie.