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

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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.

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Rhymes for a Reason

I’ve always been a little envious of visual artist. From where I sit it seems that they get the good fortune of being instantly gratified by their work. When it’s done, it is something that people can instantly see, enjoy, and discuss. Writing…well, it’s less…colorful? And in this day of “hip-illiteracy” it can be down right discouraging to be a literary being.

Thankfully I have come to know and appreciate enough visual artist to understand that they are just as tortured as us melancholy writer types. I cling to my envy though for I have found a new reason for it! Live painting. There simply is no way in hell that live writing could be nearly as fascinating to watch as live painting. It’s like watching a miracle unfold at its best and a disaster occur at its worse. Ideas manifest and are revised, or not. People come through and pull the artist away to ask questions, give props, or to take a quick photo of this work in progress; often not knowing they’ve become a part of said work themselves by introducing a new idea, or derailing the train of thought the artist was on. It’s magic, or at least it is to my dorky soul.

This weekend I got to see two artist that I simply adore, Antoine Williams and John Hairston Jr., wrap up the monumental task of painting a mural on a wall of UNC Charlotte‘s new uptown building. Did I mention they only had Seven (7) (VII) days to pull this off. Watching me write for seven days, if you pardon this bad pun, would be like watching paint dry. Aaaanyway… Enjoy this video clip of them in their theoretical midnight hour.

Sidebar: I think it’s pretty wicked that all three of us are UNC Charlotte alum ;).

Enjoy!

Rosie

Rejected!

So I’ve been slackin’ off some with my blogging lately. Mainly because I’m directing a show, but also because honestly I sometimes don’t know what I want to write about, what medium I want to write in, or if anyone cares. There is the money shot. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I write and who I write for. I journal daily. That clearly is for me to cut through the cob webs and try to stabilize my rambling mind. Other stuff, whether I care to admit it or not…is for others.

I like to think I help or entertain people with what I write, but I’ve had to consider lately the very real possibility that outside a very small number of people in the grand scheme of things…no one really cares. I am just one writer out of millions. While I may be fairly decent at it, I try not to delude myself into thinking that I’m “the best”. So why do it? Up until now it’s been for that ugly V word (no not vagina). VALIDATION.

No one wants to die thinking their life really didn’t mean much. So we seek, almost from the time we’re toddlers for something that defines us. Most of the time we can count on others to identify us based on their perception of who we are. Who we are in the truest sense is buried underneath layers of outside opinions and we self fulfill the prophecies of others until we reach a point when something just doesn’t feel right. Maybe we’re teenagers when it happens. Maybe we’re a 45 year old man with a classic Trans Am, a digitally remastered version of the Slippery When Wet album, and a young woman in the passenger seat born the same year Living On Prayer hit the Billboard charts. Whenever it happens, it happens. Then we spend the bulk of the rest of our lives trying to figure out who the fuck we are.

In a sense, I am lucky. No one ever labeled my a writer. It was suggested I was good at it, however it was never quite driven home as much as things like “you’re fat”, “you’re poor”, “you’re weak” (mainly due to my asthma).  I was able to choose writing in a very organic way. When I did, I ran with it, but because I was never labeled “writer” it was harder for me to believe…Catch 22.  So what did I do, I began to seek validation that I was a writer through my writing. I began to seek my value through people’s feelings about my writing. I’ve had successes that have allowed me to believe a little bit more, however when I have had failures…I feel those son-of-a-bitches like alcohol on a paper cut. The fond memories of first time out cover stories, acceptance to cross country playwrights festivals fade instantly.

I recently got a letter…a rejection letter…for a fellowship that I felt would have solidified the fact that I was indeed a writer of merit. It felt like my heart had been ripped out. I sat in my car screamed, and cried for about 5 minutes, then just felt like shit for the rest of the evening. Thank GOD for recovery. It took me no longer than 24 short hours to realize why it hurt so bad. It was because I not only was seeking confirmation of the fact that I was a writer. I was seeking confirmation of my value as a human being. That’s dangerous shit. That’s hell of a lot of weight to give a $10,000 fellowship. Ten thousand dollars ain’t worth my good feelings about myself. It’s time to abort mission, and redirect. Because thinking like that will KILL a muthaphucka like me.

I have to keep up the work on me. Double up my effort on being satisfied with just being. I was listening to A New Earth (by Eckhart Tolle) while I was on the road the other day and he said something that just blew my mind completely. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially he said that in my desire to be the best (writer in my case) I’m depending on millions of other people’s failures. That bothers the hell out of me. I don’t want my  “success” and good feeling about me to be based on someone else being miserable. I want my life to be a success simply because I AM. Back to the drawing board :).

Rosie.