It’s not a bad idea to reassess our point of view. We draw lines in our minds: we like this, we don’t like that. It’s easy to think in a black and white, absolute mindset. This is perfect. This is terrible. We do it with people in our lives. We do it with art.
It’s easy to listen to five seconds of a song and say, “I hate this artist,” or, “I love this artist.” We think so clearly, and in hyperbolic phrases, that to draw upon the grey area is unheard of.
Recently I read advice, “Smart people listen to evidence, think critically, and change their mind when that evidence shows they are wrong.” Sometimes we develop opinions that are hard-fast and premature, that to think outside of ourselves and our opinions would be impossible.
What would happen if you thought differently than you did? Or enjoyed music or theatre you otherwise have written off. What if you changed your mind?
Any career worth pursuing requires training. It also requires hard work. In a perfect world, would we all get paid the same amount for the same level of intelligence, work ethic, and training? Why is it that certain professions yield a higher paycheck, while equally-demanding professions seem to be valued less by employers and by society at large?
Everyone says they love the arts, and that is a wonderful thing to hear. As an artist, I appreciate the support; as many artists do. We need your support, the emotional and financial support of seeing our work, funding our performances, giving us an audience.
When we teach or schedule our time, it’s important that time is honored. Any teaching artist will tell you, there are many instances where a lesson is cancelled, a vocal coaching forgotten, or a class unattended. Many times these appointments are not paid for, if we as teaching artists do not have the protection of a larger organization. Many of us work freelance, self-employed.
And I find this an odd reality: would a lawyer give his or her time freely to clients? Would a doctor not be able to charge a client for missing an appointment? We understand, by what society demonstrates as what is valued, that a phone call with a lawyer or an appointment with a doctor has a price tag attached to it. So when we strive for appreciating the arts, following through on the piano lesson, the voice lesson, or the dance class is a very real demonstration of appreciation for the teaching artists, whose time is as valuable as other hard-working professionals in the world.
You’re so talented. You must be so talented to be able to perform. It’s all because of talent.
I’ve heard these statements before, and I appreciate the complement, like many performers have. And while flattery will get you everywhere, the talent portion of success is small. I venture to say, talent is about five percent, and perspiration is the other 95 percent.
Lots of people have talent, and lots of people have drive. It is a rare combo when the two coincide an individual. Talent can only serve you as far as you are willing to cultivate it and work toward your goals.
For many of us, having good communication is a staple of our professional and personal lives. We know that the best way to be productive is to keep lines of communication open; we also know how to avoid the conversations we don’t want to have.
I’ve tried, as I’m sure we all have, to avoid the difficult conversations. We can think if we don’t address the issue, it’ll just go away. The reality is, the more we avoid the problem, the bigger it becomes. Sometimes this conversation we are avoiding is one we need to have with ourselves.
In Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations, she describes that each of us has only a portion of reality, the reality only we can see. And while we might think we are always in the right, others in our conversation will think the same. So how do we resolve these two realities?
We’ve been advised to see it from the other person’s perspective; that’s not always easy. Maybe it’s as simple as reminding ourselves we don’t have all the facts; we don’t have a monopoly on reality.
Socializing is an important activity for our mental health and emotional well-being. It is also a part of our work as professionals. We take time to have lunch, get coffee, catch up with colleagues about what they are working on, what their struggles and successes are. I’ve found myself underestimating the importance of a coffee date.
A while ago there was a time when I didn’t feel connected to people. This probably came from an emotional place of not wanting to connect, or perhaps making it about competition with others; whatever the reason, I did not extend the invitation to others to meet up. As simple as that sounds, that very often the first step in cultivating a positive experience.
A friend I worked with then, suggested a coffee date. It’s a harmless way to connect, get people to talk and see you as somebody they could work with. It would be misleading to think that every time we have coffee with someone, new or old, that it is a job interview. On the flip side, however, making time for others, puts you in their world. And who knows where that can lead; if nothing else, it can make your world a little happier.
In every job there are aspects we don’t enjoy. The pros hopefully outweigh the cons. When the job is unbearable, or we find ourselves stuck, (and we’ve all felt it at one stage in life or another), I find it’s important to take stock in where we are.
As Marlon Brando famously said in The Godfather, “How did we come to this?” It’s easy to take the work that comes along, and often times a paycheck is a paycheck. But whether you believe in karma, or the power of positive thinking, putting your intentions out in the universe has a very real effect.
As mine and many others’ parents have said, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” Taking a risk is risky, and it sometimes means stepping out of your comfort zone. But what’s the alternative?
What defines serious work from the rest of the work? For that matter, what defines serious artwork from the not-so-serious artwork? And what the heck is serious?
If we stress out, pull our hair and cry over the work we do, because we take it oh-so seriously, does that increase the value of the work? “Look, I’m stressed and I’m working so hard, because this work is serious.” We’ve all been there: either a colleague makes the case for their work to be taken more seriously, or we tragically find ourselves crying for attention at the seriousness of our work.
Or it’s simply that the excellence of your work speaks for itself, allowing others to comment on the seriousness of the intent. I recall in music school having the highbrow conversation of ‘what is art’? And I find myself having that conversation every now and then, with the highly intelligent, talented, hardworking musician, who claims to know which music is “serious music,” and which is not.
Music is music is music. Yes, there is bad music and good music. Songs you’d rather never hear again, and symphonies that move you. However you draw the lines for yourself, it’s a matter of taste.
I listened to an interview with TV producer, Norman Lear, in which he was asked what advice could he give on the success of his career. He replied with two words: “over” and “next.”
The importance of being over, or done with something cannot be overstated. As creative artists move from one project to the next, saying something is “over” is hard. We want to hold on to our work for years, often never letting it see the light of day.
However, when we say “that’s over, what’s next?” We are liberated to move on. And moving on to what is next, helps the cycle of creativity stay alive; otherwise we are stagnant with one project, about which we are afraid to say “it’s over, what’s next?”
For many of us, the opinion and validation of our colleagues and superiors is important. We want to know we are doing a good job, and we want to hear praises when praises are due. However sometimes there can be rivalries, and bad-blood between our collaborators and our bosses. When this happens it is a tricky situation.
I’m happy to say I’ve not experienced this in recent memory. There are times when we work for someone or a group, and it seems as though no matter what we do, we cannot please them. They send their dislikes, their invalidations, their manipulative controls downstream, only for the employees under them to receive said negativity. It is even harder to not let that negativity permeate into your work, and make you be as your bosses or colleagues are, in that situation.
Invalidation is a tempting gateway a host of negative actions; if I can invalidate it makes me feel superior. However, those who are invalidated often feel the need to invalidate those beneath them, and on and on, until we are all in a vicious cycle of abuse. To recognize the problem is to hopefully be able to suggest alternative behavior or remove yourself from the situation. We can’t fix others’ behaviors, but we can recognize it for what it is, and not allow ourselves to be caught up in the cycle.
Getting hired for a new job is a great feeling. Sometimes there are unseen variables that are part of getting the job: you’re young, cheaper than other competitors, inexperienced, or experienced. Whatever the reasons, it’s a job.
I’ve spoken with other colleagues about first-time jobs. The jobs where it feels like a great opportunity, and it is. And in hindsight you might think that it was a situation where you were used; maybe you did more work for less money. And that is quite possibly true.
But the more important thing is you also used the opportunity. You were hired for the position, giving access to all sorts of opportunities down the road. Sometimes we get used, and that’s ok; knowing we are also using the opportunity for the experience is worth it.