It’s today. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start singing “Mame” at all of you. But seriously, today is today. It’s the only today you have. Are you doing something today that Matters? I don’t just mean all of the stuff that you already do that matters. I take it as a matter of fact that most of my blog readers are good people, upstanding citizens, and kind and compassionate with their loved ones. I mean the artsy stuff, the meaty stuff. Can you look me in the eye, and tell me that, yes, today, you are doing something that matters?
Take a look at your artistic goals, your dreams. Are they different than they were a year ago? Or are they stagnating? Is there something small that you can do today, right here and now, that will push you one baby step closer to making your dreams into reality? Can you sit yourself down at your computer at the end of a long workday, and say, “you know what? I will write that grant proposal tonight.”, or, “I will choreograph that dance. I will write to that artist I’ve wanted to meet. I will hold myself accountable for my dreams today”. Can you? Will you, please?
Maybe you write down the one thing you did today that will move your big goals and dreams forward. And maybe you do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. Suddenly, every day matters. Suddenly, your dreams start appearing right in front of you. And let me tell you, when your dreams are wild, crazy, ambitious, and ridiculous dreams, and then oh my goodness, they start materializing, you’ll be thrilled you invested the extra time. Dreams and goals are not magic. They are made out of effort, time, energy, love, and matter.
I had a wonderful experience a few days ago in my business/financial life, and I realized it connected terrifically to the way I try to grow as an artist. As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I own a small business that staffs product demonstrations in addition to creating musical theater. I noticed that, due to a training SNAFU, I had a product line with no trained staffers. In other words, I either needed to go do the demonstrations myself, or wait until the beauty care company’s trainer returned from abroad. The company’s regional manager was fine with waiting- but I realized that, with careful scheduling, I could accommodate this company and simply do the demonstrations.
When I sent the regional manager the planned schedule, he was noticeably appreciative. I just earned major brownie points with the product line, and will also have some extra money coming into my business this month because of it. Which led me to ask the question- when should you ever leave money on the table? I believe, if you are truly overwhelmed with work, projects, commitments, and energy draining relationships, then of course you should streamline. Maybe after an assessment of your life and schedule, you truly realize that making a few extra bucks isn’t the best use of your time. But when life presents you with a short term opportunity to better your financial position (not to mention strengthen your relationship with your colleagues), and you think you MIGHT be able to fit it in, maybe you should consider it. I think this is a slightly different variant of “say yes”. You’re not doing something that’s completely new, but you’re making the most of the opportunities presented to you.
When the world hands me these sorts of financial situations, I often try to directly apply the “found money” to my artistic development. That money wasn’t there before, so why not use it to do something that will move me forward? I know that committing to an extra day a week at a day job might not be satisfactory long term. But picking up one extra shift or short term gig might be beneficial, particularly if it allows you to directly use that money for theater tickets/laducas/whatever you need to make your art even better.
As I sit here in a coffee shop, I’m filled with excitement for my upcoming projects- over the next six months I am fortunate to be working as a creator/conceptualizer of new work, a director, a choreographer, a producer, and a performer. I’m reminded of that old adage about parties and vacations- sometimes the anticipation of the thing is just as exciting as the thing itself. However, I have been struck over and over by the same thought in the last few weeks- Jeez, it takes a whole lot of effort to schedule up all of this art!
What’s an over-scheduled multi-hyphenate artist to do? I think it’s important to hold yourself accountable, even if the project was originally a self driven one, in order to make sure that all your projects happen and happen well. Let’s face it- deadlines work. We’re all human- and having a “nebulous dance project that might be produced sometime in 2014” is VERY different than having money on the line for a venue on August 22nd. Suddenly, there are stakes, and it matters if the thing gets done. As a director, I’m always asking actors to “raise their stakes”- and as an artist, if you raise the stakes of your own schedule, and add artistic collaborators into the mix, you’ll find that it just does become more important to complete your artistic projects.
That being said, I don’t think you should impose impossible deadlines on yourself. Build a calendar for each project. Start big, and then break it down to the tasks that have to happen at each stage of the project. At the end of the day, achieving artistic goals is one part artistic creativity, balanced with two parts project management- you’re not free mentally to immerse yourself into a creative, childlike state of wonder if you’re constantly worried that you’re not meeting all your obligations. Make sure your life is taken care of, that you haven’t taken on TOO MANY projects, and that the two hours you’re pencilling in for rehearsal/painting/writing aren’t going to impinge on another aspect of your life.
Once you’ve done that, it’s like you’ve built yourself a park playground. You’ve made a safe, comfortable space with lots of plastic coated creative structures where you’re free to do whatever you wish. And then when it’s time to play, you get to focus on the important stuff- like how to make three dancers turn into a zombie space monkey. Or something else cool like that.