Things I’ve discovered while being on a media diet the past week:
All in all, though it was challenging, it was a positive and somewhat enlightening week for me…what it comes down to is, do I want to be a constant consumer of other people’s images/words/ideas, or do I want to be primarily a producer of my own?
So, I have been doing an Artist's Way course facilitated by my friend and sometime colleague, Kate Gavigan. More info about these courses HERE.
Now let me explain. I have a little bit of history with The Artist's Way and my feelings about it.
Take One: I first heard about it sometime around fall 1998 when a classmate of mine was going through her reading deprivation week...then shortly thereafter, I was on a day trip to Bainbridge Island and found the actual book while browsing a local bookstore. Since I felt I was in the midst of some kind of creative awakening anyway, I purchased it, then read a little of it while I was on a trip to visit my parents in Brazil. I read some of it, did some of the exercises. I didn't really attempt morning pages, but I did revamp my journal, and since I was going through an awakening anyway, continued to allow that to unfold organically, from Spring 1998 through Summer 1999, realized I wanted to get back into theatre again after a 6-year hiatus, went about implementing that to see what it was about, and ultimately decided, after an *amazing* and life-altering Shakespeare Intensive at Freehold Theatre, that I needed to jump in with both feet.
Take Two: Summer 2001, after spending two years taking classes, and finishing my first production outside Freehold, I had a little time on my hands and decided to try doing Artist's Way again. This time, I got a little more serious, not only started to read the first few chapters, but also started doing morning pages every day...which pretty immediately became a dream journal. Artist's Dates are and have been something I've done since before I ever heard of the book, though I didn't necessarily call them that, so that was nothing new. A month after starting this process, I began taking a non-fiction writing course, and a few days after that, some terrorists flew some planes into some buildings in New York, which was kind of a big deal. About a month after that, I looked back over some of these morning-pages-turned-dream-journal, and discovered I had had a dream on September 8th where I was in New York and looked out the window just in time to see one of the WTC towers collapse. By this time, I had abandoned the book again, and just spent time analyzing and recording my dreams.
Take Three: Fast Forward to late Spring 2014. I have proudly called myself an artist without wavering for at least 13 years now, though sometimes it is hard to carve an authentic path for myself in the face of everyone and their opinions: peers, colleagues, instructors, extended family members, often popular culture and the magnetic pull of society at large. But yes. I am a Theatre, Literary and Visual Artist, have actually made a few bucks at all three at this point, even managed to support myself at times as an artist. I am also a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre now. I have written plays, poetry, pr materials, press releases, short stories and essays. I have acted in comedies, tragedies, classical and modern plays. I have devised and collaborated. Yet still, I feel like I am less than. I feel like I am not accepted in "the scene", feel like people think I SUCK, but I continue to make art anyway, because I am compelled to. So, though I don't feel like I'm necessarily fully blocked, like I have been at times, I feel like there is some blockage there, and knowing Kate to be an open and inclusive person, decided to take her class and finally complete the book once and for all.
That said, I must say I take some issue with a few things Julia talks about in her book...perhaps she has another one I am not aware of, where she discusses being in different parts of the process...but the whole "recovery" angle feels a little ooky to me. Though I suppose it is an addiction and an obsession if you choose to look at it that way, I've never received anything but positive feelings while immersing myself in making art, and the idea of being "in recovery" feels victim-y to me. I have a tendency to go into victim archetype anyway, so I certainly don't need any help with this. Ultimately, I am responsible for all my own choices...so yeah, even though I had a dick uncle who made fun of my writing when I was 14, I'm the one who ultimately decides if I'm going to allow that to stop me or keep writing anyway. Easier said than done, of course, and perhaps this comes out more in later chapters of the book, but these are some of the reasons why I had trouble continuing it in the past.
I'm not crazy about the "God" stuff either...but that I can at least replace with "Universe" and find it works for me. The other thing she does which, as someone who is not at the beginning of the spiral is a little troublesome is that she says, more than once, about people who call themselves artists that they may not be very talented and are just audacious. I realize this is probably meant to make the person "in recovery" feel better, but someone like me is going to see that as "Oh. I don't have any problems admitting I'm an artist. I've been making art for decades, despite what other people say about my work. Maybe this means I don't have any talent and am just audacious?" Because my inner critic is sneaky and crafty and will say whatever he needs to to beat me down. And since he doesn't have all that many opportunities to do that anymore, whenever he gets an in, he hits HARD.
At any rate, I am trying it again. We are in week 4. So far, I am noticing multidisciplinary ideas starting to come to me unsolicited again, which I love. Also, my dreams appear to be coming back, and I'm actually sleeping a little better which is amazing. I have made at least TWO fairly large discoveries/epiphanies during my morning pages, and it is kind of marvelous to be doing this while I am juggling several artistic projects of various disciplines and in various stages along of development. I have an instant "canvas" on which to work in some of these new ideas and some of these new habits. And I definitely can't stubbornly poo-poo any of that. So I am hoping I will make it all the way through this time.
Queen of Knives
Mother has been weeping for three days. Each time I go outside to
pick blackberries for supper, or even to take a dip in the pond, she looks at me as though she’s seeing me for the last time. She thinks I don’t notice – just tells me not to catch cold – but I see her wiping her eyes. I hear her at night. She always turns her back.
Mother, why are you crying?
I’m not crying my love, I have something in my eye. Allergies.
(laughs, brushing it off)
(shivering)It’s cold in here. Why is it so cold?
Autumn must be coming.
What is Autumn?
(sighs deeply) You don’t remember, do you?
It is like this every time. Always like it was the first time.
The first time?
You’re going back to your husband, my love.
Husband? I don’t have…
But then something stops me, because I remember…something…someone. I remember being afraid and I remember dark kisses and promises…I remember dead people and six pomegranate seeds laid out carefully
before me. I remember a choice…
She turns around to look at me and in her eyes I can see the memories that flood back are not simply dreams but the truth.
Your duties my dear. As a queen.
Queen? But I’m just…
More memories…darkness. It’s dark there, but not without its majesty. Rooms…caverns? Tunnels, and…ghosts. Parades and parades of ghosts, and I, next to my dark paramour on my throne…
He wants me back, doesn’t he?
He always does. As I’ve said, you and I, we have our duties.
You have your throne.
Autumn. Go dress yourself in something warm. The messenger will
be here soon.
It’s only while I’m in transit that I remember everything, and the memories build. When I reach either destination, I have no memory of the other place. I get there and it’s like I’ve never left…and my memories of the other place become cloudy and disappear and my time int hat place is untainted…until I’m travelling again and everything comes flooding back, is put into context.
Every six months, I do this. Follow the messenger up, or follow the messenger down. I am a rope, a sinewy, knotted rope, growing frayed with age as millennia pass. A rope in an ancient tug-of-war between stubborn and unyielding siblings. My mother. My husband. Six months here; six months there.
Neither of them has every asked me what I prefer.
He’s formidable, my husband, and the air perceptibly changes as I spiral closer and closer to where he is. Each time I see him, it’s like the first time, and he takes my breath away – why anyone would ever want to be blond and hale when dark and gaunt has such a profound sway –
My love. (breathing)
And my life up there starts to disappear again. There’s something so intoxicating and present about being here, being with him that it makes everything up there seem like a dream as I deal with the ever-present reality of the state of things here: The truth of the matter is, the dead pester me with their attentions. As though I could do something for them.
Queen! They call me, as they prostrate themselves at my feet. Mistress!
And it all comes flooding back to me, all the many names they have called me for millennia and my little life with my mother in our cottage by the pond is laughable, trivial and so very innocent!
Mistress of the Damned! Snow Queen. Spirit of Winter. Lady Ice. I slip my mantle on and the ice, like a thousand tiny knives settles back inside me as I hold court for the legions of ghosts who are my subjects with my dark lord by my side…and the tug-of-war begins again.
So...it begins again: the daily hawking and harrassment of all my friends, colleagues and acquaintances via Facebook, Twitter and email to pledge to this latest worthy campaign. The opening of the campaign page on Kickstarter to see where we're at and the disappointment as it slogs through sluggish slowness or elation when it begins to pick up momentum. And that wonderful, joyful feeling in the center of my chest when people pledge, which signifies not just a dollar amount (which in and of itself is important and the goal and all that) but something even bigger and more significant: this person believes and supports what I'm doing as an artist and human being.
Kickstarter is an interesting and fabulous animal - it works something like this, in the case of artists: you (or your group) creates an online fundraising campaign for a particular project. You must have a goal in mind, and there is a deadline. If you do not reach your goal by the deadline, you don't get ANY of the money. This is great, actually - it raises the stakes and creates a sense of urgency. And the beauty, for would-be backers is that you can pretty much donate any amount of money you want to, as little as a BUCK, or as much as you want. I, personally, am pretty strapped for cash at the moment, barely have two sticks to rub together, but somehow, have still been able to back projects in a small way...I like to call it "microphilanthropy".
Also, it works through word-of-mouth, via social media, email, newsletters and your actual MOUTH! The more people involved, the more people there are to get the word out, and if their people tell people and those people tell people...well, you get the idea. It has the potential to be very wide-reaching, and it can spread like wildfire when the momentum hits.
In running a Kickstarter, however, you have to be a little mindful. More than one per year and people get Kickstarter burnout. Didn't you just ask me for money for that other thing? My first two were two years apart. I worry now that my 2nd and third are not far apart enough, and perhaps my people are all experiencing the aforementioned burnout, despite the fact that it's for a completely different theatre company.
(On a side note (and this is MY blog, so I can rant if I want to), I always find it interesting that most extended family members are always right there when it comes to shelling out $$ for wedding gifts, or a child's birthday or what not, but when it comes to something like this, it's like crickets. It's more the principle of the thing, really, since I'm not the greatest when it comes to sending out gifts/thank you's etc - mostly has to do with being broke. I tried the handmade gift thing for awhile, but am never sure if those are appreciated, though they actually take more time, thought and effort than going to the store and plunking down a credit card. But whatever. I'm fairly certain that even if I was someone who sent out cards and presents to everyone's birthdays and weddings, these Kickstarters would still be overlooked by most of my family. It's just my weird art thing I do. They don't understand that each project is actually like one of my children, because that's just ABSURD. How could art be as important to someone as a CHILD or getting MARRIED for heaven's sake? Anyway. Rant over.)
This is the third campaign I've been directly involved with promoting. The first one, for Stings Like Acid by New Amerikan Theatre (of which I was one of the writers/produers) was an amazing, eye-opening experience that garnered us several hundred dollars beyond our original goal. The 2nd, for the Double XX Festival at Stone Soup Theatre started out similarly, had tremendous momentum behind it...and then I got fired over it - mostly due to a difference of opinion about how it was to be used (BAD, EVIL Carolynne for wanting to give each of the productions a little $$). Since a number of my personal friends had backed the project, many of them pulled their money after this occurred, and I saw the campaign lose momentum. It floundered and floundered...and then got "rescued" in the final week.
So now I'm helping run a campaign for eSe Teatro for the upcoming Oedipus El Rey at ACT's Eulalie Scanduzzi space in December. It started somewhat sluggishly, but now is beginning to build a little steam. The first few days were a little disappointing, and I felt personally responsible, but I guess this particular rollercoaster just started out with a straight and only slightly curvy track instead of a scary, upwards climb. It's only the beginning...
Graphic Design by Carolynne Wilcox
So we arrive at the end of Double (XX) Fest 2.0: WEEK TWO. Last night, in particular, was electric...sort of ridiculously irreverent in that despite the fact that I was fired, it was STILL my night. The "theatre" decided to have a "party" after the show for "week two participants". Coincidentally, this was the night when all "my" people decided to come. Also the night MM decided to come. I didn't know this until after the show, though - and funny, I had spent each preceding night steeled for the possibility of coming face to face with her. I'm not a person who loves confrontation but I won't back down from one either if it needs to happen. At any rate - I didn't even need to dismiss or tell her off - my posse's actions, apparently, did that for me before the show was even out. They told me after the fact. After the show, I stood out front, talking not only with "my" people, but with people who wanted to congratulate me: not only on the two shows I was in, but on the festival selections themselves, among other things! I was in a flurry of chatting with visiting playwrights and other well-wishers when MM walked out the door and slunk past me and didn't even bother to make eye contact, much less attempt to make nice. I was in conversation and didn't pause to acknowledge her anyway. Honestly, I'm not sure she even has the self-awareness to realize my people were dissing her.
It was kind of an eye-opener for me, really, as someone who has always had to FIGHT DOGGEDLY for every inch of anything. It was so nice to have people in my corner without my even having to ask. That was a luxury I didn't expect, and it warms my heart. Whatever happens with my unemployment claim, that felt like its own little victory. Truly, creating good art and having people who love me are the best revenge. I feel bad for her, honestly: I get to walk away and never set foot in SST after next Sunday. She still has to be herself for the rest of her life, and that's a hard, hard thing.
ONTO WEEK THREE!!!
This actually occurred exactly a week ago, last Thursday, 3/29/12. Best day of my life. The moment I walked out of the building, I felt like an oily veil of fear, doubt and chaos was lifted and I could see more clearly than I'd been able to in a LOOOONG time.
But of course, now I'm unemployed, and have to figure out what to do with that. I'll be okay for a little while, and an even longer while if I am able to collect unemployment (which may be an uphill battle, but I have smoking guns and am prepared).
Of course, I remember being unemployed last time, for over a year. It was really hard. Specifically on the psyche and spirit. No one could come out to play, and many days morale was so low that I didn't ever make it out of my pajamas. The job market was so bad I just got discouraged and at points, just stopped submitting my resume because it felt like it was just getting lost in the email void, never a "We've received your resume, thank you" or a call for an interview or...NOTHING. During that time, I sent over 150 resumes/cover letters out and got TWO interviews. One led to a 2nd interview. But otherwise, nothing.
This was where it started - my devaluing of myself, that is. I had just come back from grad school where I had excelled - 4.0 for three years straight, while consistently meeting all my assistantship hours and participating in a variety of theatrical productions in multidisciplinary capacities - and an outside job to boot. Then I got back to Seattle and suddenly, I was nothing. No one would hire me. Many in my previous theatrical network had left town. The economy tanked.
Finally, I got hired at a small theatre, mostly because I'd designed brochures for the AD before grad school. So desperate was I to have gainful employment at that point that I accepted the low salary and dove in with both feet, despite knowing the AD was a "challenging personality".
I did okay for the first year and a half or so. But then the AD got sick and things started to go downhill, in terms of everything got piled on me and the Education Director. Lots of work, but no more compensation. And by the time she returned, I was dancing perilously close to complete burnout. I hung around through the summer with a bad attitude, and things seemed to get a little better in the fall - interesting projects to publicize, fun outside people to work with. But despite hiring an assistant, new and more complicated work got piled on...but still - no added compensation, no word of how I was doing, nothing. There was never any catching up - I was always a hamster in a stationary wheel.
In the month preceding my dismissal, things had started to come to a head...and the funny thing is, my getting canned had more to do with getting OTHER artists at the theatre some kind of small budget than anything to do with my own salary.
Now that I'm gone, I see how I've allowed my love of theatre to be taken advantage of and how I've allowed myself to be devalued and more importantly to FEEL less than or mediocre...something which started while I was unemployed and persisted through this roller coaster employment situation.
Well...no more. I'm hanging up my gloves in the Carolynne vs Carolynne fight. I have some mad skills. There are a ton of things I'm actually quite GOOD at! And instead of wasting all this energy feeling like I suck at everything, am going to expend the energy celebrating those skills and honing them even more. GO ME!
As I was driving home from Olympia this afternoon, it occurred to me I could use my unemployment as a great jumping-off point for this blog that keeps stalling. Make a commitment to myself to either get out of the house at least once each day or do something significant at home that has to do with honing these skills. And now that I actually have the time to write...here we go!
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.