Friday, February 3, 2017

How to Be an Artist

A friend of mine is the eighth-grade counselor at one of our local middle schools. She invited me to the school's Career Day, ostensibly to speak to interested students about what it means to work in the theatre, because this is how she knows me — through our time spent creating The Tree Play a couple of summers ago. Given that my creative work these days tends mostly toward writing and performing music, conversations with the kids criss-crossed all my artistic endeavors.

I thought it was important to share my philosophy of what it means to be an artist with the eighth graders. A statement of what it takes if you really want to pursue an artist's life. I'd been thinking about this anyway — that I need a mission statement. I think I know why I make art. Could I put it into words that anyone would understand, myself included?

This isn't that mission statement, rather, it's a list of artist "Must Haves," which I posted at my desk for the eighth graders to consider.

How to Be an Artist

Ultimately, I think the reason I was invited to Career Day was because I have a day job and am therefore a Responsible Member of Society (so far as they know, anyway) and can attest to how hard it is to make a career in the arts, versus being a working artist.

But that didn't matter to the students. The brave few who approached my table with questions wanted to hear things like: what's  a "typical" day in the life of a theatre director? (Answer: there is no such thing as a typical day, though there are definite patterns to the playmaking process) Where do I work? What degree did I get? Is writing hard? How do you get over writer's block? Do you play your own songs? I found I tossed those questions back at the kids before offering any advice. Some of them want to make movies or write poetry or record songs in their bedrooms. I highly encourage all of the above.

A thank you note from the school counselors included quotes from the students about what they learned from conversations with the various adults-with-jobs in the room. A few sound familiar:

  • "I learned that I can be both an actor and a director." (Or maybe this was Webster, who was there, too.)
  • "I learned that a writer can often work from home." ("Often," being the key word (cough, cough) he wrote, sipping a latte at the coffee shop...)
  • "I learned that selling a book is harder than writing it." (No f*cking kidding! This quote I know came from my "writer's block" dialogue with one of the other aspiring novelists in the room.)

Coolest job? The helicopter pilot (a woman from the Armed Services). Or maybe one of the gaming creatives. Or the sheriff's officers from the forensics team. Or the silicon chip guy with the wafers and circuits (something I grew up with, cos dear old Dad was a wafer-fab man).

Most popular? Definitely the guy handing out laser pens (don't point those things at people's eyes, boys!). No idea what he did, but those pens were pretty nifty.

No comments:

Post a Comment