The Successful Artist’s Permission Slip

What’s the DEAL?

You have a calling and passion in the Arts. You want to have an impact with your work, but something isn’t clicking because no one’s buying and you have a minimum to non-existent audience.  You’re looking out at empty houses and an empty calendar and starting to feel discouraged.

You know you have talent, and creative ideas coming out every pore, so why are you still struggling on how to convert it to a thriving Artistic Career?

Honestly, how the HECK do the celebrities do it??

What if I told you the answer was right in front of you, and is something you can change today?

Well, then hop on board, because we are going to take you from struggle to success with one thing,

Integration.

 

Get out a piece of paper, and list all your creative abilities.  Let me guess, it’s more than one!

And I’m curious, what were you told growing up?

Pick ONE thing
Can you make money with that?
Is that practical?
You’re doing too much!

I get it!  I found myself in high school madly in love with four things…

Singing
Dancing
Acting
Choreography

Choosing ONE of these just felt wrong and I wanted to find a career and a place where I could express ALL of these things.  That was when I found my oasis,

American Musical Theatre.

On their own, I wasn’t at my strongest.  It was when everything was combined, I was in my element, and also creating a career.  A career that lasted for 20 years, and took me across the nation on professional stages. It even landed me kicking eye high as a New York City Rockette.

Are YOU using all of your talents?

 

One of the most damaging things I’ve heard said to any artist, is to stop expressing a part of yourself, and hone your craft to ONE thing.

Well…..if you sing, you probably don’t want to put your attention on your writing.

I mean….if you’re a photographer, you probably should put down the guitar.

Imagine if someone had said this to Tina Fey,
Tina, your writing is really amazing….but you probably shouldn’t try any acting.  And don’t even TRY producing.  That’s just TOO much.

Tina Fey has brought more joy and laughter than I can even begin to imagine from her character Liz Lemon on the successful and Emmy Award Winning sitcom, 30 Rock.  Not to mention blowing open the workplace for other female writers to step into producing comedies on TV and film.

Want to know how celebrities do it?

They bring ALL of who they are as an artist to the table.

Tina Fey’s fans love her and buy her books and pay for her movies because of the fact she does ALL of these things.  She’s not hiding.  She’s proclaiming she:

Acts
Writes
Produces

I have a very successful friend named Colman who literally turns down work, and has worked with Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg, Susan Stroman, and has won an Olivier Award for his acting.  What does he do?

Playwrighting
Photography
Acting
Singing
Dancing

Do you see a pattern?  All these successful Creatives are multi-disciplinarians, by nature.

 

Take a moment and look at your sheet of paper, and let me ask you this,

What if you integrated ALL of these things, and then put yourself and your work out from THAT place, instead of feeling like you had to cut off pieces of yourself to fit in?

Your uniqueness as an Artist comes from the unique combination of your gifts and HOW you express them.

If you are not being true to your own artistry, then your audience will feel that, and not show up.  

Tina Fey is unique because of her wit, and sharp writing.  Her sense of comedy comes from being on the other side of the table.

Colman is in such high demand, because you can put him in just about any show and he has the toolkit to perform at the highest level.

And both of them come to their art with joy because they are not in conflict with themselves.

Have you been cutting off or hiding parts of your expression that you truly love and are completely natural?

If you want things to click in your Art, and truly connect with your audience, take a look at WHAT you are putting out to the world.

The house will fill up with a raving audience when you allow yourself to be seen.

ALL of you.

So, here’s my permission slip.  Look at that piece of paper, and connect the dots.  How can you bring ALL of you to your Art?

This is when you will stand out from the crowd and make an impact.

Order Switch

NikiCity_020

Wait, there has to be a mistake….I didn’t hear my name called.

I stood catching my breath, after just nailing the dance combination and singing my heart out at the callbacks for the National Broadway Tour of A Chorus Line.

And this wasn’t the first time I had been in.  I had been called back for the Broadway production, and was invited in by casting for the Tour.

I had done everything the same.  I sang the same song, I knew the choreography forwards and backwards.  I wore the same outfit, and I had nailed the infamously hard pirouette sequence.

So, why was I cut?

I just gave the performance of my life.
Was it not enough?

As I watched other friends and peers stay for the next round, I found myself blinking back tears, lowering my eyes as they started to sting.

I didn’t want to be seen like this.

As quickly as I could, I made my way to the dressing room, and changed out of my sweaty leotard and tights, and around me other dancers who were cut were voicing their disbelief and denial,

Why did I even come today?
I totally messed up the dance!
They weren’t even looking at me.
The show must already be cast.
Well, back to the day job.

And as I stuffed my leotard and feelings into my backpack, so many emotions rose in my throat, choking me off.  I was both angry and deeply confused.

I had thought for sure after being in callbacks for Broadway, I would book the Tour.

I was wrong, and I never did the show, and casting actually never called me back in.  I went from being seriously considered to no longer considered.

Just like that.

 

It’s Maddening, isn’t it?

You spend hours, days, weeks, years on your Creative Process and building your craft.  You put your heart and soul into your work and then you stand up, put it out there for your audience, and say,

HERE I AM!

You are giving your all, full of energy, hands open, eyes open, just waiting for approval, waiting for validation.

And what do you hear?

Next!
Nope!

Or even worse….crickets.

It feels completely unfair, doesn’t it?
It feels completely unbalanced.

You are giving so much.  Why isn’t it being returned?

 

Integrative Therapist and Coach Tom Tynan breaks down the world into two types:

The Givers and the Takers.

It’s pretty much exactly as you would imagine, the Givers always give first in order to receive, and the Takers take first in order to give.

So, what commonly happens?

Well, the Givers become exhausted.  They go through endless roller coasters of feeling good when they give, and then burning out when they are not recharged.  Basically, they give until they are empty.

Sound familiar?
What category would you put yourself in?

How many times have you given endlessly with your Creative work and saw no return?
Do you then feel motivated to try again?

So, what’s the answer in this cycle, since as Creatives, we so desperately want to give?

What do we do in that moment of crying out,
PICK ME PICK ME!

We need to learn how to RECEIVE.

I recently asked a writer in my tribe what it means to “Receive as an Artist”, and he couldn’t answer.

Bingo.

I know I never had an acting, dance or singing teacher give me tools or any teaching around receiving. In truth, it was a completely foreign word in my performance career. I kept viewing it all through what I had to give.

And even more so, we need to reverse the process so we don’t burn out as Artists, which means we need to Receive FIRST, and then GIVE.

So, what does this mean for you and your process?

There are two elements here to consider,

1) Having the quiet space before we go into action and into our work to actually receive our creative inspiration
2) Being able to receive what we are actually given by our audience, whether they are people hiring us or taking in our art.  Our audience is directly tied to our livelihood as Artists.

For that former dancer who was so heartbroken and frustrated at the Chorus Line callback, I didn’t have any kind of daily practice to recharge. I was pretty much operating on two extremes,

On and Off
Highs and Lows

Now I start my day with meditation, have a daily gratitude practice, and go to yoga weekly. I now have a way to open to receive BEFORE the action, to calm my monkey mind, a place of quiet.

And this may be different for you, but ask yourself, how do you recharge? And I don’t mean, distract. I’m not talking about binge watching Netflix or disappearing into social media for hours. This isn’t about escape, but about nourishing your Creative Being.

The powerful question is, how do you fill your Creative cup back up so you feel inspired?

Because the magic is, when we are able to recharge and fill our own cup, then we have the capacity to receive the rejection or being cut or experience the disappointment and use it as information.

Information instead of judgement.
Evidence to continue, instead of give up.

For whatever reason, the creative team behind A Chorus Line decided I wasn’t right for their show, and if I had these tools at that time, I could have taken a step back and known this was not a reflection on my ability.

But it was a reflection that I was burned out. And it was information to move on to the next opportunity and the next creative team who would value my talent.

We can so commonly get caught in the belief that we are not enough, that our work is not enough, but for all you givers out there, I have a gift instead:

Receive first, and then Give with your Creativity.

And ask yourself the simple question,
How AM I enough as an Artist?

Next time you find yourself caught in the frustration and feeling like no one cares,  make a list of how you are enough.  When you phrase the question this way, it can only be positive.

Because it’s from that place of knowing what you actually bring to the table, that your greatest work will occur.