This is for you. To the theatre makers, actors, directors, designers, writers, teachers, performers, artists, lighting designers, technicians, singers, craftspeople, dancers, film-makers, poets, composers, and choreographers this is for you. For the ones who readily or reluctantly sit on the outside of established institutions, this is for you.
You might be inspired or frustrated, engaged or made despondent by your large regional organisations, you might wonder with awe or annoyance at your national institutions, oft wondering where when and how the money is invested, spent or wasted. These places, like us all, do good and do bad, the measure of their goodness or badness seems far more acute because of their scale, but ultimately they deal in the same intricacies and difficulties as we all do as individuals. Their successes and their failures will always seem more important because they are large, it’s a consequence of scale not of achievement or lack of it.
So now lets focus on you, the ones largely not part of the ‘in crowd’ “establishment” or “institution” those struggling to make work and earn a living. You are largely the ones connected with the true reality and difficulty of the everyday, often referred to as the “grass roots” of society.
Your dreams, visions, art and productivity are potent because they often connect personally and directly to people. Your neighbours, friends, family and bewildered strangers will see your face, hear your voice and witness your intention. You are the makers often on the edge, creating, evolving and reinventing what is possible. Stick to your art, know, research and question your making as you question yourselves. Think big and make it possible and viable, restriction is your friend, it is your devil.
Constraint of any kind – time, money, opportunity, resources – will prove and hone your creativity, you will find fellow makers who truly care with the same level of passion as yourself. Be wild, be reckless, fuck up regularly because you are the ones who are free too. But look after yourself too, acknowledge those fuck ups, apologise for them if appropriate or even when not, apologies simply make many things easier and cost you nothing.
Take time. Time to explain yourself, time to make your work, consider it, reflect on it, envision it but don’t plan too much, listen to others – their ideas are often better than what’s in your head – then when they are not, pontificate and celebrate all that is possible. But know and tell that creation will be hard, fraught with difficulty, there will be tears, tantrums, genius and disaster but through it all you will recognise what it is to care and truly feel alive.
Ignore professional reviewers and professional critics always, always, always and if you must read them, read them at least 3 months after you have made the work, then any pain they cause will be tempered by time. Listen to your audience and yourself. When you make something share it with as many as possible along the way, but don’t let them only be observers, let them be makers too. Rob, steal and empower their ideas in what you make, your vision will be richer for it, but guide it well.
Be wary of romanticised versions of artistic suffering, those stories may well be inspirational but the reality behind the pain of sacrificing everything for your art is very difficult to live with and ultimately for many can lead to loneliness, madness, poverty and in the worst cases death and sometimes occasionally but perhaps not as a direct result – genius.
You can be a regular fully functioning person and still make great art. You can earn money and make great work. You can have a family, friends and loved ones and still be brilliant at what you do, it is possible and it does happen. Just remember any sort of brilliance is momentary and is no less brilliant for its brevity.
Remember none of us is one thing, we are not singularly a theatre maker, a dancer, a film-maker, a composer, we are human. We are not simply either emotion or reason, in fact we are collections of competing desires, passions, skills, needs and wants, try not to neglect that when you make your work, it will be richer for it but more importantly try not to forget that in living your life, you and the ones you know will be its beneficiary.
I forgot this for a while, I made great work but I lost something of myself, not sure what it was, something, but it’s coming back now.
Sorry this is not about me, this is for you.
Tell your stories and tell them together, don’t be professional – professionalism is empty, sanitised, dehumanised, instead be disciplined, embrace ritual rather than rules, occasionally be reckless but more often be brave, celebrate you own individual achievements as much as you celebrate others, notice your failures and failings, but let them pass like cracks in the pavement and try not to trip over them again but if you do just dust your self off and keep walking, don’t try to “style it out” with a little jog, people will notice that more and point and laugh.
In summary, continue, do not give up, do not abandon yourself, if something is difficult rather than give up, simply change. If you hate a job, project, something you are making, leave it for a while, take some space, some time, don’t fall fowl of the worldly rush, rarely is anything truly urgent and if when you return to your work you feel the same, then leave it behind by doing something else, don’t simply give up on doing. What you do will be useful to someone, this is true, think how many of us exist, the likelihood that any of us could create something of no use to anyone is incredibly small.
So continue to do and rather than seeking fame or popularity, seek to be fulfilled by what you are doing and if other things come of it see them as a nice but unnecessary bonus.
You will always have the capacity to create, try everyday to use it.
Category: Inspiration and Provocation