27 June, 2011

Ask Al: Secrets of The Self Employed Part 2

it is!!
Creating a social network of other self-employed people is very important not only for your business, but for your spirit.
There is nothing like good ol' fashion collaboration, except possibly good ol' fashion commiseration... having colleagues and pals around you who both inspire and support one another is key to weathering the self-employment waves-- we need people around us to help celebrate the highest of highs and aid in weathering the lowest of lows.

If you want to work on your art, work on your life.  It’s all connected.
As artists we interpret life, and how are we supposed to interpret life if we do not have a real life to interpret? (This has always been my argument for why I lived in North London, why I live in Astoria. As an artist, I wish deeply to cultivate my life "outside" of art. Whatever that is for you-- sports, family reunions, tea-pot collections, a love of cooking, cats, cheese, you get the idea--love it HARD. Be a part of your community. Listen to people. Try to understand them and hear their stories particularly if they are different from your own.

But this is another point.
Truth time: all those personality traits that aren’t working for you in your LIFE will haunt you in your career (i.e. assertiveness, fear of conflict, fear of confrontation, inability to be vulnerable, refusal to "get dirty" or make mistakes...). So sort yourself out! Take responsibility. Agency, self-awareness and self-knowledge will not only improve your life, but it will improve your art.

Also: don't be a jerk. It doesn't (usually) matter how talented you are, no one WANTS to work with a jerk. Remember what Conan O'Brian said on his final Tonight Show:

      "...If you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

Don’t worry about whether or not you are "good."
Listen. Look. (Okay both listen and look).
Some of the arts are more technical than others. You cannot, in good faith, show up for an orchestra audition and not be able to read music. You cannot expect to be an opera singer if you do not have some kind of command on foreign languages. You cannot just randomly blow into a tuba an expect results. You obviously have to work hard to be technically excellent. I am hoping that is obvious.

But beyond THAT. LISTEN TO ME, I am underlining this: GOOD IS SUBJECTIVE.
And most people are not great judges of their own work.

So with that said, just keep doing your thang.

(PS. some people don't actually wish to compete on a professional level. I believe that the arts are especially beautiful because anyone, at ANY level, can incorporate them into their lives. That's why we have community theatre and do NOT have, for example, Amateur Surgical Societies - the important thing is to always keep an awareness of what "excellence" is for YOU, to keep growing, and always attempt to "dance as if no one is watching.")

Nothing is achieved without at least a little bit of mischief. Make certain you goof off on a regular basis.
It's true. Dancing the line between taking yourself and your art seriously, and being capable of laughing at yourself, at life, at the ridiculous is key. Defining where that line is for you is important, and exploring is always illuminating.

Let your work itself be your professional calling card. Networking is, without question, valuable and important, but the quality of your work will always speak for itself.
Wanna know how I made my Broadway debut? Because I did good work in the Kennedy Center production of Master Class.
Wanna know why I did Carousel in Los Angeles? Because I has made a name for myself doing the role in London.
Wanna know how the West End production of Carousel came to be? Because the director and producer worked with me in Fiddler on the Roof.
Law & Order Criminal Intent? They liked me in Law & Order...
...This is how it works.

Let your work speak for itself and people will want to know who you are (and the networking happens for you!). Then, when they meet you and you are not a jackass? Great.

Networking is important.
Not being a jerk is important.
But nothing speaks louder than good work.
Good, solid, wonderful, inspired work will always speak loudly, and will always be the most important calling card.

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