On Survival | Making Your Life As An Artist
Thank you for being an artist.
Thank you for making your work.
Your work is vital, as are you.
In this blog we talk about what New Year’s resolutions are and why they might be important after all.
At the end of this blog, we have attached an affirming text on Making Your Life As An Artist by Andrew Simonet.
It offers many thoughts on our lives as artists and identifies certain aspects of our social and mental health.
Go Forward, with kindness.
Be Fierce, with your art.
And with the new week came a new year, friends gathered from far away and for many, new lands were on the horizon, and they danced and laughed and drank until the starlight became sunlight, which in truth, is one in the same. Then when it was all over, amidst the debris of goblins and ghouls and revelry, trying hard not to appear bruised and hurting from the previous year, they smiled and held hands at the thought of doing something fresh and interesting together.
As many of us emerged from our New Year’s Eve celebrations, some with pounding heads, others with throbbing hearts, some with both and many with neither of these, it’s almost an inescapable feeling to have a momentary sense of loathing for our late-2017 selves. The change of calenders offers us some perspective as to who we have been and provides us an impulse to decide who we are going to be. Many of us jump at this opportunity to make promises to ourselves often centred around self improvement. We resolve to quit smoking, lose wight, exercise more, drink less, all of this, knowing full well there’s a strong chance we won’t make it more than a few months. In fact, research shows that almost all new year’s resolutions are broken in the first six months.
Not being a huge believer in waiting until a specific time or date to act, I struggle with New Year’s resolutions. If you want to celebrate your family, then take your mother out for the day, ply her with affection and listen as she tells you stories of her childhood and grit your teeth as she veers off into her first romances, don’t wait until Hallmark gives you permission. However I do recognise that these events have actual neurological effects of us, and can often be a psychological turning point for many. In fact, in 2013 researchers at University of Pennsylvania found that “temporal landmarks increase the subjective distance between a person’s current self and past self”. In particular with New Year’s Eve, there is a sense of psychological disassociation which makes it easier to isolate perceptions of past selves and failures, from our new aspirations and hopes of who we could be. So it seems pertinent then to examine what might be useful things to acknowledge as we set ourselves new goals.
WHERE DO RESOLUTIONS COME FROM?
In these times of anguish and uncertainty I feel, I guess like many, with trepidation, that 2019 offers hope. We rarely mourn the year gone past. Perhaps because the wage earner in the family did not receive the raise they had hoped for, or that relationship came to an end for better or worse. There may have been an unusual amount of sickness or even a death in the family and so on. 2018 certainly built on its recent predecessors efforts and showed us the world upside down.
Well if you have plans to eat healthier, call your Father more, stop using Facebook or if any other New Year’s resolutions are on your list, you might be pleased to know that you are in good company and are in fact taking part in a tradition that spans throughout history, having many different origins and purposes in different cultures. Historians widely agree however that the general practice of New Year resolutions originated from the Babylonian Kingdom More than 4,000 years ago, and in fact was celebrated not in January, but in March, where the start of the harvest season was marked by Akitu, a 12-day festival in which communities would fast and pray to their gods for better fortunes in the year ahead.
Then, so the stories go, in 46 B.C., Roman emperor Julius Caesar decided to honour the two-faced god Janus by ruling that the New Year began on 1 January, when he encouraged his subjects to reflect on their transgressions and commit to improvement for the following year.
- Last year, 44 percent of respondents in a national survey said they planned to make resolutions for 2018, according to Marxist Poll, a poll run by the Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. The most popular resolutions were to "be a better person" (12 percent of respondents) and to lose weight (also 12 percent). Exercising more, eating healthier and getting a better job had a three-way tie with 9 percent each.
WHAT WE WILL BE PRACTISING IN 2019
We will very shortly be releasing a collection of ideas and sources that will inform our Best Practice guidelines as we go forward on developing The Fall. Some practical steps on artistic ideals, avoiding burnouts, assuring our collaborators are treated well and that there is a communicable forum for improving. A part of that is some of these things below. Here are some things that have helped build a more grounded foundation for creativity and general well being over the last year. Particularly the text by Andrew Simonet which is an affirming and valuable document, I share it with you, now, in hopes that at the start of this year you may find some strength and value in it as I have done many times, and perhaps it may inform the way we treat ourselves this year.
Before that, there is a story, told here by one of my favourite screen writers Aaron Sorkin during a commencement ceremony at Syracuse University.
The story is ‘about two newborn babes who are lying side by side in the hospital and they glance over at each other. Ninety years later through a remarkable set of coincidences, the same two are back in the same hospital lying side by side in the same hospital room. They look at each other and one of them says, “So, what did you think?”
Sorkin goes on to say that ‘some people will tell you it’s going to be a very long time before you have to ask that question. But time never slows, it just seems to shift up gears and change speed. So, like him, I ask, why not ask that question now? What do you think?’
There are many things we can do right here at home to make 2019 a better year than 2018. Things that are easy, things that are free, kindness, character, respect, we’re ‘too good for schadenfreude.’
So at the risk of moralising in this almost priggish, suddenly holier-than-though post, here are our two resolutions at Babel this year, they will guide us in every decision we make.
“Saying you should try to be kind sounds like a really really silly and obvious thing to say because everyone but an idiot knows that, duh!' It’s the sort of thing you only need to tell little kids to stop them being nasty in the playground, we know there are better things to be than kind. Like being creative, inventing an app, or just in general being the top dog” - On being nice - The School of Life
Like any aspect of our personality, kindness takes work and effort. We must train and nurture it as a skill.
We’ve seen the world fall into disarray over recent years because of very large and then many small acts of selfishness. Our courts have been filled with stories of abuses of power and relationships. The only real way to combat this is with kindness and empathy.
As practitioners in the arts world we have a duty to help it recover from the violations it has endured. We must listen more, to those round us and those far away.
Let us extend our empathy to those around us and work to form a community of open hearted, active people.
Kindness includes being kind to yourself. This is much harder. But let’s treat ourselves kindly. We deserve it. Speak gently and kindly to ourselves and take good care of ourselves.
There are many ways to be kind and many opportunities to practice and if we work hard it will add a substantial sense of value and tangible satisfaction to everything we do and every relationship we have.
Let us use our creativity in a way that is bold and daring.
Let’s be ambitious.
We must push to see more theatre, dance, music beyond our immediate tastes and widen our understanding of the global arts world.
Work hard. Research.
Let’s not make work that is comfortable.
Fierce: having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness.
Let us do this, but with kindness in our hearts.
“Develop your own compass, find your north and trust it. Take risks, dare to fail. Remember the first person through the wall always gets hurt.” - Aaron Sorkin
"“I want to burn with the spirit of the times. I want all servants of the stage to recognize their lofty destiny. I am disturbed at my comrades' failure to rise above narrow caste interests which are alien to the interests of society at large. Yes, the theatre can play an enormous part in the transformation of the whole of existence.” - Vsevolod Meyerhold
Below is Andrew’s text on surviving as an artist. I hope it helps you on your journey this year.
Go forward with kindness,
Be fierce with your art.
MAKING YOUR LIFE AN AN ARTIST
Based on 20 years as a working artist and a decade of work with artists locally and nationally, author looks at why artists' lives are so punishing, and how they can build balanced, sustainable lives.