Tuesday, September 29, 2015

no plan b

Mention to someone that you want to be an artist when you grow up, and you will most certainly be met with a pat on the head and the question, "What is your back up plan?"

For most people, there is no back up plan.

I was listening to one of my podcasts, Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, and he was talking to the comedian Brian Regan about why he dropped out of college before finishing his degree so he could pursue stand-up comedy:
What motivated me even further was when people would say, "Why don't you just wait and get your degree, so you have something to fall back on if this comedy thing doesn't work?" And I didn't want to think that the comedy thing might not work, I didn't want to feel I had something to fall back on. I wanted it to work. It had to work. It was going to work. It was very difficult for me to pursue a goal that I didn't want to happen.  For me to get the degree was for a life that I didn't want for myself. That was the safe route. I was like I was like how am I supposed to wake up, and go to class, so I can get a degree for this "fallback" plan? I don't want that plan, I want this plan that's murky, and weird, and scary, that's the plan I wanna go for. So, I went that route.
I'm not saying not having a Plan  B will assure your success in the arts, but expending a lot of energy on the "back up plan" means that your Plan B is actually Plan A.

I'm feeling a little  Seth Godin today.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015


All of the sudden I am very burned out on social media. This came up for me because I've been working in some new mediums, and of course I feel the need to whip out my phone and document my process and some images. And then I think ought to share them, but I really don't feel like it.

I know exactly why I don't feel like it. Putting it out there is inviting people's thoughts and opinions about what I'm making, and I'm not interested right now. I just want to focus on getting better at what I'm trying to do and I don't want encouragement from strangers or passing comments on Instagram.

My friend Sara Paloma has said many times over the years that she thinks it's very important for young artists to protect what they are making from the public while they are still in that steep learning curve of figuring out what they are trying to make. Too many opinions, too many voices is distracting and even confusing.  They can create value where perhaps there is none or undermine an idea before its had time ripen.

Right now we live in a culture of "A year of making" or "daily drawing" where artists post every single day the thing they are working on, and I do think there is a lot of value in not only sharing work and ideas, but creating a visible example of commitment to your craft. Being an artist is about doing, making, creating, and social media is in many ways a natural  outlet for creative expression.

But there's the flip side to that. The outlet can become an end in itself, the seeking of approval, positive feedback and "likes" from strangers as a way to feel a sense of accomplishment. I would be a liar if I said I don't feel a bit buoyed when I post an image that gets a lot of attention, and conversely a sense of disappointment when I get little attention from another image. And I have to recognize and question those feelings, because in the end it is little more than distraction. The more I've been thinking about it, the more I have been questioning the whole enterprise and my own participation.

As much as there may be value in sharing work--even work that is not very good--there must be value in not sharing it, in holding it close, in forcing people to be seekers rather than passive observers. I can't help but wonder: what would Georgia O'Keefe do?

"It was all so far away - there was quiet and an untouched feel to the country and I could work as I pleased."