This series explores sustainable artistry by breaking down the starving artist myths and giving mindful support for blazing your own flexible, dependable path. Join the revolution of artists and educators unsatisfied with day-to-day surviving and hell-bent on everyday thriving in that improvisational space called an artful life. Have a topic or question for a future post? Drop me a line @creativelyindie.
There’s a perception that you need a different bag for different occasions, but the tricky thing about this is that choices have to be made about what might be needed, what can fit, and what has to be left behind. And the real kicker: no matter how well you speculated, inevitably you forget something, and usually it’s something important, like your wallet or keys.
In fact, it happened to me today. Added twenty-minutes to my journey, and another ten to get back into my groove, once I realized it, got pissed, turned around, laughed, and moved forward.
That’s exactly what happens when you have different identities for different occasions. You will inevitably forget an important part of you, including sometimes your currency and the permit you've given yourself to be you, fully, in broad daylight.
But when you consistently bring your entire self into the room, you spend less time speculating and more time dreaming. And yes, that’s a lot of you to carry around twenty four-seven, but the fuel that comes from it—passion, purpose, a clear conscious, a strong community—will sustain the heavy lifting.
My last piece encouraged consciously crafting your identity by sifting through stories either created by you or about you.
What about the parts of your identity that are deeper than stories, the parts you are born with and born into?
Age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disabilities are significant parts of your identity, influencing the art you make, how you make it, and why. Too often those parts of us are made to feel cumbersome, out of place, or too complicated to always honor in the day to day.
But you are comprised of complexly woven threads and to pull out one is to unravel who you are as a whole. Your identity is not made of isolated categories of checkable boxes. You don’t have to conform to the form (art form or paperwork).
Nor is an artist shapeless, colorless, sexless, ageless… but rather they are a shapeshifter. One who mythologically can cross realms beyond their original shape, while still keeping their internal identity and point of view. The aim isn’t to escape or disappear inside the work, but rather be informed and expanded by it.
The magic of shapeshifting comes from your technique, your craft’s tools that define, focus, and implement a point of view, a.k.a. a horizon. Determining what techniques you need to learn comes from a solid look at where you are right now, a.k.a. your identity. It’s your point on the map. It’s the tool box given to you by your ancestors. It’s the diary deciphering day-to-day experiences on your journey.
Owning your identity sustains the essence of you, an immortal thread you are weaving into the fabric of the art form itself. That identity comes with you, whether you consciously own it or not. Best to own and empower it!
Just like defining your non-negotiables, you may feel a strong resistance to bringing all of you into each audition, as if it will limit the art you can create. With all my heart, I say this: The more you own who you are in this moment, in this skin, in this conscious reality, the more you expand your possibilities in your art. Only then can you begin to dream of the depths and breadth of what you, and only you, can create.
All For One. One For All.
Knowing your identity means not only being an advocate for it, but being aware of how it shapes and informs your community. We are on a wave of awareness when it comes to the imperative need for diversity, not only for those underrepresented but for all. It is no longer only about women shining a light on sexism; it is about men coming out as feminists. It is no longer only about African Americans protesting for equality; it is about all ethnicities demanding we create a world where Black Lives Matter.
If you grab the mantle of sustainable artistry, one that focuses on the long haul, the epic journey, then you start shaking the foundation of our art form. Please do! Please, shake loose assumptions. Please, open spaces for the possible.
The weight of your full identity demands purposeful steps. It requires joy and hope, to stay buoyant. Keep focusing on those striving to stay fully present, fully themselves.
Set your sights for opportunities that are curious and excited about you. This includes your collaborators and your audience. Don’t settle for those that merely tolerate you. Tolerating isn’t synonymous with valuing. That’s a slippery slope where it’s easy to start bringing only the pieces that are valued to the gig. Don’t. Stop. You are essential as a whole. The gig that doesn’t make room to see all of you is not.
If you’re bringing all of you into a room that only wants part of you, it takes a lot of effort to shove the rest of you in that door, to push out the walls, to make room. You have to assess if you have that energy today. Some days you will. Some days you won’t. What needs to stay the same is your devotion to you.
On low-energy days, focus on what’s depleting you and edit those little energy-suckers out. Find what amps you and create a doable step towards more of that goodness. (More on energy efficiency next time.)
On the days you have the energy, grab your ID and head out the door to do an inside job, remodeling the industry’s narrowly designed rooms regarding gender, ethnicity, and parenting in the arts. Or you can build your own worlds outside the industry’s blue prints all together. There are infinite pathways. But where you go, who you go with, and what you’ll find there, all depends on how much of yourself you bring on the journey.
When you bring all of you into the room, we all are changed. We all benefit. Every time.