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The Your Ladders Blog

There are a lot of things to think about when you're navigating a performing arts path. These blog topics will help.

Setting goals for your artistic life

Last week we talked about dreams. This week let’s talk about making some of those dreams into goals.

I say “some” because some dreams may stay dreams, at least for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean you should discard them. Dreams make life interesting. Stay open to your dreams morphing as you continue working on your goals. Your imagination may help you make your dreams more attainable as you build your artistic practice.

When you attach goals to your dreams, consider these things:

Your dream may be several steps. Make each of these steps a goal.

Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. In fact, know that you can’t. One goal may have to be finished before you tackle the next one.

Don’t rush it. The beauty of an artistic path is that you get better and better at your craft as you travel on it. Be patient with yourself, and learn what you need to learn before you go on to the next goal.

Remember to celebrate every time you...

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What are your artistic dreams?

We all need to have artistic dreams. Big dreams. Dreams that feel out of reach. Dreams live in our imagination

Goals are destinations toward which efforts are consistently being made.

Dreams can inspire goals. They should, especially for artists. Dreams alone aren’t enough to create reality, though. Goals do that.

Often dreams feel like amorphous thoughts not tethered to reality. I would argue that creating goals inspired by your dreams helps them come true. I’ve talked about this before--the journey is the point for artists. The destination is part of the journey, but can’t be the reason for doing your work. We all know that once you reach your destination (opening night, publication day, the beginning of a tour, etc.) you’re going to get back on the ride. 

Throughout this month I’m going to talk about goals. I’ll add weekly assignments to these blog posts, and talk about them on Instagram and during the Facebook live I’m doing on...

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What are your core values?

If I asked you what your core values are, what would you say? 

If you’re running a company the answer should trip off your tongue. Mission, vision statements, and core values are integral to non-profit organizations. But I would argue that any arts organization should do the work of figuring this out, and letting folks know. 

Your mission statement is what you do, and what makes you unique in the way you do it.

Your vision statement is a future look at what the world will look like if you succeed in doing your work.

Your core values are two or three words (or short statements, but I prefer words) that mean so much to you you’d rather go out of business than go against them. What does that mean? If your core value, as an organization, is new work then doing Macbeth is problematic. If your core value is respect and your artistic director is a bully, that’s a problem. 

As an artist, and a human being, establishing your core values provides you with a...

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It Isn't You

Did you see this article? It's about a study that was done on creative people in the workplace, and how having passion for your work comes at a price. The price is that you aren’t paid enough.

"Artists know passion exploitation well: because they take pleasure in performing, taking photos or writing, onlookers see the opportunity to do this work as a privilege in its own right—and use that reasoning to justify a lack of compensation or benefits." Quite the quote, isn't it? I highly recommend reading the article, and the links. CLICK HERE FOR THE ARTICLE.

One of the challenging things about being an artist is the gaslighting that goes on. For those of you who don’t know the term, it comes from a 1944 movie with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. He’s trying to convince her that she’s crazy, and his methods include telling her that she’s imagining things when the gaslights get brighter and dimmer. The term is now used to mean convincing people that...

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If I Could Turn Back Time

Last week I was walking on Commonwealth Avenue, near Kenmore Square, in Boston. I saw dozens of graduating seniors walking around in their red graduation gowns, likely coming and going from pre-commencement events. I’ve got to admit, the sight made me tear up. I graduated from Boston University thirty-five years ago this month, and wore a similar gown. Not for the first time, I wish I could go back and time and talk to that Julie.

That Julie was beyond thrilled to be getting her degree in communications, and vowed she’d never go back to school again. She was wrong. I’ve got two more degrees, and have taken dozens of classes over the years.

That Julie loved theater, but she was convinced she could never make a life in the arts. She was wrong. I’ve been working in the arts for over thirty years now, though my communications degree has been very helpful.

That Julie also believed the creative writing teacher who told her that her writing didn’t have enough...

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And On The Seventh Day They Rehearsed...

 

Or they wrote. Or they performed. Are they caught up with the rest of their lives because on the other six days they pursue their artistic journey.

When you have an artistic calling, you give up the idea of a forty hour workweek, or five days a week. Particularly since most artists have to work two or three or more jobs to make it all work financially, time off is a luxury. Blocks of time may be more realistic, but even then those blocks are often backfilled with the other parts of your life you’ve neglected. Having nothing to do, and I mean nothing, when was the last time anyone on artistic journey had that time? Even though we all know intellectually that taking time to refuel is critical, that’s a luxury few of us can afford.

We also live in a culture that believes artwork isn’t real work. That somehow, because there’s joy in your work, it isn’t as valuable. That isn’t true, of course. But how often are artists asked to work for free? Or the...

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168 Hours

 

One hundred and sixty-eight hours. That’s all the time we have in a given week. Those hundred and sixty-eight hours have to include sleeping, eating, commuting, working, loving, time with family, social time. It also has to include your artistic practice, all the elements of it.

There is the craft side of your practice. That includes classes, rehearsing, auditioning, writing, editing, creating. There’s the community side of your practice, and that includes going to see other people’s work, participating in community events, reaching out to folks who understand your path. And then there’s the business side of your practice. That can include networking and pitching your work. Or it can include working on a project, using skills that aren’t part of your current Skill set so that requires learning those skills, more time.

Time feels different depending on what you’re doing. Doing your taxes, for example, can make minutes feel like hours. But...

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The Value of a Mindshift

Last weekend I went to a crime fiction conference in Vancouver. I was on one of the panels, which was fun since I love talking about my work. But as with most conferences, the best part was catching up with friends and fellow authors.

Seeing people in person is invaluable. We all manage our social media presence, so the good news abounds. But when you're sitting with someone you get the real scoop. Folks are out of contract, with new proposals out but no news. Others are worried that their series won't get renewed. There are people with good news but they can't share it publicly yet. 

Then there are the conversations that are incredibly helpful--did that ad work for you? Where did you get your bookmarks done? Are you doing a blog tour for your next book?

All of these are writing specific, but the value of in person meetings with folks on a similar path are transferable to other artistic fields as well:

  • Find out how people are really doing with their work
  • Get insights about who...
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What's your artistic dream?

Throughout the month I’ve been providing you with some tools to shift your thinking as you move forward on your artistic path.

Today I want you to kick fear and doubt into the back seat, strap on your seatbelt and think about the big dream.

Do you have one? The role you want to play, the venue you want to perform in, the show you want to design, the book or play you want to write, the company you want to open. If your artistic path was without friction--friction being the demands of the rest of your life, the money you need to live, the space time continuum--what would you love to accomplish with your creative work?

If you’re anything like me, the minute you start dreaming the big dream the weights of doubt get wrapped around your ankles and drag you down. They can be big doubts (“Who am I to want to do this?” “I can think of a dozen more...

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What are your artistic goals?

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my agent shortly before my first book was published. He said that getting published was the first step in the career. The next step was staying published.

It ends up, that second step is tougher than the first in many ways. But since writing still gives me joy, I persist in moving forward.

But moving forward required more than luck, it requires a plan. The first step in figuring out my plan is to set some long term and short term goals for my artistic path.

For some folks setting goals and figuring out a plan feels too businessy, like that work takes the art out of your practice. With all due respect to those folks, they’re wrong.

Setting long term goals and short term goals, and creating a plan, is the best way to navigate your artistic path. Your plan grounds you. It helps remind you why you’re on your path. It helps you let folks know why you do your work while you claim your creative space.

You can set goals around...

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