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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 producers of work, when trying to figure out how to pay at least minimum wage, are confronted with the realities that the lack of funding streams for the arts and the budgeting process do not work well together.

Free is never free. Free is often done on the backs of artists, the passion of the artists being leveraged against their need to make it all work.

A couple weeks ago I read an article and shared it on my Facebook page. The article was entitled “Performing Arts and Overworked Staff: Let’s Not Pretend We’re Okay”. The conversation was about the level of exhaustion so many folks feel, and the fact that they don’t see a remedy for it in the current models were all working in.

Now, I know that many people have difficult jobs. I also know that to be able to work in the performing arts in any capacity is a dream, and a privilege, for many. But here’s the thing. We need to start telling people what it takes to pull off the work we’re doing. Not whining about it. But let folks know what a tech rehearsal is like. Help them understand that a performance requires much more than being on stage for two hours. Talk about the tension between funding the work and paying the artists.

For my writer friends, all of us who are published knows how lucky we are. But here’s the fact. That book you’re holding in your hand took me nine months to write. It’s work I love to do, and I’m grateful, but the work is hard. And it’s work.

I’m going to suggest that we commit to doing the following things:

  1. Be honest about the time and mental capacity that your work requires.
  2. Don’t think that you have to be a suffering artist in order to be an artist.
  3. When possible, make your journey or the journey of others easier.
  4. Advocate for the arts, and arts funding. We need to take the soaker hose to the grassroots in order to create change in the community.
  5. Take breaks. Rest. Refuel. Nobody cares about you and your artistic practice is much as you do.

I’m not an advocate of complaining or whining. But I am an advocate of honesty. The artistic path has many challenges, and one of them is that while we are blessed to be on it, the path is often a road to burnout.

Are you an artist who thought you were the only person who felt this way? That’s a problem too. We need to talk to each other, support each other, and think differently about how we do the work. Because the world needs artists to do their work, but they can’t when it’s impossible.


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