A friend of mine is leaving town. She’s going to live at the other end of the country. I’ve known her, and worked with her on and off, since 1994. She is still reasonably young, and she’s off for a fresh start. Tonight some of her nearest and dearest friends organised a huge farewell theatrical event in which all kinds of people could go up on the stage and make an impact statement—big, small or ludicrous— about how this artist had changed their lives. The resulting bonanza made it clear; artists can and do leave very big footprints within their community.
The party audience at the theatre was full of not only artists who had worked with her on various professional theatre projects, but also dancers, performers, puppet-makers, eco-warriors, performance artists, community workers, an ethnic dance group, an acapella singing group, painters, cabaret artists, and even a large ukelele band. This friend had worked with them all. She worked very hard with them all. Infected them with her relentless enthusiasm and drive. IMPACT was apparent. She is going to be missed. She achieved something that artists, in general, should do more of; diversify like heck.
Saying you are a writer and that your skill is in writing theatrical plays is all very nice, but it probably won’t get you a lot of work. Just the way it is. But establishing yourself as a writer who engages with story, the making of story, and the various uses of story, well that broadens the picture, increases your chances of finding work, and opens you up to experiences that will ultimately improve your Arts practice. Taking the specifics out of what you want to do and allowing other, shall we say, left-of-field projects into the scope helps everyone, including you.
Of course, it means stepping out of what you know as an artist. Comfort zone, be gone! Attempting new skills, applying old skills in new ways. Being flexible. Being a bit scared. Being a bit cheeky. Feeling that lump in your throat and that gurgle in your stomach, and giving it a go despite the chance of failure. Saying “yes, yes, yes and…” Being excited. Being practical. Having a moral compass in your work. Being on top of your vision as an artist. Picking up the phone and talking to complete strangers who may think you’re a dick. Taking the chance they won’t think you’re a dick. Seeing other people’s work as an opportunity to participate in something larger than one’s own artistic practice and learning, learning, learning.
Artists are sometimes undone by ego. Artists are sometimes undone by fears. Artists are sometimes undone by tunnel vision and unwillingness to play well with others. Artists are sometimes undone by pessimism and low expectations. By “undone” I guess I mean being ‘underdone’ and not reaching full impact.
You can improve your impact as an artist. Even as I write this, I realise I am writing it to myself more than anyone. Saying yes. Just say yes. That’s the beginning of some big IMPACT work as an artist.