For whatever reason, back when I was in school busy with acting training, many instructors felt the need to let me know that I’m not a “leading man” type of actor. My guess is they dealt with many acting students who would feel that was beneath them or represented failure. Little did they know that, having grown up with my Dad giving us Turner Classic Movies before TCM existed, I already enjoyed the work of George Macready, Arthur Hunnicutt, and Victor McLaglen — to say nothing of the rest of John Ford’s “stock company.” And I also was noticing and following the careers of the current generation of character actors whose work I kept on seeing and enjoying like David Warner, Bob Balaban, and Charles Martin Smith.
One of the better instances of this truth being delivered to me was from a director who was an actor himself — and he said that one needed to put in the work and work hard, and then in one’s 50s, things bloomed. Without prompting, he said, “You work hard, you’ll wake up one day and be a David Warner.” I kept my poker face on, but inside I was “Hell, yeah, that’s a goal!” It was incredibly motivating.
Two of the podcasts I regularly listen to, Scriptnotes and Maltin on Movies, both note how a given actor or other creative artist regularly takes 10-20 years to become an “overnight success.” They note this, in part, because the whole idea of the precocious talent, the creative who does genius work just out of the womb, seems so engrained in our culture, you kind want to stop and say, “Wait? Is that really normal?”
It’s been a little while since a “Motivation Monday” post, so let’s just dive right in with UK author Mark Dawson’s piece on how to approach self-publishing, amply referencing his own experience from traditional publishing to now.
It’s recent (from August of this year) and I appreciate how it’s not paint-by-numbers. The five steps aren’t particularly easy, in part because none of them can ever be fully completed (perhaps “five processes” might more sense to some). I especially like that the last part is to “never stop learning”– which for a writer who enjoys research should, on one level be fun (though your mileage may vary with such paint-drying excitement like editing DKIM values to help your mailing list).
In any case, I found it to be a good reminder of what I’m doing and what I’ve yet to do in the creative entrepreneur realm… and perhaps you’ll find it useful too.
Many a creative doesn’t want to wear the business hat. I know, that’s me too a lot of days. But it helps to be confident in wearing the hat when it’s needed and when to bring in the hired gun (e.g., a lawyer) for the right situations.
A legal eagle I use, Seth Polansky, posted this in a thread related to a particularly ridiculous film festival. I’ve seen it before, but in a sense, this about-40-minute video is evergreen and worth re-watching even if you’ve seen it before.
Most of the creatives I know instinctively want an audience. When they think about why, the immediate answers of “someone who likes my work” or “someone who buys my stuff” are natural. I mean, what’s not to like about emotional and financial validation? Bring forth the audience!
But building an audience is hard. In fact, it’s something of a slog — a seemingly Sisyphean slog (which I’m experiencing first-hand as I try and build an audience for my audio theater group). And the more one researches about how to best build an audience (and goes about the efforts to do so day in and day out), going to the gym every day seems easy by comparison (gym rats: ask your non-gym rat friends about what this means).
For me, this is crucial. Because as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not necessarily one who rushes to don the “marketing hat” — even though this website serves some of that purpose… and I’ll happily share articles about marketing. However, making connections with possible readers or viewers or listeners — that seems doable. Finding one more listener, getting a new enthusiastic reader, talking to another creative… all that sounds doable and manageable. It’s not as overwhelming as building “an audience” or “a peer community.” And yet, that’s what you’re doing, person by person. And, ideally, you can do it by trying to do what you should be doing anyway, making work that connects with people. That makes going to the metaphorical gym easier.
But, as with all creative endeavors –heck, with any endeavors that depend on public reaction to thrive– the enduring question is: will enough people be interested… enough?
And that multi-faceted question is important: because we all know how easy it is to click ‘like’ on social media. And being supportive in that way isn’t without value. Visibility counts. But what creatives really need isn’t simply awareness of their work. They need engagement with their work. They need an audience.
And sometimes, probably a lot of the time, even family and friends are not that audience. I know many an actor, musician, author, and filmmaker knows this, but it bears repeating. Because emotionally, it’s natural to expect good friends and peers to be into what you’ve been sweating and obsessing over… but that’s not always the case. And there’s any number of perfectly good reasons why that is the case — including the dreaded reason that they may be fine with you personally, but not into whatever creative work you produce.
Author Tom McAllister has a good piece over at The Millions that delves into the despair and neediness around seeking that audience (and not coincidentally, making money from your creative endeavors). It’s not the most pleasant read, but it’s an honest one — and a good reminder of your critical role in continuing to show up.
My recent project, Jabberwocky Audio Theater, is not a recent development. I’ve been working on it in one form or another since 2007.
When you work on something that long that means there’s definitely breaks when you’re not working on it… and within those breaks and at those moments of starting or stopping, your doubts about continuing happily pay a visit.