One month before 2015 is over.
December is a month of celebration, but it’s also a month of contemplation. It’s a time to take stock of our lives over the past year– our memories, triumphs, challenges and joys. I hope you’re taking some time to reflect and acknowledge all the wonderful and character-building experiences you’ve had in the past year.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions. Am I elevating my creativity or settling into what is safe, comfortable and familiar?
This year, I have taken new risks and established some wonderful partnerships with organizations and institutions including the University of Toronto Scarborough, the Aga Khan Museum, the Markham Public Library and the Varley Art Gallery. These partnerships have been rich and fulfilling, but whenever I start to see the potential of developing a longer program or partnership, my contracts expire.
I’ve gotten used to the idea of going from one gig to another, one job to another, one commitment to another– and while that makes for an exciting career, it’s not a stable one. It also proves challenging to get comfortable with a routine and a plan for moving forward. Every time I think about what I need to do to create a stronger foundation for myself, I’m too busy trying to balance what I’m already doing.
I often accept gigs because I’ve programmed myself to accept them– I’ve told myself that it’s what I need to do to be in this field. In my early twenties, it was an absolute necessity to network, take every gig I could, and find my ‘creative community’ as it were.
The problem is, I’m still approaching my career in the same way I did when I was just starting out. Well, of course, some things have changed. I feel less guilty saying no to gigs that don’t pay or cover transportation costs. That said, a twinge of guilt remains. There are times when I forget to check in with myself before I say ‘yes’ to a gig or opportunity. There are times when I sit on a bus or run through the rain and mutter to myself about why I accepted a gig that pays so little that I’ll barely break even. I’ve done less of those gigs, but it’s a conscious effort to remind myself before I immediately respond with ‘yes’.
And so, my friends, I’ve had to take a hard look at how I’ve been approaching my career and my career choices. I’ve had to ask myself some tough questions (and still am). Some of the questions I’ve been asking myself are:
•What kind of life do you want to lead?
•What brings you joy and renewal?
•What drains your energy?
•What habits do you need to break?
•What do you need to let go of?
•Who do you need to reach out to?
•What do you need help in doing?
•How can you ask others for help?
The one question that keeps returning to my mind is this one:
To what end?
Sometimes we just accept life as it is because we don’t stop to question what it could be– because we’re afraid that people won’t see the value in what we’re doing, and we will lose the very few opportunities we have worked hard to obtain.
And so, I have to hold myself accountable. Before I contemplate accepting a gig, or doing a project, I have to ask myself “To what end?” How does doing this project or gig fit into the larger vision for my career, and for the life I want to lead?
In my twenties, my focus was on having a life that supported my career. Now, I want a career that supports my life.
In the words of Basho:
“Real poetry, is to lead a beautiful life. To live poetry is better than to write it.”
I know that the successful artists are the ones who collaborate outside of rehearsals and stages. They are able to leverage opportunities to make them more viable and fulfilling. I’ve seen friends of mine, like the brilliant Whitney French, exchange creative services for workshop/rehearsal space when payment is not in the cards.
The focus of 2016 will be more about establishing a community of co-creators and collaborators and developing long-term workshop programs and projects. If you want to collaborate, exchange space or creative services, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
And I encourage you to ask yourself tough questions.
Let’s be brave together.
May your holidays be filled with inspiration, creativity, quiet reflection and joy. And if you’re in Toronto, join me for my last show of the year.
P.S: Here’s something fun to keep you busy: