Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Giving up the "starving artist" model

You know the old saying, "If I had a quarter for every time ..."

Well, in his autobiographical book On Writing, Stephen King tells how his mother paid him for writing completed short stories as a youngster.

A quarter. 25 cents.

All those quarters added up - big time. Not necessarily as a hefty bank account, but more to understand that even as a little boy, Stephen deserved to be paid for his writing.

With all the information we have now about how the brain works, this led him to gain habits and attitudes that enabled him to carve out a lucrative career writing. He knew he deserved to be paid for his writing, so he approached his chosen career with that in mind - thus, he figured out how to get paid.

What we've learned about how the brain works indicates that what we establish as a habit - even if it doesn't have the exact elements - or at the level - of we want, it's amazing how quickly the sensation of success starts to creep in and grow as if it's the "Real Deal."

The brain can't distinguish between what is a deeply felt imagined experience and an actual experience.

So here's my advice for artists: get paid for what you create to completion, even if you pay yourself.

If you need to, start with King's short story salary: a quarter.

Toss a quarter in your Successful Artist Bank (jar, piggy bank, whatever) for every audition. For every acting class you attend after understanding that it is a professional experience, not "just" a subject you study. In my coaching sessions, I refer to my students as "artists," and tell them everything we do is a professional experience, not a "class." That's because everything we do in our sessions, they'll do for their auditions, on the set and in the industry.

Of course you need to pay for classes and coaching, but you also need to pay yourself for your work until you are paid by those who cast, hire and book you!

Pay yourself for every serious session you have practicing piano. Any "no budget" play or film in which you perform, direct, produce, make costumes or props; pages you write, photos you take, videos you shoot, paintings you finish, drawings you make.

In short, pay yourself or make sure you are paid - something - for every measurable task you complete.

And that you have a way to measure what you are paid. 100 quarters is $25.00 (affordable).

Measure it by the quarters you're paid, not the dollars. That's 100 auditions, 100 serious practice sessions, 100 acting lessons, 100 rehearsals, 100 performances, 100 paintings, and so on.

Affordable, and most importantly, it conditions your mind to know and seek ways you can be paid *serious* coin as you build your experience and expertise, as you network and raise your game because of your professional attitude and work.

Make sure your task is reasonable. A certain number of pages, rather than a full chapter. Three hours of painting, rather than finishing a whole painting. Practicing for an hour or two, rather than preparing a complete song for performance. You get the idea.

If you get up every morning with the notion you're going to do something you love - and complete it - well enough to collect your fee, you'll get better and better - faster and faster!
Heck, when you can afford it, give yourself a raise - to 30 cents. Or 40 cents. Or 50!

Until one day you find yourself being paid what you'd been praying for - by someone else, without ever losing the passion you have for your art, craft or work!

Try it - what have you got to lose? This stuff really works.

I can't tell you how many times I *wish* I had met someone like me when I was a kid!


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