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Guest Post: Are You Overworked and Underplayed?

Excited to have Steven Sparling from The Thriving Creative doing a guest post today. I was featured on The Thriving Creative on Saturday, and it’s always the first place I go to for creative business knowledge!

 

As creative people, we can sometimes be a little OCD. You know how you get that great idea and suddenly NOTHING will stand in the way of you completing it. You forgo sleep. You skip bathing. You avoid Facebook and email in order to burn the candle at both ends.

And what happens?

Often you see what started out as a really good idea gets the life choked out of it as you surround it like a helicopter parent smothering it will love, labour and attention.

You’ve overworked your creative idea to death.

What went wrong?

You (and your idea) became overworked and underplayed.

Can you recognise the signs of overworking?

Try these on for size.
• are you bored with life?
• does everything feel like an uphill slog?
• do the things that once brought you joy now seem stale?

I’ve been feeling this way lately. Not really wanting to sing. Finding it a chore to sit and the computer and write. Not even wanting to leave the house.

But that feeling has shifted.

I can attribute it to two things.

1. Spring has arrived here in London. We’ve had some nice sunny days lately and I’ve been making a real effort to get outside for walks (I even tentatively started a running programme with the aptly named app ‘from couch to 5K’).

2. I’ve been re-reading The Artists Way by Julia Cameron and doing the exercises.

Every seven years, or so, I revisit this evergreen book. And every time I do it opens up new doors for me. So the question, “are you overworked & underplayed” is Cameron’s.

Her point is that when we get ‘stuck in’ with our creative practice, it can sometimes start to feel like work. When you are trying to meet deadlines, or trying to make things happen on the business front, or paying attention to your website, or keeping an eye on the bank balance (all the things that I advocate at The Thriving Creative http://www.thethrivingcreative.com) it can sometimes make it start to feel like….. well a job…. or a career.

Which it is.

But it’s also an art form. And art and creativity DIE without a sense of PLAY.

What we have to master is the ability to change roles. At times we need to put our adult hat on to update a spreadsheet tracking pending invoices, or to write the web copy for your website, or to make cold calls to potential customers.

But then you equally need to tap into that playful fun inner child and let him or her loose with the crayons and the spray paint and silly hats.

When we’re overworked and underplayed we just get BORING and BORED. And then everything seems like work.

So. Here’s three things to think about:

1. Schedule blocks of time for business work and EQUAL blocks of time for Play. If you spend 6 hours on the business and give yourself 30 minutes to play (or create) you are going to end up back in that overworked and underplayed place. On the flip side (and this is where many artists start) is that you give yourself 6 hours to play and only 30 minutes to deal with the business side — this leads to starvation. So schedule equal times for them.

2. Find ways to sneak play into the business work. Just because you are sorting out your finances doesn’t mean you can’t make a game out of them. Since January, I’ve been using Toshl (www.toshl.com) to track my finances. I chose it because unlike all the other software programmes I looked at, this one was fun. There are monsters, bright colours and funny sayings that pop up. It makes me laugh every time I use it. So I am accomplishing a business task (tracking my outgoings and incomings) while at the same time I am still keeping it fun.

3. Again borrowing from Julia Cameron — once per week get yourself out of the house, or out of the studio, and go out in the world for an ‘artist’s date.’ A time (even an hour) where you do something fun with no aim or objective attached to it. Time where you explore, get stimulated and reconnect with the pleasure of being amongst real people and fresh ideas. It might be a trip to a museum or it might be a visit to a flower market. It can be as high-brow or low-brow as you want AS LONG AS IT’S FUN. [Confession: I still find this one hard to do. I find it really hard to make time for this to happen. But every time I do, it’s like someone has lit a fire under my creativity.]

That’s it. Three ways to bring more fun into your life.

So next time you feel that cloud starting to hover over you and your creative work, know that it’s a pretty clear sign you need to go outside and play.

 

 

Steven Sparling is an actor, writer and teacher. He is a PhD candidate in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He teaches voice at the London College of Music, leads creative entrepreneurship workshops at Be Smart About Art and has appeared as an actor in the West End, in feature films and on tour throughout the UK and Canada. For weekly insight into creative entrepreneurship and how you can begin to thrive in your creative career, please visit http://www.thethrivingcreative.com and sign up for the free monthly newsletter.

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Words With Edge Festival!

Litfest poster

 

It’s finally happening!

At: Red Door Studios, Masterman Road (rear of 120 high street south) East Ham, E63RW

Sat 24th: Opening, feat Newham Music Hub, Poetry Society’s Slambassadors (Rhythm of Men, Megan Beech, Naga MC) and Dizraeli. 7pm Free entry

Sat 25th/Sun 26th: 11am-5pm  Workshops, performances from Early Doors Collective, Myths of the Near Future, Four Thirty Three Magazine, Hollie Mcnish (performance and poetry workshop), Arachne Press, Stairwell Books, Atlantic Books, Kids storytelling with Clare Murphy, Writing for wellness with Me! Scriptwriting, both beginners and people who want feedback, with Louise Davidson.

Tues 28th- Literary Pub Quiz, £3 entry, 7pm start

Weds 29th – Cake Club. Theme: stories. Bake about stories! Free entry if you bring cake, £2 entry if you just want to eat!

Thurs 30th- Theatre ThursdayThe Woodhouse Players perform The Book Club of Little Whitterington and Joz Norris in his one-man comedy ‘Awkward Prophet’free entry!

Fri 31st- Open mic from local authors and artists, followed by End of Festival (and end of my residency!) party! All welcome! Free! 7pm

 

For more info:

facebook.com/wordswithedge

@wordswithedge

 

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Paying for Validation: Buying Success.

 

In my post on The Thriving Creative website, I wrote that publication cannot give you validation. That’s not entirely true. What I meant, is that there is a delicate balance between self-belief and the respect of others. To have a publisher wave their magical publishing wand over you is only to tell you two things: they like what you wrote or they think you can make money. Usually, both.

I know writers who spend all their time worrying about whether or not other people like their work. These are usually in the beginning of their career, before being shot down or attacked in writing workshops beats it out of you. Some go the other way, and become so defensive of their masterpiece that they don’t think they need feedback. They know their story, and your opinion (if negative) is void. If it’s positive it just reinforces that they know better.

This is not the writer’s fault- they have responded to the pressure of their work, and unless you can find a balance, it’s hard not to become a dickhead. The problem is that validation becomes both impossible and necessary. ‘I’ve got a book deal’ can be waved in the face of anyone who ever criticised. But a book deal hardly defines quality anymore. It just defines whether something might have a chance of selling.

So what happens to that validation when we can just buy it? If we can afford to self-publish, surely we need no-one’s validation but our own. And yet, that is why self-publishing is still looked down on. If you didn’t think your work was good, you wouldn’t put it out there. If it’s affordable to ‘make’ yourself an author, then why not? Do self-published authors feel they are missing a vital element, do they feel looked down upon in literary society? Or is it the only way for them to ensure a pure vision and retain control?

I am currently working in a studio/gallery where we are considering how we put on exhibitions. Until now, artists have come to us, requested an exhibition, rented the space and done it. But is that how real galleries are run? If you are an artist, hoping to be picked for an exhibition, hoping for that validation of a confirmation, how can you get that by forking over money and just doing it yourself?

I suppose what I’m asking is ‘How do we know we’re any good, if we can buy that belief?’ Does ‘good’ always rely on other people? Or is ‘good’ more about marketing, branding, audience, timing?

To sell your validation (as a printer or a gallery space) is a dangerous thing. People enjoy throwing your name around as if you christened them a genius, and yet, all you’ve done is let them pay to have their own one-horn parade, really. So are you helping or hurting?

I haven’t got any answers here, I’m just assuming that a shortlist exists for a reason, and that rejection makes character, and that something earned instead of bought, will reap more rewards. What do you think?