Sharing Your Art

Sharing your art can be terrifying.  For me it’s been an ongoing struggle, but I have learned that the only remedy for that fear is to, in fact, share your art. I guess you could call it exposure therapy.

 I used to think my art had to be super ingestible and complete before I shared it. But as you can imagine as a novelist, I don’t often have completed, finished work to pass around on a regular basis. My friends and family will ask, ‘how’s your story coming? What have you been writing about?’  It has always been hard to explain what I’m writing about because half the time I’m not even sure.  Writing a novel is a journey, a maze of ideas that come out tiny bits at a time, or all at once in messy piles, and until they’re tidied up, I’m not too inclined to share them.

I was recently talking with a friend about C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien and their different approaches to allegory. After a little while, I started sharing my own thoughts on allegory and the pressure I feel to make magnanimous meaning out of the little world I’ve created for my novel. I ended up blabbering on about the different races of elves in my story and their beliefs in the divine.  I want the world to feel authentic, the races to seem developed, and I don’t want to write just to push a message.  So where’s the balance?  How much meaning is enough?  These are just a few questions among a thousand  bouncing around my brain every time I critique my story.

But through talking with my friend it made me realize how much meaning was behind what I had already written, and how there was still so much space for a reader to invent and interpret what they wanted from it.  My hope is to never force it.  I just want the people in my story to expand and grow as naturally as possible.  I used to think I had to agree with my characters, that they in some way needed to reflect me and my beliefs.  As I’ve come to learn, that’s not necessarily true.  Those kinds of worlds usually end up feeling very staged.

But I realized all this from processing through a peice of my story aloud with another person.  Sometimes you just need a friend who will listen. And sometimes you just need to give yourself the space to share your art and hear feedback, even if it ends up being your own.

Talk about your characters, talk about your favorite artists, colors, sounds. Just talk! Create opportunities to let others inside your world.  I’ve learned that more people than I thought feel the same fears and apprehension when talking about their art.

So cut yourself some slack, we’re all still learning.

Smoke, Mirrors, and Rage: What to Avoid on the Job Hunt

Rage might be a strong word, but today it was how I felt after I was duped.  I moved to Nashville with high hopes, hopes that are still intact.  But earlier today, well hope wasn’t among my sensibilities.

Two nights ago I applied to a few jobs online.  I wasn’t exceptionally excited about any of them.  The only one that did stand out was at a marketing firm as a marketing coordinator, but I figured I wouldn’t be considered because I have little experience in marketing.  The day after I applied I got a call.  They wanted to interview me!  I was elated.  I spent that night and following morning researching the company still a little unclear about what the job would actually entail.  I reviewed the job add online, perused their website and online resources, and decided I really wanted to work for the company.  Everything online made it appear to be an incredibly challenging and colorful way to use my writing and personal skills.

This morning I arrived at the interview more ready than I’d ever been for an interview.  I knew exactly how I was going to answer those difficult personal questions about my skills and how they’d be useful to the firm and their clients.  I knew a decent amount about the company—or so I thought—and I even knew a little bit about the president who was going to be interviewing me.

So what went wrong?

The interview went perfectly.  The president liked me so much I got an immediate second interview.  It wasn’t until an hour later at the very end of my second interview that I realized what the marketing company was actually about.  It wasn’t going to be a job where I sat down and shared my amazing ideas on how to apply the strategy and tactics campaign I had come up with.  It wasn’t going to be the type of office where the staff got together and sat down in the conference room to brainstorm on a whiteboard.

It wasn’t until the very last three minutes of my second interview that I learned that it was a position centered around sales.  Instead of coming up with marketing ideas and strategies for the clients, I would be responsible for selling their products as part of an outsourced, fast-paced business model with promotions based on performance.  The very last thing I remember hearing was something about owning my own business in less than a year.  The last red flag went whipping into the air, and I found myself forcing a smile.  This wasn’t a firm I wanted to invest in, it was a company which trained individuals to sell products for clients.

Why did it take until the end of the second interview for them to explain the business structure?  Why not just advertise it as a sales position?  During my second interview, I had watched a girl do a presentation, one I would be expected to repeat a dozen times a day in a high populated store.  There was very little marketing involved, just pitching a product.  Why hadn’t I realized it before?  Am I really that dense?  I had just been explaining to them how one of my greatest strengths is observation… guess I better rethink that one before I use it again.

Needless to say, after the second interview I felt completely deflated, like Edward Scissorhands had just ridden by me on a bike and popped my hopeful bubble with his sharp extremities.  Resolved to leave the smoke and mirrors behind me, I got in my car and blared metal the entire way home.  Oh Sleeper is always an amazing companion in times like these.

What to Avoid

I must be honest, this isn’t the first time I’ve gone to an interview with this outcome.  I guess it’s time I learn a lesson from it.  If a job listing or the person calling to interview you won’t explain the job description in a direct manner, they’re probably withholding giving the whole scoop for a reason.  Employers know that revealing this information all at once might turn their potential job candidates away.  Also, if the job listing doesn’t include how much they’ll pay, and especially if they don’t list whether its hourly or salary, that can sometimes be a red flag. In this case, when I asked the girl over the phone what the pay was, she wouldn’t directly answer the question—the answer I later found to be minimum wage or commission, whichever was better—but instead threw out the potential of a large salary figure in the near future.

And lastly, if they call you within 24 hours of getting your resume it might be luck, or it might be one of these kind of jobs. And truly, I have nothing against these kinds of jobs, I just prefer to know what kind of job I’m actually being interviewed for.  Many desirable jobs will sell themselves by a simple listing which includes everything you need to know: job duties, job requirements, pay, and potential benefits.

I’m sure I’m not completely alone in this boat.  The one that’s swaying and thrashing along a merciless, twisting river straining not to capsize and be forgotten at the bottom of the water.  So far my boat hasn’t taken me to any desirable destination, but I’m hoping there are others out there navigating the same river who can relate with me on this endeavor.

If Only I Had Made My Home Among the Cattle

It’s day six of Nashville living, and I am still unemployed.  It’s no surprise since I spent two years looking for employment in the abstract field of writing—a major I literally created since my college didn’t offer it.  But, perhaps that’s why its so difficult.  Having a degree in writing doesn’t exactly prepare me for a job in journalism or teaching.  It’s one of those theoretical, hypothetical, abstract educations that may or may not land me somewhere relevant.

My best friend from Ohio has a degree in early childhood education and has been teaching at a private school since our graduation.  She just told me this morning that she got her dream job, a position as a creative arts program assistant, and is moving to Pittsburgh where she’ll be living near her boyfriend. I am sincerely thrilled for her…I think? Yet, I find a part of me is not so pleased.  And which part is that, you ask?  The selfish part that envies her for finding a job after a brief, one month hunt!

Today I was supposed to hit the ground running looking for jobs.  Unfortunately, that news wasn’t really the most encouraging start to my day.  But, determined to be happy for my friend and helpful to myself, I put on my best business-casual outfit and headed out the door to visit some local bookstores.  After three hours of drop-ins and putting myself out there, I found myself no closer to having a job.  The stores either weren’t hiring or they will be “reviewing” my resume, and by they they mean their paper shredder.

Who knows, maybe working at a bookstore isn’t what I’d really want anyways.  After all, with such an abstract degree with seemingly endless possibilities, I still have no clue what my dream job would even look like.  Maybe being among the livestock isn’t so bad.  Maybe I shouldn’t have individualized and made up my own major.  Maybe being herded along into a specific pen would have made my life a whole lot easier.  I can’t find it in me to regret my decision though.  I still have an unwavering, insatiable proclivity towards words, literature, and make-believe.  You can’t quite find that in nursing school, now can you?

The not-so-unfamiliar struggle of a not-quite professional artist

Being a writer is hard.  What’s even harder than being a writer is trying to be a writer.  Being a writer is about writing.  It’s that simple, isn’t it?  Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.  It seems like if you’re not getting published and putting your work out there than you’re not a writer, and certainly not an author. But I know published and self published authors alike who seem to feel no closer to being a “writer.” We constantly struggle to level the scales of our happiness and passions with that of money and survival. So, what is it in us human beings that makes us feel accomplished when—and sometimes only when—we have a wad of cash to level that balance?

So here I am, two years removed from college with little experience, and a whole heart full of ambition.  My creative writing professor in college taught me many things, my favorite among them is that to become a writer one has to write.  He used to make us write thousands of words a week just because.  He helped me see that just as farmers farm and musicians play instruments, writers write. We have to exercise our writing muscles.  There’s nothing more to it than allowing that sixth sense, that innate ability and love for stories and words, the space and freedom to exist.  When I get discouraged, I often think back on this principle, the simple discipline of just doing it, just going for it, and allow myself the space and courtesy to believe that I could—that I am—a writer.

Ohio had very little to offer my husband and I.  I searched for a job in publishing, journalism, technical writing, even employment in a bookstore.  Nothing.  My husband Drew has a degree in music production and has been doing freelance work producing and writing over the past few years.  We finally got to the point where we outgrew where we were.  We both have thirsted for more fulfilling and challenging artistic communities.  So, we’ve found ourselves in Nashville, Tennessee, bright-eyed and hopeful.

Our story is nothing new, but I hope that by writing it out I can see our progress, and hopefully in some way encourage others who are also struggling to make their passions a solid cornerstone of their lives.

Everything must have a beginning…

I have been wanting to start a blog for quite some time.  It is by sheer discipline that I’ve brought myself to actually create one.  Blogs seem strange to me, and maybe it’s because I haven’t spent all that much time reading others’ blogs, but I can’t help wonder why strangers would care to read about my life or my writing aspirations.  But, from what I can tell, more people than I could imagine are interested in the lives of others—hoping to learn something or to connect in some way to another brain.

So here’s to a new beginning, bringing honesty and thoughtful transparency to universal elements of life that I hope bring shared flashes of color and perspective.