This life. These creative pursuits.
They are not my hobbies.
They are not something I enjoy doing and so choose to ‘find’ time for in my life.
This is my life.
Sometimes, my obsession.
And absolutely my ‘real’ job.
And it’s evolving all the time.
I’ve spent a lot of time this year trying to articulate what and why I do. Trying to pin the words to paper. Trying to find words that make sense and ring true. For me and for everyone else.
The other YSPers and I have given time at every residency trying to articulate our missions over the last 12months. The ‘why’ driving what we each do. We’ve brainstormed together and solo. We’ve written and spoken draft after draft after draft. And I’ve struggled. Really struggled to pin to paper what it is I do and why.
For anyone who lives a creative life or a life that’s ‘offbeat’ in any other way, you know why you do it and what it is. And you know how hard it is to explain to everyone else what it is and why you do it. It’s something that has no words because it needs no words for you. It just makes sense (you think). It’s what you do and who you are. So when someone asks you to put it into words, it’s pretty darn difficult.
This year I’ve played with and explored various mission and vision statement iterations, including:
- I want to be the kind of person that offers something meaningful to the world. The kind of person who experiences life as frightening, confusing and painful but as deeply, deeply precious and worth my effort.
- Our mission is to create systematic change in how people think about failure. For us that means making quiet trouble with everyone we meet by interrogating and responding to rage inducing situations through an artistic lens.
- My personal mission is to continue striving for opportunities for myself and others to claim our sorrows as a journey to joy and to create space in our lives to sing our heartsongs with passion, hope and courage.
- We empower and enable regional communities to reshape and claim personal and civic narratives using an artistic lens.
- We challenge communities and individuals to reclaim failure as a crucial ingredient in resilience and joy.
- Our mission is to challenge and inspire young people in regional communities to use to arts as a mechanism for social change and empowerment. As part of this mission we also support regional communities to support and foster the skills and aspirations of their young people.
- My mission is to use the arts to be an agent of change – to inspire, support and provoke individuals and communities to actively shape the world around them for the better.
- I bring together professional artists, doers, thinkers and change makers to work with young people as mentors and provocateurs on community arts projects to unlock their possibility.
All of these things are partly or wholly true, but still none of them quite sit right. They feel too full of jargon or they rest on old ideas about myself (and how I work) so don’t capture the space I’m really in RIGHT NOW.
“Theatre people are all very nice people […] And I wonder if that is our problem,” asked Liska. “We choose an art form where we can sit next to each other and touch each other and we’re very good people.”
“Revolutions are not often caused by polite people, or good people,” said Cooper. “Sometimes we wonder if we have to stop making art to get something done. I really like art but I have a lot of questions about what it’s good for and if it’s needed.”
– Kelly Cooper and Pavol Liska (OK Radio, Nature Theater of Oklahoma)
Last month during Future Present, surrounded by a bunch of socially aware artists, again this idea. Why art? Is that the best use of your time, does it actually achieve your mission? Or would you be better off using your time as an activist, a social worker, a teacher, a farmer?
And going deeper throughout YSP, talking about ‘impact’ – how do you measure it? What impact does your work actually have (and is it the impact you want to have)? How can you have the greatest impact with the limited hours in your life?
I care about many things. I believe in changing the world. As more than just rhetoric. I believe I have a responsibility to leave the world better than I found it. To use whatever small skills and talents I have to help. I love teaching and advocating and activating and making and creating. I am driven to do many things. I am also a parent, a lover, a daughter, a sister, a friend. My time is limited and precious.
And so, I toss these questions around. Over and over. In my head. In my mouth. On paper. I spin myself around in circles. The questioning is hard, partly because there is no one answer. And there is no clear answer. And mostly because no one can answer for me, what it means for ME, only I can discover that.
Last night I stumbled across a free ebook titled “Making Your Life As An Artist” and though I didn’t relate to every single word, the book as a whole REALLY resonated with me.
There were moments when I read a paragraph and realised I was holding my breath, caught in these words someone else had pinned to paper and how they so neatly echo words I’ve circled around and around and come back to in my own heart.
“Just like scientists, we begin with a question, something we don’t know.
We go into our studio and research that question.
Just as in science, a negative result is as important as a positive result.
Finding that a certain drug does not cure cancer is a crucial discovery. And an artistic experiment that fails produces important information.
When you are working beyond what is known, when you are questioning assumptions that haven’t been questioned, you generate a lot of useful failure.
Failure in science and art is a sign that the process is working.
…diverse ecosystems are more resilient, more able to respond to disturbance. The same is true of culture. Diversity of thought and imagination makes us more culturally resilient, more able to thrive in times of great change.
– Andrew Simonet (Making Life As an Artist, ebook)
Many things that had me nodding along. Catching my breath. Gripping the edge of the computer. But perhaps most of all this:
Artists have a lot of effects on the world: our work impacts education, citizenship, multiculturalism, urban renewal. But those are effects of our role; they are not the role.
Our role is to ask rigorous and reckless cultural questions, do our research, and share the results. When we do our role well, all kinds of other things happen.
– Andrew Simonet (Making Life As an Artist, ebook)
And so last night I sat and I wrote exactly in the moment who I am and what I’m doing (or trying to do). The last seven or so years of thinking, dreaming and doing coalescing and coming together to pin some words to paper.
It’s not finished, because it’ll never be finished. I’m evolving and growing all the time. And that’s okay. It’s G.E. for right now.
Transparency and sharing the journey publicly (to be of benefit to others) is important to me. So, you can read the words I finally pinned to paper last night where they’ve become my new ‘about’ section here.
I’m feeling good. It’s nice.