Friday, August 14, 2009

Can you make a living out of art? How?

As promised, here is the second film of people in Galway, giving their views on if its possible to make a living from art, along with some tips on how to do it.

As contradictions spread in all directions, it might be best to ask the experts tomorrow in the Gallery Cafe in the Galway City Museum, at 4.30!

Why is art important for humans?

We wanted to do something special in build up to our event on Saturday, and get the people of Galway involved, so we decided to make a short film... After the Darklight Film event recently, we were convinced anyone could do it!

So it was conceived, filmed and edited by the very own meetforeal crew.

Monday: Camera arrives in post

Tuesday: Hit the streets in cloud-like Galway weather and film 9 people, asking them what they think about art, and how they promote it

Wednesday: Edit clips and put it all together

Today: Release of part 1:
What comes into your head when you think "Art"
Why is art important for humans?

So with my editing skills developing by the minute, here's proof that anyone can make a film! I am proud to present: Why is art important for humans:

Next we release more footage on:Can you make a living from art?

and How?

So come back and visit us to check it out! :)

Developing Equanimity

When I worked as a waitress in Wildwood, I was asked once why I was so friendly to the customers - why I bothered being so smiley, offering them a helping hand, never a harsh word or an angry comment; even when customers left no tip, or were rude to me; even when I was tired or in a bad mood.... (That might be exaggerating a tad, the illusions of memories)

I said it was because it wasn't fair on the customer for me to inflict my bad day on him/her. If I infected someone, then they would infect someone else, and it would infect the whole world... eventually. I didn't understand what the point was of adding more nastiness to the already unhappy world, and that if I could brighten up one persons day with the effort of a smile, then it was a generous offering, one that might be spread around the world instead.

That was a long time ago now... and I have since learned that there are deeper forces at work - behaviours related to extraverts, and non-zero-sum games etc, and as such my illusion has been partially shattered, however it's a convenient interpretation which sounds pretty and positive and nice, and it still represents what I believe. And it's related to my current problem: Writing.

It has never been my intention to cause anyone pain, see earlier idyllic story. As a writer, I enjoy expressing my ideas, hopefully positive ones, and sharing my experiences; however I was just reminded recently that it can be quite tough to be a writer, and not for all the reasons that have been explained to me previously.

They tell you that to be a writer, you need to be persistent, able to take the constant rejections, the battery of kicks in the face, and face the ever-growing competition with unrelenting self belief. But I don't remember anyone advising me to be tame in my subject choice so I wouldn't offend or annoy people. You don't get famous by being popular right? But who's gonna buy your books if no one likes you?

I was reminded that the world is full of people with different ideas, people who interpret the world from a unique point of view, and not everyone can be open and forgiving of opinions that conflict with their own viewpoint.

I was reminded that as a naive, honest and forthcoming writer, it's particularly easy to harass, hurt, inflict psychological pain, annoy, offend, attack and abuse people without intending to through the written word.

What's surprising to me is how hurtful it is to be the writer on the receiving end of someone else's negative interpretation. It can feel like a personal attack, on the choice of content, on the writing style, on the writer themselves.

This is what they must mean by developing a thick skin - but I always thought it referred to being rejected - I can handle being rejected. I don't like to think that I am offending people. That makes me feel sick to my stomach.

It can create this spiral of negativity:

  • Piece published, no offence intended

  • Writing interpreted as offensive

  • Reader feels awful

  • Reader relays back the offensive nature of the piece

  • Offence interpreted by the writer as personally offensive

  • Writer feels awful

  • Writer goes on rampage to offend more people... well maybe not

So what do I do now? Do I keep writing about banal topics so I can keep my readers happy? Do I have to be careful about what I say? What about being honest and saying what I think and believe? But I don't want to be stressing myself out that I have offended someone or that I will offend someone...!

So I thought some of you out there might have gone through, or be going through the same dilemma, and I wanted to share with you this piece I read from "Insight Meditation", quite fittingly on the day I myself received mild negative feedback, and it helped tremendously: here's just an excerpt.

"It's said that a man once visited the Buddha's monastery to ask questions about his teachings. The first person he saw was a monk sitting in meditation. This monk had taken a temporary vow of silence, so when the visitor questioned him, he didn't respond at all. The man stomped away, furious.

He returned the next day and encountered a monk who, as well as being highly realized, was particularly erudite and scholarly. In response to his question, the monk launched into a very elaborate theoretical discourse about the Buddha's teaching. Again, the man became furious, and left.

On his third visit, the man came upon another senior disciple of the Buddha named Ananda. Ananda had heard what had happened on the man's previous visit, so he was careful to respond, but not to say too much. The man again, flew into a rage. "How dare you teach such profound and weighty matters so sketchily?" he demanded and strode off angrily.

The monks went to the Buddha and asked him to cast some light on what had happened. The Buddha said, "If you say nothing, some people will blame you; if you say a lot, some people will blame you; if you say just a little, some people will blame you. There's always blame in this world."

That's the nature of our lives. You can probably remember, at some point in your life, having received both strong praise and strong blame for the identical action. It's inevitable.

In the constant changing climate of praise and blame, our refuge lies in an understanding of our own motivation. It means that we must be incredibly honest and sensitive to our own motivation, and to the level of skill with which we act - because that, more than anything, will reveal to us the nature of the action. What other people say may hurt or please us, but it's not an accurate reflection of our integrity."

So in future I will do my utmost to pull up my writers socks, and make a more concerted effort to establish why I'm writing what I'm writing, and if it could harm anyone, and if I feel that my motivation, and intention is good, then I'll continue.

Apologies for the length! Thanks for reading!

Fighting jealousy with hatred to reach success

So I read a blog post right now, and it's happening again. It's a long post, well written, lots of comments, the content is good. And here's the problem:

I feel jealous.

Similarly it happens when I find a cool website of a company that's succeeding at doing something similar to what we are trying to do.

The internet causes such conflicting emotions, or perhaps it simply enhances those I am already experiencing. This morning I was in awe, enjoying and laughing at some videos I found on Chris Reeds blog, and this evening I am consumed with jealousy. It can be so exhausting, but I keep coming back because of the value - but is the pain worth the reward?

I find my brain quietly working out ways to undermine the blog, trying to find holes in his argument, flaws in his grammar. I am almost about to comment something mean like, "do you not think people need to come to these conclusions about these things by themselves... " but I run out of steam. I have no basis to my argument. I just need to rebuild my ego.

Recovering from sense of failure:

I read in "Stumbling on Happiness" by Daniel Gilbert, about an experiment that was conducted to measure how long it takes to recover from criticism depending on the circumstances. He talks about the ways we adapt to something once it has happened through a variety of rationalisations that we don't foresee - through these so-called errors of imagination.

They found that the time it takes to recover is much shorter if you are judged incompetent by only one person, e.g. you fail to get offered a job after a job interview with one person; than being on the receiving end of 5 people's opinions of you being incompetent.

You do this by rationalising why those people were wrong. Maybe you internally call them idiots, decide that they wouldn't know a good employee if they saw one, or maybe they were simply having a bad day etc. And obviously it's easier to do with only one person, and so you recover quicker.

Anyway, where was I headed with this?

Jealous reaction = feel like a failure

Oh yes - so when I read other people's work, and it's pretty good, I immediately have this jealous reaction. I recognise that they are a competitor, or that they are doing better than me, and somehow I judge myself as having failed. In that jealous instant, they have succeeded, or are a step ahead of me.

Jealousy makes my brain prepare the whole give up speech, "There's no point me writing anymore because there are already so many good writers out there, I'll just go and get a job instead... blah blah blah."

I am constantly aware of this instinct, damn meditation messing with my awareness, so it's like I'm constantly being followed around by an invisible evil monster as I browse the web, who whispers, "You should have thought of this, you could have written that, why didn't you?". I need someone to send me a drawing of said menacing creature.

So my brain has to find a rational way out of this, it has to adapt otherwise I may give up - if us humans let jealousy win, none of us would ever do anything with our lives... so there has to be a safety mechanism built in, right? And I think it mine may be hatred...

Recovery Mechanism = Hatred

I'm sorry bloggers, but I have to save myself, and in order to build up my ego. I have to break you great bloggers down, otherwise I end up being jealous of you, and quitting.

So sometimes I find myself secretly hating people. I find myself poking holes in their research, attacking their personality, I convince myself they are losers, or they are full of shite... and then I generate this strong dislike for people I have never even had a conversation with. Sometimes the secret hatred progresses so far without me realising it, that I find myself not retweeting their tweets.

But then I feel guilty when I realise that I hate people that I've never met... that's a bit extreme...

But why does hatred protect me better than jealousy?

When I say jealousy, I really mean:

Envy: "a feeling of grudging admiration and desire to have something that is possessed by another."

And why does hatred protect me better than envy?

Hatred: "Rebellion against good accompanied by aggression. Hatred results in annihilation."

Annihilation - now that's cool!

So I don't know what's more upsetting - the jealousy, the exhaustion from secretly carrying around all this hatred for people who only exist as words on a screen, or the guilt when I realise I hate them in the first place for no real reason, other than the protection of my own ego.

Guilt: "the state of having committed an offense."

The positive about all of this is that I am also aware of the bloggers that I really like and admire - the words on a screen that I look forward to reading, and am blind to their flaws. You guys are wonderful, inspirational, and beyond the petty rationalisations of jealousy, hatred or guilt, but unfortunately, you are generally writing out of my genre, or way above my level of expertise, she says as though she has a field of expertise :)

Conclusion = I am insane

So I reckoned I was just going insane to be honest, I still do think I am going insane. No one else can possibly be feeling what I am feeling, except... I'm human, so I can't be the only one feeling this resentment, right? How are you guys dealing with it??

Watching this video from Alain de Botton on TED, "A kinder, gentler philosophy of success," I think he put his finger on it for me, and I felt I must get some balls and write about it. It goes back to his idea that in our generation, we have this idea that anything is possible - that we can do anything we set our minds to. So it's a tough environment to be attempting to succeed in.

If we all have the potential to be the best, and be successful - however a person defines success - how do we deal with the fact that most of us are not "successful" yet? Are we failures until we are successful? What's in between?

He can explain it more eloquently than me anyhow:

How we all employ eachother

Leading on from the previous article about how great employers are, I was also reminded recently how we are all the employers of others. We are all creating stable jobs for eachother.

Someone twittered recently about the guilt they felt in purchasing the Sunday Newspaper as it had probably meant the sacrifice of some poor unsuspecting tree in a distant region of the world. I twittered back that he shouldn't feel guilty because by purchasing that reworked tree, he had contributed to the employment of journalists, graphic designers, PR companies, paper manufacturers, tree cutters, reforestation experts, newsagents... the list goes on. And he wondered in turn if all those people knew he was partially employing them... probably not.

In meetforeal creating an event, I realised that we are contributing towards creating employment - both directly - e.g. paying a cameraman for a few hours work, and indirectly - e.g. renting a venue. If you think about how far the web travels, the side effects are quite impressive:

For just one event, as well as a cameraman, and a venue, we are creating news for a journalist to include in their section of the paper, we may be paying hotels (expert speakers and ourselves) to have more beds full, so they can pay their receptionist, and airlines to have one more bum in their seats (expert speaker), so they can pay their pilot; we are paying a graphic designer to design flyers, and they have paid for the software they are using (in a perfect world), which contributes to paying the programmers; we are paying a printer to make flyers, which contributes towards the cost of producing ink, and printing equipment.

Then if you are coming to the event, you may use public transport to come into town, so bus drivers are paid, and perhaps while you are in the area, you grab a sandwich in the nearby coffee shop, from the friendly waitress - that you wouldn't otherwise have done...

Ok, that's stretching the web a little far, but as you can see, the strands of the connections in all directions are endless.

I love to feel that I am contributing towards employing others, as well as employing myself, and that I am helping out in some way to reduce the negativity and spiralling events. Unfortunately for my ego, it is not only me personally, or meetforeal who are contributing, but it is all the people who participate in the event, who enable this web of employment to occur.

By us inventing the idea for an event, and by experts volunteering to come to share their experiences and ideas; by you all choosing to purchase tickets, telling your friends, coming along on the day, and participating; and by companies helping out by sponsoring the event, we are filtering the money through and all helping to keep the economy moving.

What's also great is that we have a voice, and we can all vote with our declining funds for the things we want to see survive - our favourite bistro, the cute little clothes shop on the corner, the comedian on a Wednesday night, or the meetforeal event :) and now when our money really counts, we are directly, or indirectly contributing towards supporting each other in activities that are positive.

Why I Think Employers Rock

As a budding entrepreneur, one of the things that has been evoked in me recently, is a huge respect for those who create stable employment for others.

Now that I know how hard it is to generate income, how much of your life is spent thinking, dreaming, planning and measuring for the future, how difficult it is to switch off, to feel secure that there will be money in your account at the end of the month, or to know when your next holiday will be, I can see things differently.

Saying that, employers don't generally employ people for altruistic reasons - its tit for tat, and each side is serving their own interest. Hopefully, employers are creating employment through the act of doing what they love, because of a vision that they want to see come to life, so it serves in their best interest to have hard working employees willing to participate in the creation of that vision, in exchange for certain benefits. As an employer, the potential to create global impact, to have a salary larger than that of any employee and eventually the option, if successful, to take long extended breaks, is hinged on employing good people.

Self serving as it is, why do I still think it's incredible?

When I see how much dedication is required to get a company off the ground, how much time and effort is poured into a seeming bottomless pit for so long before there are signs of progress, I now have a new found admiration for the generosity that previous employers had, not only to work tirelessly on their side to ensure that the company kept running smoothly, but also for the fact that they started it in the first place. That they went through the dip, of competition, and looking for funding, and support, and help, spent time and money, and that they succeeded at developing a successful enterprise that could grow and actually support the lives and activities of others.

Their persistence to see their idea through, to take the risks and believe in their vision meant that I too could benefit.

I hope one day that I can give people stable, secure jobs to help me develop my vision and mission, and in turn enable them to start work at 9, and leave at 5, and to bitch about me, occasionally.

Leading on from this, it occurred to me that we are all the employers of others, and, at the same time, all employees. More on that tomorrow.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

How I hate sharing.... grrrr

I have had a shocking insight recently into the big bad world of owning your own business. It's insane to watch how people jump on the bandwagon whenever you start something - they all want a piece of it.
jumping on the bandwagon.

The amount of frustration that it evokes in me is insanely out of proportion - I feel like I've done all the work, creating something out of nothing, starting something that was just a brief idea in my head, giving it food and water, and time and effort, and watching it grow into an actual thing I can touch, something real, and credible, and happening... and then suddenly, all these people want to get in on it.

In one way it's entirely frustrating - I feel like telling the world to get the f*ck off my land - while they were sitting in the sunshine reading a book, I was out tending the crops, and now my crops are ready, all these stragglers are arriving to help me harvest! It's like - piss off - I did all the hard work!!

At the same time, I have to calm myself, because sharing is so important, collaboration, working together to make something better... and realistically, if people pitch in, we will be able to gather enough food to satisfy everyone, and if I don't get their help, then I can't harvest all the crops alone, and I won't get the full potential out of it.

So I guess this is how the world works... but grrrr nonetheless... I'm selfish! It's a hard lesson for us young entrepreneurs!