Way back in June, Shelly Payson was one of the winners of the Creatavita Birthday Party Contest. She asked for a post about reentering the arts. And we're off!
Let's say life is feeling pretty good right now. Let's say you feel good about your relationships, your children are thriving and your career gives you a sense of fulfillment (and pays your bills). Yet, in spite of these accomplishments, your secret yearnings are rising to the surface. They're waking you up in the middle of the night, making you check out dance classes schedules or weekend retreats honing your painting skills. Even if your career is a creative one, you still feel a tug to trying something different. While many of your friends are talking about downsizing and early retirement, you find yourself dreaming of finally having enough time for a serious avocation and maybe turning it into a second career. But how do you reenter or reconfigure at this point in your life?
Or, let's say you're in the middle of a creative career, but you're feeling weary and closing in on burnout. Even though you still feel that creative bug in your gut, you find yourself contemplating a change and checking out new opportunities.
If you've still got that bug, congratulations. You truly are a creative spirit. You are correct in acknowledging that bug. Look it in the eye. Take it out for coffee. Get to know it well. Because if it has stayed with you through everything you've been through, this bug still has something in store for you.
I don't have the definitive answer, but I do have some thoughts for you to consider:
Be open to the possibility that another form will be the way back in. You were a dancer? Maybe now is the time to explore that sculpting talent that got shoved to the back burner as you were hustling from one dance class to the next.
Take one step back and return at a lower level than you left. This is especially true if you're taking on a new creative form. Consider taking a class to get started. 10 weeks in a quality class can answer many questions. For hands-on experience, consider venues such as community theatre groups, small galleries or self-publishing.
Start small. Aim to write one short story, not the next Great American novel. Sing one song in public, not an entire solo show. You'll experience a sense of accomplishment sooner. Plus, if it turns out this is not the experience you were looking for, you won't be in too deep and moving on will be easier.
Ask. Ask. Ask.....friends and acquaintances about their experiences. Given your skill set, how do they think you might fit in? If you're thinking of returning to the arts as a profession, consider reaching out to experts in the field to ask for their perspective. There's always a respected professional out there who is more than willing to share their experiences. Seek them out and offer to pay for a consultation. Every time I have done this, I have come away with more information than I expected, as well as an affirmation of the legitimate possibilities that exist for me.
You get to say no. I've been invited to private casting calls and told by numerous trusted sources that I would be great in commercials. Guess what? Right now, I have absolutely no desire to be in commercials. In fact the thought of it makes me sigh and feel like there's a heavy weight in my chest. So I'm not checking out this field at all. You don't have to either.
If you're looking to return to the arts as a profession, keep these tips in mind:
It's still a business. If you want to enter the arts as a professional, you have to recognize that part of you has to be a business person. Know what unique skills you have to offer and where those skills are needed. These skills might not be the ones that you were hired for previously. For example, I frequently get women over, let's say 35, coming to my voice studio for audition material advice. My work usually revolves around convincing them to look for fresh, appropriate material because their days of being an ingenue are gone.
Be ready to promote. Most successful artists I know have become masters of marketing their products. Now I know that it can be a real challenge to market/promote one's own artistic creations. You can all look to me as a model of an artist who has continually had to work on marketing myself. I was brought up to be humble and I've fought with the deep roots of humility for all of my artistic career. But now, I recognize that I am an artist not because I want fame, but because I have a deep desire to express myself, and in that expression, I think I express something important for all of humanity. This is a good feeling, and it makes it a heck of a lot easier for me to put my art out into the world.
You have nothing to lose except some time and energy. Seriously, think about it. What's the worst that could happen? I find that one of the biggest perks of having been on this planet for so long is more confidence. A little rejection isn't a reflection on who I am, but rather on whether or not I have the right skill set for the job. In the meantime, I'm having a heck of a good time trying out all kinds of creative opportunities.
Keep your sense of humor. Well, that's just good advice for life.