Thoughts on art

Creativity has always been a big part of my life. Before I even started kindergarten, I loved to draw. By the time I was nine, I was filling my journals with poetry. In high school, my life revolved around singing and acting. And for the past six years I’ve been focusing primarily on writing poems, fiction, articles, web copy, plays, and of course blog posts.

As I transitioned into my “adult” years, it felt important for me to hold onto my inner artist. I knew too many people who grew up and left the passions and talents of their teen years behind them, trading them in for more practical jobs and the responsibilities of family life. There is nothing wrong with making money and there is nothing wrong with having a family. I certainly aspire to these things in my own way. And I am without a doubt a creature who values comfort and stability.

But I never wanted to be someone who let go of her passions just because she got older. But I realize this line of thinking was flawed in a sense, because holding onto the passions of my teen years potentially stopped me from developing new interests. And it may have made me a bit closed-minded in the things I pursued, deciding too early on who I am and who I am not.

I also realize that, contrary to what I may have thought, passion and business don’t always go hand in hand. Just because you enjoy an activity, it doesn’t mean you will enjoy the process of trying to do it for a living. I love writing, but I don’t love selling things, making my work as an self-published author bittersweet. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but trying to sell books has also made me feel like there’s a barrier between me and my ultimate goal, which is to connect with people.

Writing for online magazines can be quite fun, especially since comment sections can be so interactive. It brings me great joy to see someone share thought-provoking ideas based on an article I wrote. To see that someone was so invested in your writing that they decided to leave a comment can be wonderful, and it offers a feeling of instant gratification that one doesn’t often get when it comes to writing.

Attempting to make money in the world of marketing, copywriting, and public relations has also been interesting, informative, but ultimately not terribly lucrative for me. High competition plus a lack of deep interest on my part has not made this a fun ride.

When I meet other people who are trying to make money writing, I hear about how they’ve hopped from job to job, perhaps haven’t always been paid as much as they’re worth, and have been taken advantage of or dropped by companies that made promises they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) keep. I feel like I have a quiet understanding with these people. So many writers are dedicated, smart, and hardworking.

We’re expected to have fast turnover times but may be slow to receive paychecks. It takes a special kind of grit to try to make a career in business (or any kind of) writing. There is so much (seriously, SO MUCH) advice on the internet about how to break into writing for money. It’s a path I have attempted. It is also a path I am happy to trade for one of less resistance.

The thing that no one tells you about being an artist is that you are a salesperson first, an artist second. If you’re going to make it full time or even part time as an artist, you have to be a businessperson above all else. Marketing is necessary, and may even take more time than the artwork itself. Even when I was a girl scout selling cookies, I never liked the feeling of trying to convince someone to buy something. I never outgrew this lack of interest in sales.

Whether you’re a writer, painter, actor, or musician, you have to sell your work in most cases, especially if you are independent. The age of social media, in my opinion, creates unrealistic expectations about how easy it should be to get hundreds or thousands of people interested in your work. It can feel like attention and fame are of utmost importance, and that is never the reason I wanted to make art. The success of a creative person is almost always equated with some level of fame or influencer status. But trying to get many peoples’ approval has never been at the top of my list.

I still have a desire to make things and connect with others. So it’s confusing and I don’t really know what I want. I wish I could just be the little girl who painted on a canvas in her bedroom. The girl who scribbled poetry in her grandmother’s living room. The girl who sang in the music room and studied monologues over lunch. I was happy living in the process of doing all of these things. Back then, these things were done for passion.

But I’m at a point where if I’m going to do work, I want it to be part of my career. I want it to be the mark I leave on the world. Maybe a love for art isn’t enough to make a career of it. Maybe making a career of it creates a process I don’t enjoy. I don’t know what any of this means for my inner artist. But I think that I’m not so afraid of letting go of my former self. I know that I need to make room for all of the things that I can be. And I know that after six years of constant productivity, I deserve a break, or least less pressure to achieve such large career goals.

I always go back to writing and art. I always find my way back to music and dancing and self-expression. It’s an extension of me. But that doesn’t mean it’s all I am. I don’t think I need to be afraid of letting go of the past. I’m allowed to evolve and grow. Growing up is weird, messy, and complicated. It is change. But evolution can be exciting. I don’t have to stay on any one path. And if I know that, then I’m free to be who I want to be.

 

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Arts and Budget Cuts

Disappointed but not surprised that the National Endowment for the Arts may be among organizations that experience budget cuts. When will people realize that the arts shouldn’t be brushed aside every time they want to save a buck? Arts education gives young people a healthy way to express themselves, builds confidence, improves work ethic, and allows them to be a part of something. Arts educators are some of the most inspiring and influential people I’ve had in my life. Fine art, music, theater, dance, and literature also teach empathy, which is something certain people in power could use a whole lot more of. These are some of our greatest tools in promoting diversity, equality, and acceptance. The arts are not nothing. They matter.

Check out this article at the Huffington Post to see how you can help to protect national arts funding:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/neh-nea-funding-political-action_us_58865ea9e4b096b4a233ca04

 

Things of the Heart

[I wrote this story a few years ago. While my writing has evolved quite a bit since then, this continues to be one of my favorite stories that I’ve done.]

           I stood in front of the Lindherst Concert House, where my name was up in lights. It said in big, shining letters, “Tonight, Cindy Kale, Live Performance: The Hottest Ticket in Town.” So, this is what it feels like to see your dreams come true, I thought. I stood outside in the cloak of night as strangers passed me by in the street. I wondered, would any of them see my show tonight? Would any of them see the mountains I’d climbed, the desperation, the hard work, and the tears that led me to this very moment? When they heard me, would they remember my voice, or would it only be another insignificant moment in their memory bank, stored away only to be forgotten? I shook the thoughts away as I held my coat closed over my chest, took a breath of the cool night air, and made my way into the building for my sound check.

            My heals clicked softly as I walked across the stage. I sang my “do re mi’s” and my “mi fa sol’s” as the sound guy cued me and the stage lights gleamed into my eyes. Then, I sang the first few bars of my opening song. “Keep me here, don’t let me go, if you really loved me, then you’d stay. Our hearts, they still can beat as one, even if we’re miles away…”

            “Okay, you’re good.” The sound guy told me. I smiled a charming smile and thanked him for his time, and then let the owner of the fine establishment show me to my dressing room. I took in the sight of the white walls, the mirrors lined with lights, and the neat display of make-up brushes paired with eyeliner and face powder. There was a table with bottled water, flowers and fruit, and beside that was the clothing rack that contained all of my costumes. I scanned the rack for the blue, glittery, strapless dress that I’d be wearing for my show tonight. When I spotted it, my heart leaped in my chest, and that’s when it all began to feel real. I was performing tonight, and people were coming from all over town to see me. I looked back at the manager to see that a golden plaque hung from the dressing room door, and engraved on it was my name: “Cindy S. Kale.”

            “You’ll be on in forty-five minutes, Miss Kale.” The manager told me. I thanked him and he went on his way, closing the door behind him. I pulled out a stool and sat down in front of a mirror, and looked back at the painted smile and pretty red curls that stared back at me. My lips have learned to smile on command, but my blue eyes couldn’t lie, and they told me the whole, sad-hearted truth. I made myself busy with placing my make-up in front of me. I pulled out all of my brushes, shadow,  highlight, and lipstick; my make-up sponges, powder, mascara, and eyeliner. Then, just as the pressure began to build, I let the tears fall, cool and salty, down my cheeks, just missing the corners of my quivering lips. I felt a lot of things in that moment.

            I felt the things I knew I should feel: the excitement, the fulfillment, the sense of joy and achievement. But mostly, I felt empty, because there was someone I missed. Someone I left behind in pursuit of this life. And even though I knew I was about to embrace the stage lights and the audience and the piano keys, I knew there was another love I wished to embrace. Someone who I ran away from, someone who I was afraid to love in return, someone I pushed away when I needed to let the music in. And I knew that he hated me for it. I knew that he wouldn’t come to my show, even though all I wanted was to see him there, sitting in the front row, hearing me sing, that way, I would know that we weren’t completely lost. That way, I wouldn’t feel forgotten.

            I wiped the tears away with my hands. I dabbed my face with a cloth and began applying my eye makeup. I applied my shadow and blush, my lipstick and my false lashes. I applied powder and smacked my lips together, and then smiled, my blue eyes bright this time with the adrenaline of getting ready to perform.

            “Break a leg,” he said. My memory brought me back to a time when my love was still with me. We stood outside of Coffee and Jazz, a hole in the wall café in a secluded location. It had an open-mic night and the best cheesecake you’ve ever tasted. I was there to sing, and he was there to watch me. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and held my hands in his.

            “You’re going to watch me sing, aren’t you Brian?” I’d asked him. Light snow flurries had begun to fall, and I watched his sweater collect the glimmering crystals.

            “Are you kidding? I’ll be in the front row, cheering you on. And afterwards, I’ll take you out to celebrate, anywhere you want to go,” he told me. I told him that sounded wonderful and he gave me a gentle kiss for luck. He walked me inside, and later that evening, I got up on stage and I sang. Brian kept his word, and he sat right there, in the front row. It didn’t matter that there weren’t many other people there. I was really only singing to him, anyway.

            “You’re on in five minutes Miss Kale.” The manager called through the door, pulling me out of my memory. A tinge of sadness was left behind as I realized it would be only that, a memory. I slipped out of my jeans and into my dress and my heals. Shimmering, dolled up, and pretty as a sunset, I took one last look in the mirror.

            “I’m living my dream, I’m living my dream, I’m living my dream,” I told myself. The manager knocked on my door and I opened it up, my smile easy and natural, and my body energized. I told him I was ready to go on, and he led me to my entrance onto the stage. He walked out to greet the audience and to introduce me, and I felt my heart pounding, accompanied by sweaty palms.

            “Ladies and gentleman, now, the moment you have all been waiting for. I present to you, Miss Cindy Kale, the hottest ticket in town.” The audience clapped as I walked out, showered by the love of their applause. The piano keys started playing on cue, and I started singing my song. I didn’t need to do much of an acting job. The feelings I needed were already there.

            “Keep me here, don’t let me go, if you really loved me, then you’d stay. Our hearts, they still can beat as one, even if we’re—“ And I stopped. I couldn’t continue. Confused, the piano keys dwindled to silence, and all I could do was stare. I knew it was unprofessional, but I couldn’t help it. I only did it because I saw a familiar face sitting in the front row. When I saw Brian, I was caught off guard, and all I wanted was to step off the stage and into his arms. I wanted to touch his face, to see if he was real. I wanted to say his name. But instead, I remembered where I was, and decided to sing another song.

            “Sorry about that, but if you all don’t mind, I’d uh, I’d like to start off with something a little different.” I cued the piano man to switch to song number three, and when he was there, he gave me the okay.

            “This song is for all of the couples out there tonight. This song is for anyone who’s ever been in love.” The piano came back to life and I started to sing.

            “You held me, that’s how I knew that you loved me. You kissed me, that’s how I knew that you loved me. You told me, that’s how I knew that you loved me…You held me, that’s how I knew that you loved me. You kissed me, that’s how I knew that you loved me. You loved me, that’s how I knew you were mine…” When I finished my number, everyone whistled and clapped, but the only person I saw was Brian. He clapped in his calm, yet enthusiastic way, and when I smiled he winked at me. I did the rest of my show, just as I had rehearsed.

            And I don’t know if everyone thought it was great, and I don’t know if everyone really believed that I was the hottest ticket in town. But it didn’t matter, because Brian did. And he told me so after the show when he presented me with a kiss and a bouquet of roses. I gave him apologies and he gave me forgetfulness. He asked if he could take me to dinner, and I said yes in a thousand languages. A lot of people came to see me sing that night, and that was a dream come true. But being there with Brian, with his roses and his kisses, for the first time that night, my dream felt complete. For the first time, my heart lacked nothing, and I truly believed that I could spread my wings and fly.

.

#fiction

 

The Stage

I felt the stage beneath my body

I felt the lights on my skin

I lived in that moment

Nothing else existed

 .

They didn’t always love me

But they loved me then

I was an idea

I was an image that made them laugh

 .

And I would give anything for that electricity

To charge through my veins

On a normal day

On a normal street

 .

With me just being me

The stage transforms you

It makes people notice you

It makes people care when they didn’t before.

I’m multi-passionate and it can really be a struggle. I like writing, art, acting, music, activism and other things. It can be hard to feel like I have a sense of direction when I want to do so many things at once. I’ve been focusing on writing in the past year, but even then, there are so many different types of writing! There’s poetry, fiction, non-fiction, songs, plays, screenplays… I’ve made progress in different areas and I’ve gotten a feel for what I like and don’t like, but it can be overwhelming and a bit stressful.

They say to choose one thing and stick to it, but I can’t really do that. Anyone else feel this way?

Angel Killed A Dog…and Other Odd Things in Jonathan Larson’s Musical, Rent

angel 2

Like most theater lovers, I am a total Renthead. I have seen the Rent movie more times than I can count. Still, I can’t help but notice the parts of the musical that are a little…odd. Like the fact that Angel kills a dog for money. I know the dog belonged to Ben, but it’s not the dog’s fault that her owner is a greedy, selfish, and horrible human being. “Today 4 U” is a deceptively cheerful song paired with an innocent, joyful Santa costume. Angel did a horrible thing! A dog being killed is not funny at all. I’m glad our beloved characters had money to eat, but this particular means of getting it is terrible.

To be honest, Angel killing a dog, even if it did belong to a bad person, seems so out of character for her. She’s so sweet and loving, after all. It got me thinking that part of what makes Rent so relatable is the fact that its characters are not perfect. They all have flaws. Like I’ve been saying, Angel killed a dog. But let’s examine the other characters.

There’s Maureen, who flirts with other people, even when she’s taken, and is often unfaithful in her relationships. Mimi works at a strip club (granted, this doesn’t have to be seen as a flaw. Her job is her job, it’s just not typically the most respected profession. But like she says. “It’s a living”). Mark gets dumped by his girlfriend and struggles to create a film he can be proud of. Roger used to be a heroin addict. Joanna is a bit of a control freak. As for Collins…well, to be honest, I can’t think of any flaws for him. He’s an overall nice guy.

Not only do most of these characters have flaws, but most of them also struggle to afford food and make ends meet. These characters struggle with addictions, AIDS, the constant threat of eviction, unemployment, and living in apartments without heat. A lot of sad things happen in their lives, and it’s difficult to watch their stories unfold without crying, or at the very least, feeling a lot of feels.

In spite of very sad, and very realistic struggles, Rent manages to leave its audience with the most inspiring messages of love, the importance of living in the moment, the value of friendship, and the value of not giving up on relationships, even when things get hard. We can relate to the musical for its brokenness, and we can aspire to live better through its messages, just as the characters try to do.

Rent does not, in any way, offer us perfect characters. What it does offer is real characters with real struggles, real hopes, real relationships, real fears, real flaws, and real lives (you know, aside from the fact that they randomly burst into song at any given moment). Perhaps these imperfections are the very thing that make Rent, and its characters, so perfect.

#MyThoughts

What I Learned From Changing My Major In College

college 1

When I first entered college as an undergrad, I chose to major in Theater. It wasn’t a hard choice. I had been taking acting classes for a few years and it was all I wanted to do. I loved theater. I loved learning my lines. I loved working with passionate, creative people. Being on stage gave me a voice, and getting into character meant that I could take a break from being me. It meant that I could get a glimpse into what it might be like to be someone else. Nothing was more magical to me than acting.

My freshman year, I got to experience some really cool things. I got to learn about acting, arts management, sets, costumes, stage lighting, Stanislavski, musical theater, and much more. I got to see myself grow through my different scenes and assignments. I got to meet people who were all unique, but who were all united by their common love of the theater.

I also got to watch my peers act, sing and dance in several performances. Seeing people live their passion is one of my favorite things in the world, so being surrounded by creative people brought me a lot of joy.

While I experienced a lot of good things my freshman year, I wasn’t always happy. I spent a lot of time feeling sad, anxious and isolated. I broke down crying on more than one occasion. I knew I needed a change in my life, I just didn’t know what kind. My freshman year was followed by a terrible summer that only made my sadness and anxiety worse. I was in a really low place, and I knew that a hectic theater schedule wasn’t going to help me get out of it. I needed to find some peace and solitude.

I’ve never been the kind of person who only had one passion. I loved acting, but I also loved writing, so I decided to change my major to English. This wasn’t an easy decision, and no one I talked to thought I should do it. This isn’t surprising. People don’t like change, and even if the change you want to make is good for you, you’ll find that people won’t want to accept it. (You’ll understand what I mean by this if you’ve ever told your friends you’ve chosen to eat healthier. There will always be that one person who says, “Just have one cookie. It won’t hurt you!”)

Once I changed my major, things got better slowly, but not overnight. I missed acting and I was always worried about the future. Still, my friends said they noticed that I was less stressed than I was before. I was starting over, and starting over is never easy. Luckily for me, English majors are some of the loveliest humans you will ever encounter, so I got to meet some really kind people.

I began to focus more on writing. For so long, I had been used to putting a lot of my creative energy into acting. Now that I wasn’t taking acting classes anymore, there was this huge, ginormous void in my life. So, I filled it. In my need to create, I went from being a terrible fiction writer to a decent one. I wrote hundreds of poems. I wrote plays and scripts. I learned how to write songs with my guitar. Occasionally I got to perform my songs, or read my poems and stories aloud at events. I found ways to continue to create and connect with others, all while maintaining the level of solitude I needed to find peace.

Experiencing two different majors really added to my college experience. I got to submerse myself in two different crafts. Writing and acting are very different, but they also have things in common. Both require you to use sense memory and to see things from another character’s perspective. I believe that acting helped me to be a better writer.

I learned a lot from all of this. I learned that there doesn’t have to be just one passion that will bring me happiness in life. It is important to choose something and commit to it, but it is also important to stay open to new things and new experiences. I thought that choosing a major meant doing one thing for the rest of my life. I realize now that this simply is not true. As C.S Lewis says, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

I have a lot of different passions, especially when it comes to the arts. I realize now that this is not a bad thing. I got to see myself grow as an actress and as a writer. Making a change is not always easy. I made a change because I wanted to be my best, healthiest self. Sometimes you need a break, even from something you love to do. And that’s okay.

xo

-Ashley

#MyThoughts