Being a Artist Is Not Enough
I kiss the top of my cats head, let the sun play over our bodies, and then walk into my naturally lit living room. I lay down the worries of another ASAP grant application and my concerns that my income from my job isn't enough and breathe in. Inhale. Exhale.
When COVID-19 forced the world to go into quarantine I was astonished at how things moved so quickly to shut down. It was like watching a wave come as you are paddling out into the ocean and being knocked off of your board before you can dive under the wave to miss the hit. A lot of people assume that if you have a job that that means you're good. But many Americans (if not other cultures as well) have multiple streams of income. One of my categories of employment is artist. As an artist I teach, perform, and create. And while I was hit like many other artist, the assumption is that I couldn't possible be failing under the wave. I could and am.
The biggest difference is that I also have a job, that I am extremely grateful to have. But I realized that my income is effected by my artistry in a BIG way. It brought me to the conclusion that being an artist is NOT enough. I can't depend on income from my artistry in any real way. I have one product. I have art that I don't sell. But I am not financially benefiting from anything other than mainly live performances/live teachings. I didn't cross over to the digital realm because I felt like other self employed artist had more of a right. But I am also an artist and I also had a hit to my finances in an unexpected way. I am not excluded.
Once I wrapped my head around this reality I knew I had to make some changes. Though art is my passion and expression, it can also be my business. I don't like to see my art as business because it feels like I am losing integrity by doing so, but really it is putting value on my art. The same as I look at my library career as a value added to my time this is putting value on my art. I am, in lack of a better word, an entrepreneur. I cringed at the term because I didn't think we existed in the same plane. I kept feeding myself the same lines. "I'm not a business person." "I'm not a marketing expert." "I'm not an entrepreneur." It's simply not true.
I am a career woman, an artist, AND an entrepreneur. All at the same time. Being an artist is not enough for me. I value what I create. I refuse to apologize for having multiple streams of income or demanding what I am due for my services/products. There are some people who can function for free. I can not. I can not afford to be shortchanged or looked over. This does mean that I have to also educate myself accordingly. I have to learn business and marketing. I have to learn financial strategies. Though I can't do it on my own I at least have to learn the language.
Before this I questioned if I was making enough to justify the input of my funds. I felt I was making little in return. Though it was little it had big impact that I overlooked. My budget included my little not just my other income. I know that the economic climate is shifting in a big way so we must shift with it. That is what I am doing. My word for the year is invest. So that means stocks, savings, Roth IRA, and also in my business. Do you have areas in your life that you feel have to change?
Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Was your money impacted by COVID-19? What strategies are you using to put you in a better financial standing?
Welcome to Slam
What is slam?
Slam is a sport of words and verbs. It is something that stems from the practice of break poetry. Every year teams from all over the country and poets from all over the world compete in slam competitions.
Are You Ready?
This year has felt completely different than other slam years. Maybe it's because I took a break and was asked to re-join later. Maybe it's because the team has "hella" group pieces. Or maybe I just know that I can do other things with my time so it makes slam time more charged now. I do know I want us to win this year and I think we can.
I slam because it's a challenge for me. I started off as the poet who was cute, but... I wasn't connecting to audiences. I couldn't make the team even if I tried really hard. I wanted to do my best. I wanted to win. Through workshops and writing with others I've slowly transformed into a poet who actually can get my point across without it getting lost in translation. Now? I don't like the fact that I started becoming a poet who was "pimping pain for points". Not really, but I felt myself writing more about pain than anything else. How can I top this hurt. I know these stories must be told, but I wanted to heal. That's what I spent my time off doing. Healing.
I started writing to protest, to entice, to call to action, and to just vent. There was a time my poems were all about activism, erotica, faith, and whatever was on my heart at the time. I'm a broader writer now. Covering any and everything under the sun.
Since I've done the healing I just know slam (for me) isn't fun all the time. It hurts hearing all the things we've gone through as people. It hurts that our stories are so similar though we're all so different. It hurts. And though I cheer on my fellow poets. It gets difficult to sit in a room and be rubbed raw over and over. I often wonder if the people that NEED to hear these poems are even in the room.
The times I feel the need to slam, I'll go rock a slam. I'll still compete as a indie and support this city (St. Louis). BUUUUUUT first let's get this Nationals competition on! I ain't done yet gosh darn it. I'm ready to go. To see our team go rock those stages in Chicago.
I'll probably blog more than normal this month. Since it's my blogaversary.
Oh yea. Welcome to Slam.
2016 Slam Team
Changes of A Brand
I am queen of changing my style through a cycle. Afro-classy bohemian rebel. Yea, I'm not too good with labels so I just slap em' all on and that's what you get. Yeeeep, get comfortable. This is about branding ya'll
Whether we like it or not, we're a brand. People associate us to something when they think of us. My momma told me a long time ago, "People are always watching you." If you are a person of color, you know what I mean. She scared me out of wearing pajamas to the grocery store or anywhere outside the comfort of my own home "just in case" someone was watching. And they were. I have a hard time traveling and looking too comfortable cause the one time I wore sweats I met a connect who knew Debbie Allen and I needed a internship. (Needless to say I didn't get it) Whether it's the church lady making sure you're covered up, the couple that cross the street as you walk past, or the person locking the car as you walk by. Okay so this doesn't have to be negative. It could be the promoter that takes a chance on you, the fellow artist that helps mentor you, or the foundation that wants to fund your next project. (I speak this last one into existence) We are the products for "sale". It shouldn't matter what people think, but what you think. Are you portraying the brand you want to be?
Looking at any business or job interactions this is definitely true. I'm not telling ya'll anything new though. We live in a world of influencers and people constantly wanting to sell you something. I'm just saying I change my brand constantly and whether I like it or not. It's me. Lately, I've been loving the brand I've created from that fresh out of college girl who had no clue what God what about to do to now being a confident... everything I am now.
Alright so this leads to this new project I've started. I'm going to vlog my summer and below is where you find out why.
So you want to be a writer?
I've been a poet and playwright for quite a bit now. In this past three years in St. Louis I've produced my own show, authored my first collection of plays & poetry, and performed spoken word throughout the nation. People ask me how I do it. What does it entail? How do you make money doing that? Well people write everyday, but being a writer is no easy task. Being a writer is not easy. It's all up to you. What do you want to DO with your writing? Are you wanting to be a journalist? A blogger? A poet? A novelist? A script writer? A playwright? There are literally a thousand and three things you can do with writing, you just have to choose.
What will your focus be? So today I'm sitting at the computer searching freelance writing gigs to fill up some of my free time and it hits me. My writing has always lacked direction. I can literally write about anything, but what do I love to write about? What do I know like the back of my hand to make it through an entire sitting. (I have a point I promise) Theatre, art, and culture. I write stories. What should you write? Well... What are you passionate about? Go to Google trends. (Yest this is a real thing) and see what people are searching for. That way you can see what's popular, what people are looking at, and seeing what's popular that might interest you.
In fact just last night (This morning at 4AM) I started a new one featuring "a teen name Nuria Stone who lives in a cramped three bedroom apartment with her mom, dad, two brothers, and a sister in Baltimore, MD. One of her brothers, her popular twin that looks nothing like her, thinks she should get out more and drags her to her first high school house party on the rich side of town she discovers that her twin has an identical brother. (dun, dun, dun!) So the question is... Is she related to her brotherss? Why has she been painting weird images? Her family lives in the hub of drugs, gangs, and violence yet she doesn't fit in. Where does she belong? It's time for her parents to fess up cause something's not adding up."
And SCENE. So, you want advice on how to be a writer? Write. Everything else will become clear. I discovered I'm not meant to write blog content about doggies, it's not my passion. BUT I can get into writing scripts, scenes, and stories for people who need some entertainment or real life-like stories. I like writing poetry. And my novel will come. One day. Take what interest you and run with it. So... my hunt for that job to materialize continues. Till then, I'm just a woman with a creative imagination.
I'm here at 11AM, air whirring in the corner and I'm curious if I am focused enough to create change. Like you kinda feel like being a activist, but kinda feel like sleeping. You kinda feel like being in love, but kinda like being single. See! No focus. Change and love are not the same thing. Or are they?
Trust, the actions you make toward creating change are the same moves you'll make with the heart. How radical are you? Do you put everything out there on the line for what you believe in? For what or who you love? It's all this same thing that hangs in precarious balance that truly depends on your drive. Your focus. Are you paying attention? Are you taking risk?
My bare toes are gripping the floor. (Sorry people who don't like feet) I used to be indecisive couldn't answer a question straight out of fear that I'd make the wrong choice. But now... I'm 25 and don't like the oppressive conditions that exist for black people. The structural racism that still afflicts us and I choose to DO something. I create art. With poetry, plays, paintings, and song I can control our narrative. Be the one leaving a record of our story so no one can do it for us. No worries of it being left out of history book.
This didn't just happen, I didn't accidentally find myself here. Every move made even out of my indecisiveness has been leading me to this path. I want to push more. Step out of the box even more. I don't want people to ask what it means, I want them to see our story up close and personal causing them to either do something or admit they are part of the problem. Sure. This started out with me just sitting here at 11AM wondering if I am focused only to realize that in order to even consider it I had to be paying attention in the first place. I'm not sleep. I am single. But I'm so freaking radical. It's not about me though. It's about change and love. It's about being free.
When my feet touched foreign soil, it was like possibilities opened up to me that I had only dreamed about. I felt for the first time ever like I was living up to my potential. Have you ever felt that? Like your dreaming with your eyes open. And for the next six months I would live in a dream world. Is that what it means to live on the road? To live in a never ending dream that has not roots in any particular place? What is this lust for a life like that? I blame my childhood because that's where they say most ill desires are fostered. Map hanging on my wall. Globe on my chest of toys. Books full of adventures. The indecency. Now as an adult the only thing stopping me is me... What do you do with a desire that will not die until you feed it? The only negative is never trying.... Material things don't really have hold on me. I've lost everything, but truly nothing because all that matters is in my memories. No particular item can quantify that. Just do it! It aches in my bones. The world is waiting for me to explore... Why? I can do research, I would write, I would explore. I would come back. I would share. I'm living now, but I would see more. There is always more to see, to learn, to explore.
So... You can't have a desire with no vision. Well you can, but where's the fun in that. I'm about to step up my business plan with my book. While I'm in one place before travel, I'll continue to work on my brand. Ya'll ain't ready. This is going to be elevated to the next level. If I'm going to live this life and brand and travel and write, I might as well work and do all I can to make it work. No, I'm not just gonna bum it around the world. By the time I'm done I want to be in first class. My desire is to see other cultures and how they relate to performance studies. It all began with storytelling for every culture. A account of history in a stream of language, dance, music, and visual art. So what can I discover first hand and bring back to my minorities who don't even get to leave the block?
There are people in poverty all over the world, the common man, that still expresses themselves through oral tradition. Through tribal dances. Through prayer. Through art. Through music. And I want to find it, write my own urban account with a twist. Stay tuned to see what that will be. For now it is just a mere desire ;)
Recently I've added a section on my website where my upcoming performance dates will be listed. It will be updated regularly as more performances come. For now it is slowly filling for the next few months. It is under my About page so check it out if you want to know where I'll be next.
Being organized as a indie artist is challenging, but definitely worth it. Everything about artist being filled with chaos is true, but when it comes to being a entrepreneur or professional artist (those are not quite the same) it is a lot more organization to everything you do. I love it. It is making me a better artist for sure. Making deadlines and rehearsing appropriately is extremely important. It gives you credibility.
I'm am learning as I go. I want to expand myself as a brand and really give my art a chance to thrive. It is being made possible with organizations like UrbArts (www.urbarts.org). My strides as a artist is definitely because of Urb. I am also apart of the their slam team urbILLdialects so you'll see that as well on my dates. Join me on this journey. Every Saturday morning I'll update you on different aspects of my artistic life. If there is anything you want to see then leave it in the comments.
I'm extremely excited to share with you my website. It has been a long time coming and I feel it's about time. That's it. Nothing drawn out. Look around. My short stories, poetry, and thoughts will be here for you to gander at when you want. Thanks for visiting! I have added my old Tumblr post just to show you more about me. Enjoy.
I know it seems like it’s been forever since I last post, but let’s talk about the artistic scene. I have learned a lot about the scene here in St. Louis and am still learning as well as places to eat afterward/during. Shoot I’m still learning. But from the newbies perspective, here we are. I’ll begin where I started with UrbArts. Even from Iowa and coincidences I heard about this spot on Friday nights. Let’s start with the organization itself.
UrbArts is an up and coming non-profit that uplifts artist in the St. Louis with a new home located on 2600 N. 14th St. “Urban Artist Alliance for Child Development, Inc. (UrbArts) is a 501 © (3) nonprofit corporation formed in the state of Missouri for the purpose of promoting arts, education, economics, and social services. Founded in August 2001…” Want more info visit www.urbarts.org/
Soooo… I bet you’re wondering what you can see at UrbArts:
Now as far as food:
Crown Candy is a great spot to eat at which is right down the street from UrbArts definitely worth the price for this St. Louis specialty. You can smell the sugar as soon as you walk in. Diabetics be warned, but they have great lunch/dinner items as well. Try the sundae, they don’t skim on portions either so make sure you have a hearty appetite.
But for something that is good, affordable, and with great entertainment check out Legacy Books and Café where UrbPoetry is held every 3rd Friday night. The chicken is boss, yep I said boss. Now for those with dietary needs like vegetarians out there they do have a delectable veggie burger. There are also other menu items.
Jump Rope Sis
Fitness. Life. Art. Travel.