Thursday, 19 August 2010

Leaving New York

Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920sA premise of Ann Douglas’ book Terrible Honesty is that all the great and famed artists of Roaring 20’s Manhattan didn’t actually create any of their great and famed art in Manhattan.  Simply put, they all had to leave the crazy, bustling, invigorating city to get any damn work done.

She includes the writers and artists of both the Harlem Renaissance and the Fitzgerald/Hemingway crowd in her study and shows one by one how they ran away to create their signature oeuvres.

From Gershwin to Hurston, some went to Connecticut, some to Paris, but they all fled Manhattan and its social whirl, despite being so strongly identified with the metropolis.

From first-hand experience I know how tough it is to be a creating artist in Manhattan.  It wasn’t until I moved to LA – a place I constantly refer to as dull and boring – that I was able to get a real practise going.

But it’s 2010 and now the question is simply this:

Where can we possibly go?  Where can we hide?

Michael Stipe knows leaving New York never easy, but the whole world is New York now.  The whole world is a crazy social butterfly twittering around dropping by petal after petal looking pretty.

When do we work?  When do we escape to and how to we get anything done?

I’m learning to manage more and more, but it means cutting the connectivity down on an ever-escalating scale in response to its daily increase.  It means managing my own expectations of how much can get done by when and sticking to the plan, sticking to the plan, sticking to the plan.

What do you do if your plan’s not that sticky, if your resolve hasn’t been forged by continued adversity, if you’re prone to attention deficit? 

I don’t know.  Follow the fire, not the sparks.


DJJedi said...

If art is your day job, it should be treated as such. For me, that means having a designated space specifically to do work/create, and a designated number of hours per day for nothing else BUT working/creating.

As a deejay, I try to spend no less than 8 hours a day doing something deejay-related in said workspace, be it rehearsing, coming up with routines/sets, creating mixes etc. If I'm not addressing the creative aspect of the craft, then I try to make sure that that time is spent attending to the business end. That could be returning emails, responding to gig inquiries, work related phone calls, or sending out mailers about upcoming shows.

The point is, that time that you allot for your art should be strictly adhered to. I've found that there's a direct correlation between the number of hours I spend putting in work and the amount of success yielded from it. Anytime I slack on those commitments for more than a day or two, I usually feel the pain several weeks later in the form of fewer gigs, or a poor performance (by my standards, if no one else's) due to lack of adequate preparation.

That said, I need to get back to work. I spent ten minutes typing this that should've been spent finishing this mix. LOL

E. Amato said...

I appreciate your ten minutes! ; )

But you were doing something great and work related in it - sharing your process and encouraging others to become more productive.

I totally agree that you need a disciplined approach and to carve out your own time and space. And it is a daily commitment, not a sporadic thing. I've got a weekly schedule now - even when I don't have a deadline, I have daily and weekly goals that keep me in check.

Committing to a certain number of blog postings, practise sessions (yes, I still practise my pieces!) and just plain writing keep the flow going. I handle internet communication in the morning after my first writing session and generally keep it to an hour of responding. Then I do a few check ins throughout the day between activities, and that's it.

I find now I can complete everything in a 9-5 or 9-6 day, whereas before I was just gouging out evenings and weekends and really not accomplishing half as much.


E. Amato said...

Oh, but I do want a real office now. I think I've graduated. ; )