It’s the weekend before leaving for the writer’s residency and I’m starting to feel both excited and nervous. It’s been 9 years since I attended my first (and only, until now) residency. I went to the Vermont Studio Center for the month of January 2013. Ruby was a six-month old puppy back then and I’d only owned her for a few months, so I decided to bring her with me and put her up at a local daycare. I managed to write a few posts about the whole experience here and here. Then there was this post about my front tooth becoming “dislodged” mid-residency. A reminder that anything can happen.
Ironically, what came out of that residency was less about my writing at the time, and everything to do with my life. There is a direct link between my time in Vermont, my first time living in the rural Northeast and first taste of the “writer’s life,” and my decision to leave Los Angeles and move to New York. It took me a year and a half to make it happen, but that was my goal – to live in a quieter place and to write full-time. It was the first real clarity I’d had since Kaz had died nearly two years earlier.
So much has happened since then.
Today I live in my own house in a small town not far from the new residency location. I also happily write full-time (though still struggle financially). I’m very familiar with both the country life and the writer’s life. One might wonder, why even go on a residency? Why is it necessary to uproot yourself and live without your dog for 4 weeks?
All I can say is that life can be extremely distracting, and sometimes it’s good to hit the re-set button.
I’m looking forward to having less distractions, to not having to grocery shop, or cook every night, or really go anywhere. My only daily responsibility will be to keep my space tidy, do my own laundry (on site), and occasionally cook for the other residents, since the chef is only there Monday-Friday. Of course, I will miss my dog (terribly!) but not having her around will also be less distraction (and I know she’ll be in good hands with a relative).
I’m looking forward to being energized and inspired by a new location, to meeting new people, to exploring and indulging my curiosity away from the hustle and bustle of every day life, albeit in a small town. There’s something to be said about being away from your “normal” life and normal you.
At this point, there are only two things that are potential worries. I’m worried about the bed being comfortable and my ability to sleep well. I also wonder who the other five artists (that I’ll be spending these 4 weeks with) will be and if we’ll all get a long. Chances are we will, but one doesn’t really know for sure until it happens.
In the meantime, I’m in the midst of preparing to leave – and preparing to work. I did end up getting the notes I wanted and needed on my feature screenplay, so I know what I need to do for that project. I also plan on writing the first draft of a television pilot, as well as several essays. In fact, I have a long list of things I want to accomplish at the residency.
This morning I walked with a good friend who’s also a pretty well known artist – she is the one who inspired me to start applying to things again. She’s been on many residencies throughout her career, and her advice was simple:
Go at your own pace. Work hard but also give yourself room to experience, be in the moment, and follow the muse. Get to know the other artists. You might make great friends, you might not. Go for long walks and enjoy this special time.
I’m excited for the adventure. And proud of myself for taking my craft seriously enough to devote this time. I know it will be fruitful in one way or another.
The most important thing is that I remain open to the experience and listen to my intuition.
It’s been a crazy busy fall/winter, partly because of Ruby’s injury and the fundraising effort for her surgery (thank you to those of you who donated!!). So, I’m a little late with this traditional end-of-year post, but better late than never.
Looking back… 2015 was a difficult year, but also a rewarding one. It was my first full year living in New York, and my first year working full-time as a freelance writer. Then, at the end of the year, I found myself facing several large expenses, including Ruby’s surgery and getting my car repaired after colliding with a deer in October. But I managed to overcome.
In 2015, I…
– Survived winter! No small feat after living 19 years in Los Angeles.
– Met a lot of people by being outgoing and getting a part-time job at a popular farm-to-table cafe, something I wrote about in this post. I feel very fortunate to have made a few solid friends here.
– Was invited back to Los Angeles as a guest panelist on Death and Loss: Women Writing Out Loud workshop at BinderCon, a symposium for women writers.
– Was interviewed about my experience as a newlywed widow by Nancy Redd on HuffPost Live.
– Made over 50% of my income from freelance writing and editing.
– Applied and was accepted to several professional groups: The American Society of Journalists and Authors, Gotham Ghostwriters, The Director’s List, and Film Fatales (two groups for women directors).
– Took a writing workshop with Linda Schreyer called Slipper Camp that prompted me to write several essays (highly recommend to anyone wanting to jumpstart their writing).
– Saw my name in print four times in Upstate House Magazine.
– Founded WriteUP New York, a collective of freelance writers living in upstate New York (email me or find us on Facebook if you’re interested in joining!).
– Took a Branded Content writing workshop with the incredible David Hochman and wrote four branded content articles that will publish on Huffington Post in 2016.
– Reported my first same-day story, about a local town that just overturned its ban on alcohol. What a thrill to report, write, file and get published within 24 hours!
– Became one with my motorcycle with over 1000 miles of riding through gorgeous upstate New York.
But the really big news is that at the end of 2015, I got a new part-time job.
I am the new Visual Arts Director of Greene County Council on the Arts (more on that later). In this job, I’m responsible for the visual arts program and gallery at the arts council, which is located in Catskill, across the river from Hudson, NY. It’s a great opportunity for me to use all of my skills in one place, as well as to meet more people in the community, especially creative people. It’s also a steady source of income that will be very helpful as I continue to build my freelance career.
In anticipation of how busy I’m about to be, I decided to cut my hair into a style that requires zero maintenance. 🙂
Looking forward, in 2016, I plan to:
– Kick ass in my new job.
– Renew my passport and travel abroad again, even if it’s to Canada (only a six hour-drive away).
– Get fit and strong with a daily yoga practice.
– Get published in more, and more higher-paying, publications.
For most creative types, creativity is not a choice. It’s a must. Like breathing, we need to create in order to function and maintain a sense of emotional and mental balance. On a practical level, this means we need the space, time and necessary equipment to do our art.
One of the things I love about writing is that it’s something I can do anywhere. I don’t have to rely on anyone else or any fancy equipment. All I need is my computer, or a pen and paper, and my imagination.
Filmmaking, on the other hand, requires technology – a camera at the very least, sound, lighting and editing equipment. This all takes money and usually a lot of planning. Often it requires working with a team, even a small team.
These days, the filmmaker in me is a little lonely and antsy. It’s been a long time since I’ve directed anything or even visited a film set. I’ve met some filmmakers in upstate New York, but I miss Los Angeles in this respect.
The one thing that keeps me going, however, is photography.
Like with writing, photography is something I can do anywhere. I’m not a professional. I take most of my photos with my cell phone while walking or hiking with my dog. But what it gives me is so much more than that. It’s my new creative outlet.
These are some recent photos I took of the Catskills.
I’m lucky that where I live is very photogenic. The light is quite dramatic and it changes throughout the year. Winter light is even and diffused. Summer light is bright. Fall light creates these very long shadows.
Taking photos has developed into more than a hobby. It’s a way for me to practice my directing eye. When I take a photo (and edit it), I try to say something with it… convey a mood, a feeling, a thought, even a very, very tiny story.
The animals around here are also photogenic starting, of course, with my favorite model, Ruby.
I hope to get back to moving pictures soon, but in the meantime capturing these still moments is keeping my filmmaking spirit alive.
I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, not just because Kaz isn’t around to share it with me, but because it seems forced and commercial, not to mention superfluous. Every day should be about love in my book. And people should express it in their own ways, not feel pressured to do so by some public measuring stick.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m a little sad. I’m happy for anyone who is enjoying this day and celebrating love. It’s just impossible to not think of Kaz and remember times gone by.
My favorite Valentine’s Day (which I wrote about here) was the one when we had the least amount of money and went camping in Joshua Tree National Park. The only expense was the price of the campsite ($15), wood for the fire ($20), and the food and wine, which we would have had anyway at home. During the day we hiked. At night we ate dinner and talked. We had no entertainment other than the fire, the stars and a radio. It was lovely.
As a writer attempting to capture our story, it’s easy, cathartic even, to describe scenes like the camping trip. Less easy is to describe what it felt like to be in love. (To be fair, I think this has been a challenge for writers since the beginning of the written word.) Some folks who have read my memoir draft have commented that while it’s clear that Kaz and I really loved each other, they found themselves wanting more of the “being in love.”
How does one write about being in love? To me, it’s not very effective to say, “I had never felt so happy” or “I felt like my heart might burst,” even if it is an accurate description. It’s easier to write an argument – a moment of conflict – than it is to describe those silent moments where everything was happening on the inside.
Maybe it’s because I come from screenwriting. One is never supposed to write how the character feels, unless the character is saying how he/she feels, a slippery slope which only the greatest screenwriters can pull off. One is supposed to write the scene in such a way that the reader knows how the character is feeling without being told.
I recently discussed this with a friend, and she asked me describe out loud what it was like being in love with Kaz. This is what I said:
“I remember looking into his eyes and feeling like the rest of the world had just faded away. It didn’t matter if it was for several minutes or a split-second. In those moments, it would feel like there was only us, like we were inside a bubble. Inside the bubble we didn’t need to speak out loud because we could speak with our eyes. Outside the bubble was everyone else.
Looking into his eyes was also like looking into a mirror. I saw him… but I also saw myself. I saw myself the way he saw me. In his eyes, I was more beautiful, more intelligent, more talented… always a better version than how I saw myself.
There were moments when he would take my hand and bounce it lightly in his, or just play with my fingers, or he would squeeze my hand and I would squeeze back. It was this private thing between us, a way of communicating without words. We did it when we watched television, on long drives, in public, when he was sick, all the way to the end. Actually, that’s how I knew we were at the end… when he stopped squeezing back.
At concerts, he would always find the best spot in the crowd to see the stage and let me stand in front of him. He didn’t dance, but he would put his hands on my hips as I danced.
There were other moments when we would make each other laugh, or we’d be hanging out in the kitchen, drinking wine, cooking dinner, just talking about our days… and I would suddenly feel the sensation of fullness, like my heart had expanded to fill up my entire body, like my heart had become my body. Sometimes I would hug him out of the blue because… I just had to. Moments like this would always be followed by a hint of pain, because I never wanted them to end.
I used to fall asleep before him when we watched TV, and he would always guide me to bed and tuck me in. My mother used to do that too when I was a child. She would sit with me for a few minutes before I fell asleep. Kaz was the only other person who ever did that, and it always made me feel so good and safe, like I could trust him with my life.
When we were in nature, like in Joshua Tree or driving up the coast of California on Route 1, everything sort of sparkled. I know that sounds silly, but that’s how it seemed, like everything had a layer of diamond dust. I used to feel like a divine presence was with us, like the heavens were pleased, like my mother was smiling down from above. One of the ways I knew that Kaz was special was this certainty that my mother would have loved him, and vice-versa.”
It was a good exercise to describe these moments out loud. I often wonder if I’ll ever feel like this again. In any case, I never want to forget what it feels like to be in love.
Wishing everyone a love-filled day, every day. xo
Me looking at the Joshua Tree sunset, pic taken by Kaz
Sometimes bad things happen out of the blue and stop us in our tracks. Other times, we may find ourselves in situations that feel like they’re slowly eating away at the core of who we are. In either case, the hurt and pain makes the world seem different, uninspiring, devoid of meaning, unfair and cruel. We lose our sense of purpose, our will to continue. We think to ourselves, what’s the point of anything? What’s the point of me?
And then… one day, weeks, months or even years after our pain began… something or someone causes us snap out of it momentarily. It can be almost anything. A piece of music, a kind gesture from a friend or stranger, a ray of light filtered through the trees, the sound of birds chirping, a memory, a line of dialogue, a smell, an animal, a joke, a dream, a piece of art… anything.
In that moment of inspiration, we suddenly remember the other side of life: beauty, love, joy, laughter, goodness, grace.
At first, we might resent that these things still exist when our pain is so deep. We might resent that the world continues to turn while we feel dead inside.
But another part of us cries out, possibly a meek voice that requires a special type of listening. The voice of our soul, which has been long neglected and patiently waiting in the darkness.
In that moment, our soul peeks out from behind the curtain shrouding our heart and turns up to the sunshine of inspiration.
Like the first daylight after a storm, it feels a fleeting sense of hope again. If it happened once, maybe it can happen again.
Our soul urges us to find more inspiration, for it is hungry.
For the first time in a while, we do something that seems so simple but actually requires a bit more energy… we notice things. We allow ourselves to feel and observe and enjoy the world around us. And each time we encounter another moment of inspiration, we grow stronger.
We grow stronger because we are feeding our soul.
Our souls are individual. What feeds your soul might not feed another’s. But feeding it is essential.
It’s been two weeks since my last post. Life, class, writing, friends in town, sick puppy, and other general distractions have kept me away, but everything is good. In fact, I’ve learned some things these past few weeks from a variety of sources, beginning with director/producer Ava DuVernay‘s incredibly generous, wisdom-filled keynote address to the 2013 Film Independent Forum on Sunday, October 27 (watch full clip here).
If you haven’t heard of Ava DuVernay, don’t worry. You will soon. She has already made several feature films, including I Will Follow which Roger Ebert described as “one of the best films I’ve seen about coming to terms with the death of loved one;” and Middle of Nowhere, for which she won the Best Director Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the first African-American woman to do so. She recently directed an episode of ABC’s Scandal, and is slated to direct the upcoming Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic Selma.
She also has a distribution company called African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM), whose mission is to empower Black independent filmmakers with collaborative, simultaneous, theatrical distribution in multiple markets. [I admit, I have not seen Ms. DuVernay’s films yet (I fell behind in a lot of movie/TV watching the past few years). But they are now at the top of my Netflix queue, and I will be following everything she does from hereon.]
If it sounds like I’m gushing, I am! And I’m not the only one who felt a shot of adrenaline watching this talk. Like the best words of wisdom, Ms. DuVernay’s advice on October 27 was geared towards a specific crowd (filmmakers), but also universally applicable.
She begins by encouraging the audience to live Tweet her speech. “It’s important to share what happens in rooms like these, beyond rooms like these.” She commends the audience for being there, saying it’s good to channel inquisitive energy into events, workshops, seminars and other “rooms with like-minded people.” She reminds us why Los Angeles is such a great place to be. “There’s so much you can get your hands on.”
She then cheekily explains what she’s wearing and why. Her “directing uniform” consists of glasses, layering a thermal shirt with a hipster t-shirt (“embrace your nerd-dom”), a jacket, a hat (“don’t touch my hair”), and most importantly comfortable shoes (“these shoes are from Rite-Aid”). In this uniform she is who she feels she should be. She also feels like this because she took off something three years ago that was preventing her from reaching her full potential.
She took off her coat of desperation.
What is the coat of desperation?
It’s the aura that surrounds you when you approach people you admire with questions like, ‘Can you help me?’ ‘Can you read my script?’ ‘Can I take you to coffee?’ ‘Can I pick your brain?’
It’s when you come from a place of ‘what can you do for me?’ instead of a place of empowerment. Taking off this coat is the only way to actually achieve your dreams and goals. But how do you do it?
Ms. DuVernay’s advice is simple:
Stop asking people for things! Instead, tell them what you’re doing.
Yearning and Non-Action = Depressing and Stagnate (repellant)
Yearning and Action = Passion and Movement (magnet)
Stop spending time thinking about what you don’t have and focus on what you do have.
Ask yourself ‘what can I do?’ And ‘Who wants to come along for the ride?’ People want to be on a moving train. Be on the ‘yo, I’m making films’ train.
Do the work and rise above the chatter.
You don’t need to go to film school as long as you educate yourself. Watch director’s commentaries, attend workshops, read books, and make your own films.
Apply to labs, grants, seminars, etc. but don’t wait to be accepted to move forward (Ms. DuVernay never won a lab or grant and she applied to them all).
You should be thinking about what happens after the film is made, before you make it.
Failure can teach you who you are.
Best quote: “I have more mentors now since I stopped asking for them. A mentor is someone who cares for you – and you can’t go up to someone and ask them to care for you.”
Best goal: “I want to be old and making films like Clint Eastwood. I want to be like Werner Herzog and have so many films I can’t remember all their names.”
Sounds good to me!
Can you relate to the Coat of Desperation? To taking it off?!
It’s been a busy couple of weeks, including a motorcycle ride with my old Harley Davidson instructor and a trip to New York City for the Labor Day weekend. I’ll replay the highlights here as best I can.
My first moto ride, almost a year ago
To the right is a pic of the first time I rode a motorcycle on my own (not in class), in October 2012. Since it had been so long, I was pretty nervous about getting back on two wheels.
Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Everything came back to me easily, and I remembered why I love this new sport. Riding a motorcycle makes me feel more alive than anything else. It is definitely scary, but in a way that exhilerates and keeps me on my toes. It reminds me of Kaz in a visceral way, the closest I can get to his tough but sweet energy. I used to love sitting behind him on a motorcycle. It boosts my energy and confidence through the roof. I am now ready for the next step – buying my first bike. More about that later.
After that, I went to New York for the weekend, leaving Ruby behind for the first time and miraculously not feeling guilty about it. She stayed with a friend whom she loves, near the beach, in a house with a yard and another older, female pit. No classes, no training, she could sleep and/or play all day. She was on vacation too! And frankly, it was nice to get a break and another reminder: I am more than just this dog’s mom.
To celebrate my first few moments of freedom, I had dinner at Encounter, the spaceship-shaped restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport. If you ever have some time to kill at LAX, this place is worth checking out just for fun.
You can watch planes take off from inside
I flew the red-eye, so the next morning I saw my father, who had driven across country from San Francisco to NYC in his now infamous, new Porsche. At first, he said he wouldn’t let me drive it because he didn’t trust my driving. I was actually prepared to accept this, but about half an hour later, he changed his mind!
Words cannot express how nervous I was behind the wheel. Not only is this car less than a month old and (as I was reminded repeatedly) worth A LOT of money, but it’s also REALLY powerful and loud. I don’t think I ever got over 30 miles per hour. But what a smooth ride. I definitely have to go visit him in SF soon to take it for another spin. Preferrably on a highway.
Once my father left, I spent the rest of the time with my sister and her family in and around Brooklyn. I was there for the re-opening block party of Sunny’s Bar, a dive bar in Red Hook that dates all the way back to the 1890s and was almost destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
I saw a performance by Syrian musician Omar Souleyman in Pioneer Works, a large gallery space in Red Hook owned by artist Dustin Yellin. I haven’t danced that hard in a long time, and am definitely now a fan of Mr. Souleyman’s.
Omar Souleyman in Central Park, 2011 [photo source: David Andrako]
Below are two pics I took of the large Dustin Yellin piece that was standing in the lobby of Pioneer Works. From the front it looks like a 3D statue, but from the side you see that it’s actually a multi-layered glass structure.
Dustin Yellin piece (front view)
Dustin Yellin piece (side view)
I had drinks in the Red Hook Bait &Tackle bar, which looks like this:
And brunch with fellow blogger Caitlin Kelly of Broadside at the Spice Market in Manhattan, which looks like this:
I was both excited and nervous to meet Caitlin. A) I’d never left the matrix to meet another blogger before, and had no idea what to expect from a real, live person. B) Right before our scheduled time, I discovered that I’d left both my ATM card and my driver’s license in a different purse. Yes, I had driven to the meeting, in my brother-in-law’s car.
Again, turns out I had nothing to fear. Caitlin and I ate, drank and gabbed for a total of 8 hours; the one credit card I did have covered my share of the bill; and I didn’t get stopped by the police on the way home. Very lucky indeed, since I ended up taking pictures on and around the Brooklyn Bridge.
One screening of The Butler and marathon session of Project Runway (all of Season 7) with my 11 year old niece later, and it was time to go home.
Unfortunately, that IS where the excitetment ends, as Los Angeles does in no way compare to NYC. Still, it’s good to be back with Ruby and back in our routine. Here’s hoping I can ride the momentum of this trip for another few months, or at least until I get a motorcycle.
[in response to the Daily Post: Tell us about the last thing you got excited about — butterflies-in-the-stomach, giggling, can’t-wait excited]
What was the last thing that got you can’t-wait excited?
Do you care if people like you? Or do you care if certain people like you?
Not that long ago, I used to want everyone to like me and (surprise) be insecure about it. If someone didn’t respond to an email, call me back, or accept an invitation to hang out, I used to wonder, What did I do? Does this person not like me anymore? Did they ever?
Over the years, several so-called friends (all female) ended our friendship because they perceived me as doing something wrong, or their feelings were hurt by something I did or said. One woman got mad at me because I had lunch with her ex-boyfriend after he broke up with her. He was a screenwriter and we were discussing one of my scripts at the lunch, but my friend thought I was trying to “move in on her territory.” Nothing I could say or do would appease her. She simply didn’t want to be friends with “someone who would do that.”
On the other hand, I’ve had some friends since childhood, girls with whom I’ve had terrible rows and not talked to for periods of time. Some of my closest friends are the ones I’ve fought with the most, like my friend T, the producer. She once hired me, a relatively new friend to her at the time, as a director on a project. We had such heated arguments that our friendship almost didn’t make it. Now, years later, I consider her family and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her.
In the digital age, the word “like” has taken on even more significance. People “like” your blog posts, “like” you on Facebook, “favorite” or “re-tweet” your tweets, and so on.
If you’re an artist, as much as you try to be true to yourself and ignore bad reviews, it’s hard not to wonder if people will like your work, if not wish for it.
If you’re a writer of non-fiction, or even fiction, the reality is you might be disliked by the people you’ve written about, or the people who “inspired you.” Philip Roth, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Burroughs, Stephen King, and countless others, all based stories and characters on their own lives and experiences. Did everyone in their lives like this? Doubtful.
I sometimes think about this with my own work. Some of the people who stood by me during Kaz’s illness and after his death might not like what they read in my memoir. Should I change things to try and avoid falling out of their favor? Scary as the prospect might be, I don’t think so.
My relationships with people are important. But the fact is, if someone decides to stop being friends with me because of something I write (or say, or some perceived offense), then perhaps they weren’t my real friend to begin with. They might have thought they loved me, but in reality they loved an image of who they thought I was, not who I really am.
I want to be a good friend and a good person, make my family and friends proud. Most of all, make Kaz proud. But I no longer care (as much) if people like me personally. I no longer take people’s reactions, or lack thereof, as personally as I used to. It’s not that I’m oblivious, or made of stone. I’m the first to admit I have a healthy ego. The difference is I no longer judge myself by how others perceive me. I try my best to love myself no matter what.
Creative folks wantneed to be creative in order to function, much like an athlete needs routine exercise. We need to work in our office or studios, without interruptions, without noise (unless that’s your thing), without worries. We need physical and mental solitude, freedom, and space, within which our imagination can soar and the divine spirit of creativity can flow.
Pablo Picasso, Photo credit: Edward Quinn
However, unless we’re Picasso or some other mega-successful artist who can hire nannies, maids, bookkeepers, gardeners, dog walkers, and so on, we have to take care of all these and other responsibilities ourselves. We might even have to work a day job until we make a living from our creative pursuits. Many of us find ourselves spending all of our time just trying to survive and manage our households, less time on our art, and very far away from “solitude, freedom, and space.” If we’re not willing to abandon our families, pets, jobs, or creative passions, what can we do?
One of my favorite quotes, originally sent to me by my sister (who got it from another person) several years ago: “Be regular and orderly in your life so you may be violent and original in your work.” What does it mean to be regular and orderly? Let’s break it down step by step.
Before doing anything else, you must get organized. Get a filing cabinet, some folders, paper clips, stickies, stapler, tabs, whatever you need to sort and order all the paperwork of life. If you work in a large office, you could always “borrow” some of the smaller stuff (just don’t walk out with a filing cabinet or shredder). Once you have your supplies, go through all your papers and
Throw shit out. You might think you need a hard copy of every bank statement and bill, but in this digital age you absolutely do not. Almost everything can be found online, which means you should throw out (or shred) the hard copy, including any random piles of articles, recipes or directions you printed out months ago. You can find it online.
Create piles. Whatever paperwork you keep, put in piles: automobile, children, medical, pet, mortgage, legal records, etc, etc. You might end up with six piles. You might end up with twenty. If you end up with 100 piles, something is terribly wrong. Remember, you should only be keeping what cannot be found online.
File the piles. Put the piles into folders, label the folders, store the folders in filing cabinet, put filing cabinet aside. Congratulations. You just created a lot more space and peace of mind.
Create a budget and schedule of expenses. This could be as easy as looking at your monthly bank statement and seeing how much money goes where/when. Make a list and consider programming your online calendar (or your phone) with reminders of when certain bills are coming up. Your expenses shouldn’t be a mystery and bills should never come as a surprise. You don’t want to think about money (or the lack of it) any more than necessary.
Create a personal schedule. It doesn’t have to be militaristic, but plan out your average day from beginning to end, even if you never refer to it again, just to see how you’re using your time. See if you can “schedule” some creative time into your day or week, then inform your family, “On this day(s), from this hour to that hour, I am not to be disturbed.” Post your schedule where everyone can see it, and stick to it. If necessary, lock your door to keep intruders out. If your intruders are too young to be left completely alone, then schedule your creative time for when they’re asleep, doing their homework, or not at home.
Create a long-term schedule. This could be a month, six months, one year, five years, or all of the above, but doing this will help you determine how to prioritize your projects and manage your time. Are you working towards a show, application or publication deadline? Where do you see yourself in three years creatively? What do you need to do to make that happen? Work backwards and set your deadlines. If you have no specific goals for now, that’s okay too. Sometimes we simply need time and space to think.
Create your work. Once you’ve organized your papers, taken care of all the mundane “life” stuff, informed your household of your schedule, locked your door and taken a moment to soak in the reality that you are FREE to create now… do your happy dance, set your spirit free, let your imagination go wild, be bold, and take risks. This is YOUR time.
Today’s post expands on the topic of Digital Media Marketing. Our guest is Melissa Watson Coetzee, an American woman who studied Communications Curation and Criticism of Art and Design at Central Saint Martins in London, where she lived for 5 years before moving back to America. Now she is the President of the West Coast Chapter of her Alumni Association in LA, works with a theater publishing company as their Digital Media Editor/Curator and organizes events, conferences and festivals.
Let’s start with the basics. How would you describe Digital Media Marketing to someone who just walked out of the woods and had no idea what it is?
If I had to describe Digital Media Marketing in its simplest form I would say it is marketing done in a digital format – which means the option to market your business and connect with your target demographic all without the use of print. It’s about saving the trees really. You can be cost effective and go green all at the same time.
How does DMM relate to blogging? What’s the relationship between the two?
A blog represents different things to different people and organizations. For some people it’s their creative outlet, they have no intention in making money with it. They just use it as a form of expression. In some situations the blog is the hub of their online community. In this instance all of their social platforms will point back to their blog because that is their main platform. For some people a blog is incorporated as an element of a website as a way to increase SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and communicate with their audience. It all depends on how you want to approach it and what your desired outcome is. Everyone has different reasons for putting themselves out there.
Do you think artists need to promote themselves in addition to their work?
If in your practice, whatever that may be, you want to make money, then you need a business plan, and in that business plan there should be a strategic outreach and marketing plan. Part of that marketing plan should be social media promotion. With social media you really have the opportunity to show the “human” side of your business; to show the person behind the work, creating the opportunity for people to feel they are supporting a person not just a business entity.
What do you think makes a good blog?
A good blog is one that has a purpose and commits to that purpose. It acknowledges its readership, is loyal to them, and updates consistently.
I like that you can learn about anything anytime online. If you have a topic in mind there is probably a blog about it. Now you have to take the information with a grain of salt because it is not vetted through an editor of fact checker (depending on the blog). The point being is that through digital media people who would not meet in their day to day lives are able to connect and communicate with other likeminded individuals. This has created opportunities for an open source platform where people connect from across the globe on a topic and all contribute their own ingenuity and perspective towards its development.
Have you ever blogged for others? If so, how was that experience different than blogging for yourself?
When you ghost blog you have to be very clear on the tone of the blog and who you are communicating to. Just like when writing for a newspaper or magazine there needs to be very clear style guidelines. My website (www.CreativelyInformed.com) has had many incarnations over the years but the name has always stayed the same. It is important when you are a freelancer to have a web presence. I might feel as though I didn’t quite exist or be taken seriously if I didn’t know how to manage a website. It would be like being an expert mechanic and not driving in your day to day life. You really have to know your craft if you want to be taken seriously, and demonstrate that you are on top of the ever evolving game.
What do you do now and how does DMM factor in?
When I moved to Los Angeles after college, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do but I knew I needed a job and quick. I had previous experience in web development and a background in marketing so I made a presentation of how social media can and does affect small businesses and started pitching to various companies. Eventually, I landed a job at FootLights Publishing Inc. and the rest, as they say, is history.
At the moment, I work with lamart.com and digital media is my preferred marketing platform. It’s more cost effective than print and in this economy trying to get money for marketing is like getting blood from a stone. People don’t have the money to spend they once did and so they have to be strategic about where they spend the little money they do have. With digital media marketing you get the instant gratification you are looking for, it is easy to monitor and track your ads, and you can build and audience quickly and relatively inexpensively.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
I wish I had the answer to that — oh wait, no I don’t. I don’t think life is meant to be all planned out. I am excited about the next step in my life, but life moves so fast I am doing my best to live in the moment. The next 5 -10 years will come quickly enough and take care of themselves. I do want to focus my professional development on community engagement digitally as well as in the “real” world. I am very interested in different cultures and how they interact, but in the end we are all very much the same.
This is why I created the Global Photo Project at www.creativelyinformed.com. This photo project tracks the festivals and community gatherings around the globe. It started as a one year project but has moved onto something I will do as an annual exhibition.
This project is not about photography but is more about documenting days in our lives that mean the most to us and it just happens that many of those days are the days in which we engage with our communities, whatever those may be. I would really like to see digital media tear down cultural and logistical barriers but that is in the grand scheme things. Social Media really leveled the playing field for people to be more independent and support their own independent businesses and reach their target audiences in a way they could not do before.
Where do you see DMM in the next 5-10 years?
That is up for the people to decide. It is here now, and is not going anywhere. Platforms will come and go but we all live online now so there is no avoiding it. My hope is that digital media functions as a platform for social consciousness, as a way for us to see the world as a whole and not be so separated. I love the concept of open source development and I hope through having the capacity to connect digitally that we can connect more openly and inter-culturally. It is fitting that this is posted today Dec 21 2012 because this really is the dawning of a new age.
You recently got married. Did you incorporate social media into your wedding?
I actually did my best to keep my wedding off of social media. The only images of my wedding on Facebook were placed there by the photographer (who is a friend of mine). I in no way wanted my wedding to be added marketing/advertising for the vendors. Some things are private family affairs in my book. Other people feel differently and live their lives open on the web and I say more power to them, it just was not my path.
Last thoughts/advice for the readers?
There is still a thing such as privacy. If you don’t want anybody to know about it, then don’t put it online. Even if you think you have optimized your permissions, or have kept it anonymous. Your digital footprint lasts forever so make it a footprint you want everyone (even your mother) to see.
Thank you for being the first interview on Riding Bitch Blog.
Thank you for inviting me! I’m excited to see how your journey and blog develops.
If you have any questions for Melissa, feel free to leave them below.