The first thing we did in the workshop was go around and introduce ourselves. Anthem Salgado asked us to briefly describe our reasons for attending the workshop and our end goals. Except for my name, I didn’t have solid answers for any of the intro questions, which was itself a wake-up call.
I signed up for the workshop because of a gut feeling. Anthem’s promise to teach us “fundamental, not elective, skills” resonated with me, as well as his implicit assertion that it’s possible to succeed as an independent artist (one without institutional support). Since I have no art school or MFA background, this appealed to me very much. It was as if Anthem knew the path I’d chosen and said, “I can give you the skills you need to succeed on this path.” Better yet, there was a money-back guarantee, so I had nothing to lose.
The workshop provided what it said it would: inspiration, encouragement, and a friendly nudge in the artistic ribs; a crash course on writing artist statements, press releases, and letters of agreement; and a primer on how to market ourselves to the public. It’s all about telling a story, Anthem explained; the tools are secondary. With artists there from many disciplines, the workshop also created great (and fun) networking opportunities: an installation artist met a musician, crafters connected with photographers, poets and memoirists discussed starting a writing group. But the best thing I got out of it was figuring out why I was there in the first place. My favorite way to uncover my goals is to ask myself, “What am I not happy about, when it comes to ____?” When I got to the Kearny Street Workshop space that morning, I still hadn’t asked myself that question about hustling my art out in the world. But the workshop forced me to ask it, right in front of about twenty other people! Listening to others state their goals and ask their questions, vague thoughts formed and began to come together.
During the last portion of the workshop, we did a group brainstorming exercise called Idea Table, in which we all had five minutes to ask the group a single question and get their collective feedback. At that time my question still wasn’t fully articulated, so it came out awkward and only half-coherent, but somehow people still came up with really helpful responses. The question I asked (or what I would have asked, if I’d had days to think on it!) was: “How can I consolidate my scattershot online presence into something coherent that has a following?” I have a website, two blogs, a Facebook page, an Etsy shop, a flickr… I think that’s it, but I’m not even sure! And since I write, draw, and craft, this covers a lot of potential audiences, but right now the sites are fragmented and so is the audience. Not only did Idea Table give me advice that I’ve since made into a long-range, multi-phase plan, the workshop as a whole helped me realize just how much the issue bothered me. That is amazing. Next week, I’m launching a new format on my blog that will better serve my range of interests (and audiences) — including a regular Friday “open mic” where writers can share what they’ve been creating that week. So, fellow writers and readers, come on down to http://satsumaart.wordpress.com on August 6!
Best of all, the plan I made after the workshop dovetails perfectly with another one of my recent realization-inspired projects: prioritizing my life and my art. As I kept saying in the workshop, my interests go in too many directions; it’s only recently hit me that if I don’t pare away the inessentials and focus on the core of what I’m doing, I risk mediocrity at everything. So, even though The Art of the Hustle kind of shook me up, it was in the best possible way, and it’s actually cleared the way for me to keep moving forward more effectively and happily than before. I’m very glad I went — and finally I know why I did!