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Working Smart vs. Working Hard: Creating Art without Destroying Yourself

“Because of the work, I fear never finding a man to love, to grow old with, to kiss me on my dying breath. I fear that one day I will die alone in my one bedroom condominium. I will be eaten by my three cats and not found for several weeks, the majority of my digested body found buried in kitty litter. So, to circumvent (what feels like) my inevitable fate, I have begun to explore the difference between working hard and working smart.”

workinghardCaleb McMullen on his Irrational Fear of Being Eaten by Cats

My theatre company is on the eve of incorporating as a not-for-profit organization; a reasonable and necessary next step in the evolution of Mnemonic Theatre Productions. However, I stagger at the thought of the work required to achieve and succeed in this endeavour. It is, perhaps, a moment that we all feel privately before taking on our next artistic undertaking.

There is a difference between working hard and working smart. I know how to work hard. I grab my art by the horns, wrestle it to the ground, tie it up and leave the arena bloody and bruised. However, this working smart concept has never come easily to me. And now with the inevitable incorporation process shadowing my every move, I am forced to evaluate my work ethic.

Because of the work, I fear never finding a man to love, to grow old with, to kiss me on my dying breath. I fear that one day I will die alone in my one bedroom condominium. I will be eaten by my three cats and not found for several weeks, the majority of my digested body found buried in kitty litter. So, to circumvent (what feels like) my inevitable fate, I have begun to explore the difference between working hard and working smart.

FEED YOURSELF

Working smart means remembering to enjoy life for everything it has to offer. How can we as artists share our art when we are not feeding ourselves with new stories and experiences? See the world around you and let yourself be entertained by the infinite number of possibilities that are available to you through your imagination. Say ‘yes’ to the opportunities.

This feeding of the spirit should occur between projects, but also on a daily basis. While taking a trip to a foreign country may not always be an option, looking at something differently and developing a new appreciation for the world around you can be.

Artists look at the world differently. We can see colours and details, subtle changes that transform, destroy and create. We empathize, put ourselves in others shoes. We see the soul through the eyes to what lies beneath. But, all this requires constant practice. It is a way of life and by working smart, we remember to take the time to see, to say ‘yes’, to exercise our imaginations, to create real stories from which to draw, experiences that can be graciously shared.

APPRECIATE THE OPPORTUNITIES

Working smart means to remember to love what you do. It is very easy to make an enemy of the work. It becomes what gets in the way of life and not what enhances it. While the work from time to time may seem arduous, the prize is what is waiting for you at the end. The work you do now changes the outcome of the art itself. The love that you bring for the work allows you to push through the tedious tasks like marketing or fundraising, handing out postcards on a busy street corner, writing letters to media personnel or editing a website, so that you can get to the joy that is in the creation of the art.

It is not enough to simply love to create theatre (unless someone is already paying you to do just that). Self-producing requires an infinite number of tasks for which you may not have all the skills. Working smart means to enhance your skill sets to complete the necessary tasks. There is joy in completing a task well. Celebrate those successes and find joy in striking another item off your to-do list.

When we love the process, the process doesn’t seem so vile and uncomfortable. We all want what we want, but when we savour the moments, savour the people, we can develop an understanding of how our success can be attained. We can track our process through celebrating the small victories.

ALLOW FOR FAILURE TO BE AN OPTION

Working smart means to trust that you are capable of achieving what you set out to do. It also means that you understand that you are never alone. It requires an infinite amount of trust to collaborate effectively. It’s easy to strong hold a project, but through proper delegation, you allow your fellow artists the opportunity to succeed.

And, “what if we fail?” “We fail! But, screw your courage to the sticking place and we’ll not fail.” At the end of the day, it’s just theatre. People have been failing at it for centuries. The real failure, however, is failing and never trying again without having learned what caused the failure in the first place. On our first full-scale production, we lost $5000: money well spent. We learned from the process and carried onward.

I believe that if I remember to live, to love and to trust that the work set out before me will not only be easier, but will also be more rewarding. Most importantly, I will be happier and more willing to accept projects that are bigger than me. I will be willing to push the boundaries of what I think are my limitations, to discover something new and at the end of my life be rewarded with the stories that I have accumulated.

It is possible to achieve greatness in art without destroying ourselves in the process.
As I endeavour to work smart, remembering to live, love and trust, I will report back to you with my findings.


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Caleb McMullen

Written by Caleb McMullen

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheatreisforSuckers.com

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