Bazlings! You must forgive us for this long absence. We did think of you often, looking out to sea like a heroine from a romance novel, but never fear for we are back, and once more with open arms. And apparently straight out of the 18th century. Um, we missed you ok? That’s the jist.
Shuffles awkwardly, scuffs shoe.
Ahem. So. Anyway, we hope this sunny(?) June is treating you well, we ourselves are still drying out from Henry V at the Globe, just one of the trilogy our own AD Sarah has directed, and it was so. Worth. It. And the rain. It can’t put a dampener on such a brilliant production so we implore you, go to all the Henrys posthaste.
But now, onto business. We have some very exciting things in the wings, as ever, but recently they have been ramping up excitingly. More news on that later. But for now, we want to reach out to you, dear and loyal creative, boss, lynchpin, key worker that you are. Regardless of what you do, our summer of content should be for you. And we’re talking Wellbeing. In an industry such as ours, there can be many traps, false floors and secret fire escapes that are actually not part of the set ready to make this already fairly unwieldy path a little more difficult. Sometimes you are your own obstruction, without meaning to be. With this series of blogs over the summer we hope to tackle this head on with tips and tricks, methods, good reading, and good listening. That’ll make sense in a moment, we promise.
This time, we’re on about the Wall of No. Anyone who does anything mildly freelance will know to what we refer in good time and will, hopefully gain something from this, but in particular we mean the creative industries where you have to stand alone: actress, director, producer, artist, dancer, writer...the list goes on. If you’re not represented, it can be a tough and lonely path as The Wall of No raises ever higher. So the Wall. We should explain. For an unrepresented ‘emerging’ writer for theatre for example, this is, say, a deadline for a national prize for writing. They go to LondonPlaywrights.Com and use the deadline planner, prepare work, and like flowers in summer, lay seedlings all over the place, working through their list of deadlines with aplomb, and growing confidence. For the artist it's submissions for a particular theme for a magazine or competition completed, for actors and dancers it's being called to audition. It is a wonderful feeling, come on, admit it is, where you get that call/meet that deadline/ ace that submission and you are happy. Successful, confident, sated.
And that’s what the deadlines are for. The temptation to rest back on your heels, to stop, to think you’ve aced it, no more to do is strong but the best thing you can do is forget about it once it's done. Literally do something else, preferably still in that natural endorphin afterglow of completing a project or task, and move on to the next one. Always be working, striving, healthy. Already the Wall is made up of significantly less bricks. There’s nothing to be done to avoid the Wait, but it's important to avoid adding bricks to the Wall by using deadlines for your own purpose - as a bookend to the play/project you’ve been putting work into, not a message in a bottle that you spend three months squinting out into the horizon looking for. It’s a stepping stone for your own process, not all your hopes and aspirations tied up in a solitary bow.
Remember that your work could and can be for anyone, so use the deadline for your organisation purposes, and to get the thing done. When it is, let it go like a greyhound on the track, and to anyone you can think of that would welcome it. Get a calendar, preferably a big one with Monet’s water lilies on it, and mark the deadlines/competitions and castings you have got coming up, cross them off, mean it, and look at it often to remind yourself you’ve done it and congratulate yourself. Be kind to yourself, and treat yourself as if you are your own best friend, one you really rally for. Most importantly, don’t be a perfectionist and let yourself be stopped before you’ve even begun and end up down there in that dark hole of endless YouTube ‘best of’ videos. There, you get dragged into the three Ps as diagnosed and recognised by therapy techniques:
And guess what. These three buggers, aided and abetted by social media stalking of others in your industry, the internet in general, or letting yourself be defeated by the blank page are the grouting for a certain structure. But they needn’t be, if you spot it, and pull the weeds. Most walls, true, you can’t go through, but you can go up, over and around. It can be easy to fall into the grip of the Wait, agonising and punishing as it can be. It's still only a temptation and one that needs to be avoided at all costs, or failure, and of your own making is imminent.
If a No comes around, let it wash over you only the once, recognise it briefly and then move it to your mental Trash bin. In reality, make a folder, preferably online to keep, but ultimately file away. Disappointment is no use to creative process, move onto the next. This all may sound very straightforward, basic even, but it’s easy to forget when the creative industry is so inexorably tied to ourselves; our emotions, our wants, our points of view, our worlds. It's an emotional world too, as at its core, the creative wishes to move you, and will employ as much of themselves as possible into it to make the most impact. Needless to say, audiences miraculously quiet as one when the house lights go down, people wander with a hushed respect in a gallery, passers by will stop and give money for an impressive public performance on the street. Whatever it is you do, it comes from your soul, but that doesn’t mean your success comes at the cost of it. When not creating, it’s business, not wishful thinking.
Man are we passionate about this. But it’s true, here at Baz we are made up of creatives; our ADs have other roles than the theatre company; as an actor, director, and exec respectively. Even Jess, our resident pen is a playwright so believe us, we have lived these things, survived to tell the tale, and created Baz for the very purpose of making the art we want to make, and seeing the people onstage we want to see create it live. We come from the Wall of No, if you like, we’ve been made by the same strong sturdy stuff, and we hear you. And believe us when we say, we really want you to succeed, whatever it is you do. To that end then:
Positivity: Key. Healthy mind > good creative business for the creative. Download the Calm App, read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, employ mindfulness techniques and listen to hilarious podcasts such as Craig Parkinson’s Two Shot Pod, David Tennant Meets…, The Guilty Feminist and Simon Stephens’ Playwright’s Podcast.
Organisation: Use a calendar or diary that is decidedly not intertwined and very separate to your personal life and use twitter, artsjobs and notifications to build a deadline calendar and steadily tick them off. Be aware of when you are supposed to ‘hear’ but most importantly, separate that information from your head so it doesn’t lay roots. It belongs in the book or on the wall, and you are smashing those deadlines and castings, dude.
Immersion: Remember to be on top of your game - go and see productions if you can: first nights and previews are usually cheaper, and apps like TodayTix do Rush offers on tickets. For Londoners, The Royal Court do £12 Monday tickets, and the NT does £15 tickets for under 26s. At Theatre Royal Plymouth and the Drum, where the beat of new writing’s drum is often played, tickets are often £10 and at the Royal Exchange you can see every shiny thing there for a mere £7 if you are a student, or under 26. If you want to write, read. If you want to paint, or snap, visit. Know what shape it's all taking so you are ready to take your spot with all that knowledge behind you.
Find Your People: And actually meet them. Everyone knows their lives are nowhere near as glam as social media would have you believe, so go and make contact. Sure, make contacts too, but link up with other writers or artists, find a common ground, perhaps someone to read or look at your work for feedback. Join a book club, go to the theatre or gallery as a group. This idea of the solitary artist has been much aggrandised but it’s horsepoo, you’ll be invigorated by the talent around you, and you’ll rub off on them, too. Not everything is a competition. Plus, it's always fun to whinge into a glass of wine with someone else who gets it.
That wall don’t stand a chance, mate.
See you on the other side.
Much love, and luck!