Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneur’

Smiling as Loudly as We Can

In Author: Gwydhar Bratton, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on November 14, 2009 at 2:50 am

“Don’t worry if you don’t hear the audience laughing during dress rehearsal. They’re old. They’re smiling as loudly as they can.”

-Tim Frawley,Theatre Director, Libertyville High School

The high school I attended had an ongoing tradition of inviting elderly citizens from the community to come see dress rehearsals so that they didn’t have to pay full price for tickets on performance nights. The laughter and applause of an elderly audience was never as loud or as enthusiastic as an audience full of our families and peers, but at least the house was full. As students and as artists, it was very easy to feel doubtful. Here we were in dress rehearsal on the verge of a production that we’d worked very hard on in front of an audience and the first time. We were projecting ourselves out into a darkened auditorium and hoping for some kind of response. We had no way of knowing whether all our hard work resulted in something we could be proud of unless we could hear the audience laugh at the jokes. And sometimes we didn’t even get that satisfaction.

In such unforgiving economic times it is easy to feel that dress-rehearsal doubt. We cross our fingers and tell ourselves to “break a leg” because we don’t even want to risk frightening away good luck. When we take risks, whether as an artist or as an entrepreneur, we put ourselves out on stage under bright lights staring out into a vast darkened empty space with no way of knowing whether anyone is watching. We have no way of knowing whether we are succeeding or failing except by the responses that we get from other people. And like in theatre, sometimes that response never comes.

If we’re wise, we carry on even in the face of apparent apathy. At times like this, when the auditorium in which we perform seems to be dark and empty and vast we may not be able to see our audience but we need to remember they are there. The audience is seeing us because we are there to be seen. And they are smiling as loudly as they can.

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Collective Brainstorming

In Author: Jim Hart on November 5, 2009 at 11:30 am

Just as the energy of moving water can propel a water wheel into motion, so can stimulus engage the imagination and our creative impulses. We need input, in order to output. We need gas in our mental engines, in order to move forward. Group brainstorming can provide such fuel.

Brainstorming. What a great word. For me, it conjures up a storm in the mind. Electricity. One of my favorite acts to engage in, in the creative process, is collective brainstorming. It is an act that can generate phenomenal inspiration and can generate ideas that would not have been possible, without this contribution of multiple minds.

In building my first school, TITAN Teaterskole (in Oslo, Norway), I created a course that was exclusively dedicated to the act of collective brainstorming. I called it Studio Lab.

Here are are some foundation rules that we found especially strong in stimulating constructive brainstorming:

o   Egos must be checked at the door. Each individual in the group needs to sacrifice their personal motivations and desires, in order to act in the service of the larger group/project/idea. We must let go of emotional connection to ideas we come up with or get excited about. In the words of legendary choreographer Martha Graham, “We must kill our children”. I believe she means that we must sometimes sacrifice those ideas that our personal treasures. It is very easy to become married to an idea. Sometimes, in order to create our larger work and to make it as strong as possible, we must kill or sacrifice ideas that we love the most.

o    There is no “right”. There is no “wrong”. There is only what we create. What we create today will be different from what we create tomorrow. Why put value on it so early in the process? One thing for sure…collaboration is a process of evolution. It is a process of change. Sometimes our creations are built upon seemingly non-connected ideas. Sometimes our best impulses are sitting on a foundation of others’ ideas. Ideas are born upon one another.

o    Don’t censor yourself. As long as we are judging and censoring our ideas, they will not see the light of day. Sometimes, we come up with an idea that we are reluctant to share. In such an environment, why would we be reluctant? Typically, it is because we fear the judgment of others. Here is one of my favorite Martha Graham Quotes:

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive.

~Martha Graham to Agnes  de Mille

Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway and The Hart Technique.  http://www.harttechnique.com

Find Happiness Through Risk.

In Author: Jim Hart on October 27, 2009 at 1:57 am

All entrepreneurs, by definition, must engage with risk.

What is your risk tolerance?image of dice

Let me ask you a few questions.

Are you doing what you love for a living? If you aren’t already, would you like to?

What would you be willing to do to have the happiness that can come from doing what you love for a living?

Almost all businesses require money to begin. Thus begins our relationship with risk.

How much would you be willing to pay to potentially achieve your dream? How important are dreams to you?

Would you spend $1,000? How about $10,000?

Can you place a value on your career happiness and your feeling of work fulfillment?

How about $50,000? If you could make that investment, which would engage you in a process that may lead you to career fulfillment, would it not be worth $50,000? Is it worth more?

Many of us are forced into “survival jobs”, to do work that is not creatively fulfilling and is work we would not do in the first place, if we had another viable income.

If you were in such a place, what would it be worth to you to be able to leave that world behind and make a living from your creativity?

Would you be willing to risk your lifestyle?

If you like to eat out, would you be willing to sacrifice that part of your life? Would you be willing to eat in for almost all of your meals?

Would you be willing to eat less expensive food, if it might lead to your dreams?

Would you be willing to simplify almost all aspects of your life, to decrease your risk in pursuing your dream? Simple adjustments can have profound effects.

Almost all people feel a drive and need to work, to create, and do something productive. A lot of people feel very empowered and…dare I say…*happy* when they are doing the work they love. Then work is less work and more a joy.

If you had to sacrifice your lifestyle and finances for three years or longer, in order to achieve potential long term financial and career success, would you be willing to do that?

Here is the real crux…What if you invest all of that time, money and energy and do not succeed as you desire? What if you don’t fulfill your dream? That is a risk, too.

But what if you do?

Risking and sacrificing are, in some ways, like quitting smoking. For those who have smoked, you will know what I am talking about.

Those addicted to smoking, when they quit, will likely experience the following:

•    Your mind will play tricks on you, convincing you of why you REALLY NEED to smoke, why it is actually good for you.

•    You will profusely sweat and loose significant sleep

•    Your mind will fixate on cigarettes for nearly every thought of your day. One thought after another…hour after hour.

•    But, what one often finds too, is a feeling of empowerment.

These experiences are trying, exhausting and difficult to navigate.

For many ex smokers, 2 weeks was the magical point of gaining strength. If one can make it to the 2-week mark, without succumbing to withdrawal and all the temptation and mind games, they have a good chance of quitting successfully.

Engaged effort over a span of time, can give us a great sense momentum, of accomplishment and of purpose. Over time, we begin to see the fruit of our labors…or at least that the tree is in bloom and may fruit.

At this state, we gain perspective. We realize we would not have made it to even this point, had we not made the investments that were necessary. We are then that much closer to achieving our goal. The beginning risks, at this point, start to seem smaller and smaller, less and less significant.

Effort decreases entrepreneurial risk.

You can’t win the game, unless you play.

For greater happiness and creative fulfillment, what are you willing to risk?

Beginning a new endeavor, one, inevitably, has to sacrifice, has to risk. But, with time and continued effort, the enormity of the task, seems a little smaller.

For more information on Jim Hart and The Hart Technique, see http://www.harttechnique.com

Inspirado, My Sweet Muse

In Author: Jim Hart on October 24, 2009 at 3:17 am

A number of years ago, while at Yale, I had the good fortune to meet renowned playwright, Arthur Miller (author of The Crucible, Death of a Salesman and All My Sons). This was, for me, a truly magical encounter, as he is one of my favorite writers. I asked him if he, in his creative process, met inspiration at the door OR if he consciously sought it out. He responded that it is different with every occasion, but that sometimes one must look for it.

inspired eyeVision Seeking. What a romantic coupling of words. For me, it brings to my mind the mythic vision quest, where a hero strikes out with the express intent to have adventure, to experience new stimuli and to find inspiration.

Not all of us are blessed with a regular muse. Sometimes, we must make a conscious, concerted effort to hunt down the often elusive Inspirado.

For many artists, inspiration is a seductive, but fleeting lover. We bask in this lover’s affection and reap the reward of their presence. But, this lover is rarely around long enough and leaves you longing for another encounter.

Inspiration can come in many forms and ways. Sometimes, I feel that I am holding a very fine silk thread and am gently following it, hand over hand, hoping it does not break. At other times, I feel that I have been hit by lightning and vision unrolls before my like a long Persian rug.

Waiting for inspiration to arrive is a waste of time and creative energy. Why? Because waiting for inspiration is another form of giving away one’s power and most entrepreneurs and independent artists crave autonomy. It is marvelous to have inspiration. But, when it is not present, we must find other ways of moving forward.

Here are some tools I have found useful in luring Inspirado. I hope some of these may help you.

  1. Give yourself time. Dedicate time to actively look. Books, for me, often inspire. My wife and I have a large collection of books that focus on various painters´ works. Also, my wife, having been a professional dancer, has many books on choreographers, companies and dancers. I pour through these pages, seeking stimulation. Inevitably, it comes.

  2. Gardening. In myth, it is a symbol of the soul. For me, gardening is a constantly evolving, living canvas. Structuring a garden is always a temporary act. Nature takes it back so fast. Being in nature and engaging in creation, stimulates me greatly.

  3. Brainstorm. I love this word. A storm of the mind. Chat with a good brainstorming friend (someone with intelligence and their ego under some control). One idea can give birth to another (and often does). In this process, listen a lot, see the ideas in your mind and follow whatever impulse arises (without first judging it). You think it? Go with it. It does not matter whether you think it is a worthy impulse or not. Throw it out, as it may stimulate another person you are working with and may be a better idea than you initially thought. No self-censorship.

  4. Change your routine. We are all creatures of habit. Many of us have a structure to our lives that causes us to not see things around us. We take the typical for granted. Such eyesight can lead to a lack of “seeing”. Meditation can help. Bump up against stimuli you might not otherwise encounter. Walk around the block and go a way you do not normally go. Be open to conversations with others you do not typically communicate with. Go to the magazine rack and pick up a magazine that has nothing to do with your typical interests. Look for text that pops off of pages for you.

  5. Engage in dialog about what interests you with people of like interest. Such talk can serve to stimulate, inspire collaborations and cultivate energy.

  6. Be rested. An exhausted mind and body, often, do not yield inspiring results.

  7. Begin to make something. Create. Develop a sense of momentum. Doing so will help you to begin moving forward. Think of your own energy like that of rolling a stone down a hill. While the stone is fixed in space, it can be difficult to move it. But once it begins to roll, it develops more and more speed as it rolls down the hill.

  8. Find a sense of balance within your life. I have found that if I am not attending to all of my basic needs as a person, that inspiration is less likely to find me. Lack of attention to my needs, for me, creates a feeling of gap or lacking. I will then feel unsettled and unhealthy habits might begin. Such a feeling can slow my momentum and lead towards inertia. Sometimes, we are not able to fully attend to all of our needs. In such a case, try to find a “sense of balance”. Schedule time to commit some small energy towards the filling of your need gaps. In doing so, a greater sense of “wholeness” can arise and, consequently, happiness and better use of ones´ energy and mind.

  9. Go down a rabbit hole. My favorite rabbit hole is YouTube. I like to watch videos of something that fascinates me and then keep following the links.

  10. Play. Engaging in a playful state of mind will, invariably, get our imaginations firing. When I say, “play”, I truly mean just that. Engage in a ridiculous scenario or activity and play with as you did when you were a child. Don’t judge. Engage. Commit to your sense of play with wholly, with abandon and joy.

  11. Play with your imagination. Ask, “What if”? What if you had a million dollars? What if you were elected President. What would your first day of office look like? The more you use your imagination, the stronger it, as a muscle, becomes. The more you use it, the more you are able to use it. The imagination is one of the partners of the dance.
  12. Cultivate your emotional intelligence. Inspiration comes from the imagination (and emotions). When one is inspired, they are emotionally engaged. Emotional intelligence is one of the artists´ keystone tools. If you do not already have a good degree of sensitivity to your emotions, what you are regularly feeling, start. They are often not as scary as we believed they might be. Ride the wave of what you feel. Pay some attention to it. Name it. “I am feeling…excited or giddy”, for example. Name it to understand it. If you feel you are already too engaged with your emotions, try to channel them into activities or creations. Make something and let your emotion be the gasoline in the tank. Let your expression come out of that.

  13. Meditate. Willfully still your mind. Letting the constant clutter of our thoughts subside for a while, gives space to our imaginations. Present consciousness can enable us to see our world through a clearer lens.

Then…follow the silk thread, impulse after impulse. Keep following. Keep doing.

To learn more about author Jim Hart or The Hart Technique, see   http://www.harttechnique.com

Entrepreneurship and Collaboration

In Author: Linda Essig, Creativity and Innovation on October 23, 2009 at 3:06 am

teamworkThe literature on entrepreneurship often references the one “big idea;” the singular innovative vision for something new, often the invention of one singular talent.  But, as we know, it takes a team of many to actualize that one big idea.  I’ve been preparing to teach a unit next week on collaboration and the ways in which group work supports the process of entrepreneurship, especially the kind of creative thinking that often underlies arts entrepreneurship.  In my posting a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Warren Bennis and  Patricia Ward Biederman’s book ORGANIZING GENIUS: THE SECRETS OF CREATIVE COLLABORATION (Basic Books, 1998).  To prepare for my class next week, I’m using a selection from that text, as well as disciplinarily specific one, COLLABORATION IN THEATRE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR DEISGNERS AND DIRECTORS by Rob Roznowski and Kirk Domer (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). [In the interest of full disclosure, I note that Domer worked with me when he was a grad student at UW-Madison and I was on the faculty there.]  In reading and synthesizing these, I developed a list of actions we all can undertake to be more effective collaborators and entrepreneurial team members:

  1. Communicate
  2. Know your team members
  3. Ask questions
  4. Do your research
  5. Look for the “next thing,” not the last thing
  6. Look for relationships
  7. Be “deep generalists” rather than “narrow specialists” (Bennis)
  8. Work together toward a collective purpose
  9. Articulate the group’s mission
  10. Be optimistic
  11. Embrace the idea that groups are temporary and project-focused
  12. Find commonalities
  13. Listen, then adapt
  14. Listen, then participate
  15. Reach consensus
  16. Respect your team members

Teamwork: a challenge of arts entrepreneurship

In Author: Linda Essig, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on October 2, 2009 at 1:10 am

As I work with student arts entrepreneurs, I’ve found that one of the biggest challenges they face is putting together meaningful, appropriate, and supportive project teams. Why is it harder for an arts entrepreneur to do this than a traditional business-focused entrepreneur? I think the answer lies in the entrepreneur’s motivation. The traditional entrepreneur is motivated (often, if not usually) by the bottom line desire to make money from their venture. The arts entrepreneur, especially the student arts entrepreneur, may very well be motivated by the desire to create opportunity for the production and dissemination of their art. As I implied last week, an artist may want to “hang on for dear life” to their work, making the inclusion of others appear to be a threat or a hindrance rather than a help.

As Walter Bennis points out in “Organizing Genius: The Secret of Creative Collaboration,” “one is too small a number to produce greatness” (p. 3). At the end of the book, Bennis offers some “Take-Home Lessons,” including “Greatness starts with great people” (p. 197). He goes on to define the need for great people to make up great groups. These are people who “have more than enormous talent and intelligence. They have original minds. They see things differently. They can spot the gaps in what we know….They see connections. Often they have specialized skills, combined with broad interests and multiple frames of reference. They tend to be deep generalists, not broad specialists. They are not so immersed in one discipline that they can’t see solutions on another…” (p. 198).

The attributes Bennis lists are important to the formation of an effective arts entrepreneurship team. To cite just one example, a conductor starting a new community orchestra (as one of our p.a.v.e. students did) needs to assemble a team that includes not only musicians, but musicians with knowledge of community cultural development and a marketing manager who not only understands marketing but also has a deep knowledge of music. Fledgling arts entrepreneurs will need to learn to be open to input from their teams, because teams are smarter than individuals (see Bennis and also “The Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki). They need not “hang on for dear life” to one singular idea, but rather open their arms wide to embrace both the broad interests and specific skills of those smart and talented individuals they want on their teams.

The next challenge, then, is to locate appropriate team members and recruit them effectively. More on that next time!

What Type of Artist are You? What is your Function?

In Author: Jim Hart on September 9, 2009 at 5:49 am

Artists can play many roles in our society and have, throughout history, been thought to exist somewhere between high priest and prostitute.

When we look to cultures past, attempting to understand their values, their thinking, often we look at their art for insight.

(c) James Hart. Balinese Ritualistic Dance

(c) James Hart. Balinese Ritualistic Dance

Artists, unequivocally, play an valuable function in society, one that often achieves the test of time and promotes change and cultural identity.

Some artists don’t give a second thought as to what specific role they are playing or what impact their work might be having. Many do not know, specifically, who the audience is that they are trying to reach, to speak to and serve.

Here are some questions I encourage you to ask of yourself:

What role are you playing?

•    Are you serving to aide your audience to experience escapism? Do you help them to forget their troubles and be transported to fantasyland, to the realm of the imagination?

•    Do you serve as an agitator, to cause people to think, to stir up preconceptions?
•    Are you politically oriented, attempting to promote change?
•    Do you serve as educator?
•    Are you a conscience to your society, serving as a mirror, holding up what you see and reflecting it back to your audience?

There is a wide range of options.

In fact, one can play many roles, simultaneously.

In Bali, Indonesia, a culture I have had the privilege to spend a good amount of time in, the Topeng dancer serves as a literal conduit for the gods. The Balinese believe this dancer serves as a channel, through which, spiritual forces enter and exit, blessing the community in the process (this is a theatre of necessity). But these village rituals are not just spiritual ceremonies, but are entertainment as well. Like Shakespeare would craftily do, they speak to many audiences, simultaneously—from the educated higher castes to the peasant lower cast. These dances can, in the course of one evening, go from trance-induced performance of ancient ritual to bawdy genital humor. It serves a spiritual function AND as escapism. These ancient dances, repeated for literally thousands of years, give a sense of cultural identity to youth. It teaches them about who they are as a people and gives them a sense of communal pride and interconnectivity.

If you are not already doing so, I encourage you to be specific about what role or roles you would like to play. You do not have to wear the same hat each and every time you create. You can wear a different hat for each collaboration that you take part in.

Here are some more questions:

How might you like to be remembered, should your work stand the test of time?

What impact on your audience, culture, society, nation, and world would you like to have?

Do you have any interest in your work standing the test of time? Though that is something that we can never personally control, here is a clue in how to increase the likelihood of your work lasting some time: Speak via universal themes. Open your message to humanity. Speak to the human condition. Appeal to that which is universal to the human animal.

Do you have a message?

Do you have a voice?

What role will you play?

Jim Hart  is the founder of The Hart Technique, Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts and The International Theatre Academy Norway. For more information on these endeavors and Hart, see www.harttechnique.com

Where You Stumble, There Your Treasure Is.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 30, 2009 at 10:45 pm

I built a school in Oslo, Norway called The International Theatre Academy Norway, which begins its 6th year of operation this year. The school is entrepreneurial arts training for Theatre Artists.

One of the unique components of the school, and which I will incorporate into the new curriculum at Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA), which opens in Austin in August of 2010, is that students build original projects, which they implement in the community, outside of the school environment. We push the students into the market and the develop a professional network, while still in school.Where You Stumble, There Your Treasure Is.

I would give students the assignment that they must create a one-person show. The stipulation? They could use NONE of the school’s resources and had to produce the work in a professional or semi-professional space, outside of the school and in the community. They would then have to:

•    Write it
•    Direct it
•    Produce it
•    Act in it
•    Budget
•    Fundraise
•    Allocate funds
•    Generate all resources necessary
•    Negotiate and sign contracts for space, technical needs, etc.
•    Market their show
•    Generate press via radio, papers or TV
•    And finally put butts in seats (who paid to view their show) and profit.

In brief, they had to be largely self-sufficient and had to stand on their own legs, creatively and professionally. They had to be the engines for their own creativity. You can imagine this assignment was both exhilarating and terrifying.

I would tell the students, “The point is not to be as brilliant as Ibsen, though that would be great if you are, though it is improbable that you will be. Genius comes with time. The point of this exercise is to complete it”.

Some excelled in their process. They not only went through it, but generated large audiences, a good deal of press and made a profit.

Others fell squarely on their faces.  They felt the bitterness of defeat and humiliation. In conventional thinking, they “failed”.

But did they?

The failure of these students was equal as a learning experience as those who succeeded. In fact, in some cases, I think those who failed, learned more than those who “succeeded”.  Experience is comprised not only from our success, but our character-building failures.

For most of us, our fear of failure and judgment is what most impedes our action.

We must accept that we cannot always win and that failure is inevitable.

If we don’t try with all of our effort, wits and energy, we will never know what our potential might be. If we allow ourselves to fail before we complete our effort—to fail at, “I am not as brilliant as Ibsen” or “I am going to look stupid” or “I can’t do this…because I have never done it before”, then we are destined for a different kind of failure. This kind of failure is a failure of spirit. It is a failure of imagination. It is a failure of not heeding the call to adventure. In this type of failure, the world will never know what potential we posses, for we have not allowed ourselves to discover and express it. This type of failure is worst kind of all, as it is a failure towards our selves, rather than a failure of accomplishment.

Failure towards our selves can eat at our confidence, spirit, and sense of self. It is a weakening failure.

Failure of accomplishment—of having tried our hardest and of coming up short, can serve as a foundation for learning. This type of failure is a positive failure and is a stepping-stone, upon which to stand, as we build our next endeavor.

The hero’s journey is not one of following paths; it is one of making paths. Sometimes the hero stumbles. If they give up on their adventure at hardship and go home, the direction from which they came, they are no heroes, in fact. To quote from myth and Joseph Campbell, “Where you stumble, there your treasure is”.

We must learn from our failures. We must use our failures and we must expect failure, to some degree.

The exercise I gave my students, of being more self-sufficient, of being the engines of their own creativity, had a far-reaching effect for most. The effect was the realization, the illumination of, “I did that. I can do that”. This is a hugely empowering realization, for when they realize that they can, they do.

Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN Teaterskole), The Hart Technique and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA).  Jim Hart (James) can be contacted at jim@harttechnique.com  or http://www.harttechnique.com

Ten Steps to Finding your Artistic Voice.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 26, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Ten Steps to Finding your Voice.

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves”. — Carl Jung.

This is such a wonderful quote and is one of the keys towards finding ones voice as an artist.

Many artists fall into the trap of either imitating their favorite artists (attempting to serve as a cheap imitation of greatness) or by sticking too fast to their technique training they received in school. Remember that programs (meaning institutions educational offerings) do what they are called. They “program” students. It is very easy for artists to take the technique their teachers offer and become dogmatic about it, as though they have “found the answer”. Artists need to be careful that they do not fall into the trap of being “cookie cutter”.

When I was active as an actor in New York, following graduation from Yale School of Drama, I could easily tell which actors graduated from Yale, which from Juilliard and which from NYU. This is because the actors were products of their learning…of their programming and often behaved in relatively typical fashions. To the trained eye, it was easy to see.

Prior to going to graduate school, I was told by a friend and respected actor to be careful. He said, “Do not let them iron out what makes you unique”. I did not understand what he meant at the time, but view that advice now as sage.

Finding ones voice means finding ones own technique and aesthetic. An artist’s job is to experience technique as one would a buffet. Try everything. If it tastes good, swallow it. If it is not right for you, spit it out. What is ultimately your technique should be what works for you, personally. If you are like most artists of innovation, this technique will be a patchwork of many influences–not just one approach of one or two institutions.

Technique is just a means to and end. Technique is simply a series of tools that generate a result. Certainly, technique liberates art and the more talent one has, the more technique one needs. But, technique is meant to be learned and then forgotten. The function of technique is to give an artist a starting point and then a sense of freedom. It can also serve as a fallback measure when all efforts seem to be failing in the creative process.

I have no regrets about my educational choices and would likely repeat them, if the opportunity arose in another lifetime. But, it has taken me years to get away from my “programming” and to find my unique voice.

Encouraging artists to find their voice and making such practice a key element of training needs to become standard offering in arts education. Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts will do this.

How does one find their unique voice? Well, one won’t find it in most educational environments. It requires experimentation, personal meditation and assessment and can only be discovered by the artist themselves.

Here are some tips I have found useful in discovering my own voice, which I would like to share.

  1. What do YOU love? As Jung said, “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves”. Don’t approach answering this question, based on what you think you SHOULD love. What do you, personally, love? Joseph Campbell, the famed mythologist, would call this your “bliss” and he would encourage you to “Follow your bliss”. What do you most like to think about? What gives you joy? What ideas do you like to play with? What thoughts cause you to lose track of time?

  2. Be who you wish to seem. What type of artist do you want to be? What audience will you serve? What will your medium be? Will you be politically oriented? Will you dedicate your energy to the classics? Will you serve as a bold visionary?

  3. Make Choices. The blank canvas and the sheer number of choices available overwhelm many artists. Just make choices. You can always change them later. Make a choice and then make another and then another, etc.

  4. Know your history. Unless you know what has been done in the past, you are likely ignorantly imitating forms of past and present. If you know what has been done, you know if you are doing something new.

  5. Surrender a need to be “right” and “good”. Ibsen was not “Ibsen”, prior to years and years of personal development. Greatness comes with time. Give yourself time. Remember:  There is no right and there is no wrong. There is only what you create. What you create today will likely be different from what you create tomorrow. So, forgive yourself if you appear to be an ugly duckling at first. Most first efforts are not products of genius.

  6. Steal from greatness. Nobody creates on an island. We are each products of experience and external influence. There is nothing truly original and all ideas are a mixture of other people’s ideas, whether we consciously realize it or not. So, if you see your heroes doing something stunningly effective and you would like to play with that idea, choice or medium, do it. Who are your heroes? What about them inspires you? If you are into a particular artist, what about that artist makes your heart race? Be specific. Make note.

  7. Have courage. Most peoples social programming (what they have been taught is right and wrong, their social values and what they are told to do and think they “should” be doing) gets in the way of freedom of expression. We need to access our stream of creative impulses (as crazy, dark, weird or foreign as they may be) and to follow those without fear or judgment. Don’t judge your choices, as this is a form of self-censorship and does not lead to artistic freedom.

  8. Synthesize your interests. Do you have numerous interests and talents? Do you find you struggle to dedicate your energies in just one area, which causes you to neglect your other interests or passions? Find ways to synthesize those varied interests. In doing so, you will feel more whole as an artist and person.

  9. Play with your ideas, as a child plays with a new toy. Experiment. Jump off the cliff and see what your ideas generate. But, if you are truly experimenting, know what the experiment is and use a scientific-type structure. Otherwise, you are just “playing experiment”.

  10. Allow your freak flag to fly. New ideas are typically, at least at first, rejected by the general populace. The more innovative and different the idea, the more rejection the creator will likely receive…until it is proven successful. Then the idea will be embraced by all as common sense.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. —  Arthur Schopenhauer

Finding your unique expression, form, medium or aesthetic as an artist will lead towards greater originality, potential innovation, potential happiness and artistic satisfaction. More importantly, you just might contribute towards your culture and cultural forms in profound ways.

Summary: Cast off the cookie cutter programming and embrace the Freaky Flag.

Jim Hart is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, The Hart Technique and The International Theatre Academy Norway.  www.harttechnique.com

To contact Hart, email him at jim@harttechnique.com

Fear Makes the Wolf Bigger than He Is.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 25, 2009 at 9:32 am

“Fear Makes the Wolf Bigger than He Is”.

This old German proverb hits the nail on the head.

Fear is the great “mind number”. This emotion, more often than not, is the greatest obstacle that prevents us from achieving our goals, dreams and potential. What this means is that our downfall or lack of success is largely of our own making and, thus, within our own control.

Overcoming of fear is what the Mythic Structure of the Journey of the Hero is about–or rather, Fear and Doubt. But really, just fear, as doubt is a derivative of fear.

The fear we often anticipate, when encountering new experience, is almost always greater than the peril the actual experience brings. In brief, we can work ourselves into a tizzy, fearing the unknown and “what might happen”. Our imaginations create monsters under the bed and in the closet. But as adults, we know that those monsters and wolves are not really there. They are self-generated.

Here is a question for you:  In beginning a process of change, when you feel fear, what is it that you are afraid of?

If you are like most, it is the UNKNOWN. But let’s think about this for a minute. Do you ever really know what is going to happen next? If you live a predictable life, you can predict what is to happen next (and sometimes even with some certainty), but you never really know. Life is a mystery. The other thing that most people fall into the trap of, is fearing failure, embarrassment, humiliation. These words translate to mean JUDGEMENT. People will always judge–for good or bad and such judgements we have no control over. Besides, is that a valid reason for surrendering dreams and potential? Fear of the unknown (which is life) and judgement (which is inevitable)?

Letting other peoples’ judgement affect our actions is a giving over of our own power and authority to others. Why should they have that sort of authority? We each have the potential to be the makers of our own destinies and are each far more powerful than most of us even realize.

How do we overcome our fear? Experience.

Experience brings perspective and knowledge.

How do we gain experience, even though our hearts race with fear and our fight or flight mechanism is saying, “Run”?      Here it is:    Just keep going.  Go through the experience.  Allow the fear to be present and just keep going.

When we enter a spook house during the Halloween season, we are confronted with all sorts of intense stimuli. People jump out at us, we see scary sites, our fight or flight mechanism is engaged, etc. But as any person who has been to such a horror house knows, if you just keep going forward, you inevitably exit out of the house and into the cool night air, away from the illusion of mayhem.

The trick is to not just stand in place in a state of shock or to retreat to supposed safety (away from our destination or goal), but to keep going forward, putting one foot in front of the other.

Entrepreneurial Arts Training teaches artists how to succeed, despite overwhelming obstacles and teaches, via experience, how to overcome our greatest obstacle of all–our self-imposed fears and the obstacles we create for ourselves.

www.harttechnique.com

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA). In the autumn of 2010, ACPA will open doors in Austin, TX. To learn more about the educational offerings, contact Hart at jim@harttechnique.com