Parenting the Artist. Giving the Artist’s Manager a Break


So, we made it through 2013 in pretty much one piece. Now, to continue the quest to thriving.
As I’m a freelance, self managing artist, I need to have work strategies in place for the fractious haggling of time and energy between the needs of the artist-self and the independent arts business manager/agent-self (she’s a stubborn-jawed entreprenuer <- what the personality my artist-self needs – an innovative somebody who is fearless and on her side in the business realm). Sometimes a cold war exists between them though, nothing gets done and procrastination wins the battle.  Some days I am in the negotiating room for 8 hours just to survive another day, diplomacy sweating and hoarse at the table.

The Contestants
The Artist – a day dreamer because she has to be. It’s how she draws specific curiousities in life into focus when everything is moving at a blurry pace. Day-dreaming is the act of slowing down the world for creative visualisation. Its how she isolates the melody in everyday living to imagine an orchestral soundtrack in images for the next story, how each memorable snapshot throughout a day of London living becomes the story-board for the next poem, piece of flash fiction, or  case study for a workshop exercise.

The Arts Business Manager/Agent – a mental gymnast and octopus: multi-tasking emails, project planning, developing marketing strategies, workshop devising, Skype meetings, meetings and eating on the trot, mustering seductive language with enough box-ticking gravitas to secure a successful funding bid, carving the artist/writer/performer/facilitator career trajectory with honed instinct and experience, sometimes on a wing and a prayer.

But both are fighting over the resource of Time. The fight eats up much of their energy. Energy both need to make my life a purposeful one. And in the battle for time, the clashes of needs reveal  how each one perceives the personality of the other, and to myself also.

The manager restricts.
The artist plays by no rules, is wayward.
The manager stiflingly adheres  to deadlines.
The artists colours with abandon outside the lines.

The manager needs a still, boxed focus. She enjoys order, structure, tables, strap-lines and sound bites, official (officious, to the artist)  institutional language, the html code for glossy professionalism, methodic prioritising and the satisfaction of crossing off tasks on to-do lists.
The artist needs quiet and, as mentioned, meandering day dreams.  She wants to curl up cosy in a  blanket and read those graphic novels flirting with her on the bookshelf, pull out the sketch pad for epic abstract, nonsensical pastel and charcoal splurges, to write in spirals. She wants to open Garageband and play around with latest melody resonating in the her head, open Aperture and embellish the last set of photos taken with her SLR, browse the net for….? (<- “exactly! For what?!”, says the manager)  or to just stare out the window….

The Battle
The managers work terrifies the artist. Regimenting existence is something she does not (want to?) understand. The need for this compartmentalization of time, when there is no time in her world, discombobulates her. She understand the completion of things to have their own conception and incubation periods, their own cycles of delivery or revelation.

The manager wants to throttle the artist. For effective impact on the To-Do list and for a sense of satisfaction of forward motion, the arts business manager needs NO FRIVOLOUS DISTRACTIONS. Routine and goal setting is healthy and secure. Day-dreaming is a cardinal sin. It is the enemy of progress and a cancer for deadlines.
The arts business manager is a fascist according to the artist. The artist is a flaky narcissist to the arts business manager. And they live in the same body. They share the same work and creative space – my home.

Anyone who works from home knows the wrestle for focus is tough. Its messy. Ring side seats would make a mint.  The artist pokes the manager in the ribs with a tube of yellow acryrlic paint, pointing at the sunset refracting rainbows through the glass of water next to her.  “Get a grip! Is everydamnthing a f*@kin muse?!”, says the manager. A tussle ensues. The artist twists out of the lightening quick head-lock, makes an obscene gesture….puts on a dvd and heads for the fridge. Task abandoned. This happens when diplomacy has failed or just never showed up.

The Split
016 A Split PersonalityI have spoken to a couple of friends about “The Spilt”. Embracing the concept of honouring these two tenacious entities has become a life saver. A bit schizophrenic but self imposed so manageable.

For me, The Split has brought out a guardian and custodian relationship. A sort of parent-(artist)child dynamic where guidance and trust have become the blood that pumps between the umbilici that joins them. The Split is like the separation of conjoined twins – the  disconnect of the flesh has been successful, if a little bloody, but the psychic connection is still so powerful that the symbiotic flow of energy between both entities is a gentle but vibrant, lucid movement that, with practice, has become a rapid dance of messages pinging between the two. Now, in the negotiating room, the meetings are brief:-

Artist: I need this. Manager: Ok, I’ll create some space for it. Gimme a minute.
Manager: I think this would be good for you. Artist: what do you want me to do?
Artist: I have an idea. Manager: tell me about it I’ll see what I can do.
Manager: Deliver this by this time, you get a treat. Artist: oooooo…that sounds interrrrestiiiiing….. 🙂

The Split has enabled me to reconnect more effectively with the Zena that wants a thriving personal life with friends old and new, family as more of a presence, to observe my home as a the sanctuary I’m building and not as space for conferencing to prevent all out war. (I’d probably give up the artist life and become manically depressed, as neither artist or manager would be serving their purpose. I’d be purposeless. *shudders at the thought*).

I’m aware this post focuses on struggle. Of course there are highs, where both artist and manager cruise with shades, a mojito in one hand and a favourite food in the other – the just rewards for paddling hard upstream together. As there are rituals for an easier life of parenting, so there are strategies and apps to assist in the habits and patterns for effective working when you’re a self-employed independent artist who has to navigate and progress in the arts, culture and education industry. Moments to reflect and rejuvenate while freelancing are fleeting, so tricks to optimize time might mean the difference between the disappointment of a watery cocktail  or the warm memory of well deserved lounging with a tequila buzz.

Zena’s suggested Guardian (or “parent”) aids
Here is an article I discovered that his some truisms for me – 9 Ways To Create Time Space and Stillness For Meaningful Work.  

Then there’s The Pomodoro Technique – in a nutshell, making effective use of how the brain works by having 25 minutes of focused activity then a short break before the next task. Here’s Focus Booster app – a handy little timer to keep you on track. Nice.

The manager has convinced the artist to commit to an app called “Self-Control”. Don’t be put off by the app symbol. It restricts access to your own internet provider for selected websites and social media. The artist wept but also knows it’s time to up-game and to trust the manager *sigh*.

I’m reading a book at the moment called A Sideways Look at Time.Both the Artist and the Manager are getting a lot from it.  They both have independent and simultaneous eureka moments (*high 5*) as the book unpacks our perceptions on this concept. Will probably blog about that a bit later…

Now I’ve only just come across these and am looking forward to the lasting effects. You may already know them well. Let me know how they work for you.

So… 2014, what you saying?


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Zena, you have articulated the tension between the different personalities at play within the mind set of an artist very well. I adore your use of language here, as it paints vivid pictures of the dynamics between “the artist” and “artist manager”.

    I have never taken the time to think about this tension. I have not even had the luxury to discuss this with anyone. I have just got on with it.Your article provides a space to ruminate about this tension. Thank you. I think there is a workshop idea here and I think the artist manager will be thrilled with this however, I am not so sure about the artist.

    When I read “Day-dreaming is the act of slowing down the world for creative visualisation. It’s how she isolates the melody in everyday living to imagine an orchestral soundtrack in images for the next story,” I wonder when my “artist self” has the time to do this. Then, I wonder has my artist self leant to deceive the artist manager so well, she doesn’t know when day dreaming occurs. Interesting!

    Zena, I like how you outline the challenges and then provide us with possible solutions. I look forward to trying your suggestions and I will let you know how they work for me. I have started 2014 with cleaning up my emails! If I can keep ahead of this then I am winning somewhat.
    Have a great 2014.

    Let me know about your thoughts about the workshop idea, as I would be interested in collaborating on this. I suspect, the workshop could generate a writing projec.

  2. Reblogged this on Amy Zamarripa Solis and commented:
    Perfect tips for my new freelance life!

  3. Silver says:

    You sound like you’ve got a full grasp of an artist manager’s true value. Why fight it?

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