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Issue 83

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In this issue ~~

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Do It Yourself

There are times in our careers, whether in the arts or otherwise, when we feel frustrated with the opportunities that are coming our way.  We feel disempowered waiting for someone to come make us an offer that will get us out of our rut and thrust us, perhaps into the "big time" or just into something more fulfilling and more lucrative.

As creative people, validation is important to us. We want our work to be noticed and recognized. When someone hires us, commissions or buys our work, or chooses to publish us, we feel we've gotten the stamp of approval from "them."  And certainly, for most of us, our creativity is, at least in part, about connecting with others, not just creating in a vacuum.

But there comes a time when we have to have the courage to step out and make our own opportunities, rather than mournfully waiting to be discovered. We have to take the risk of making ourselves visible – perhaps suffering criticism, but hopefully, getting noticed by the powers that be.  I've done this myself a couple of times with positive results – the first during my acting career.

The apartment complex I live in, which is a few blocks from the Broadway theatre district, is a community of performing artists. Back in the 1980s, a group of us, tired of waiting to be recognized, banded together and produced, directed and acted in a series of showcases that gave us the opportunity to demonstrate our talents, both as entertainment for our community and so that talent agents could come see us perform.  I can't say that my acting career took off as a result, but some good opportunities did come out of it.

An unexpected benefit was that the skills I learned as a producer served me well when, a few years later, I became a book publisher. And those efforts *did* land me a publishing contract with a larger publishing house. By publishing myself, I put my book in places where people in the trade would see it, and one up-and-coming publisher liked it and made me an offer.

And I'm in a lot of good company. Many well-known writers started out as self-publishers, including:

~ Ken Blanchard – The One-Minute Manager

~ James Redfield – The Celestine Prophecy

~ Richard Nelson Bolles – What Color Is Your Parachute? was first published at a local copy shop in 1970, commercially published in 1972, and was on the "New York Times" best-seller list for 288 weeks

~ Molly Katzen – The Moosewood Cookbook

~ Tom Peters –In Search of Excellence

~ Irma Rombauer  –The Joy of Cooking

Not to mention Virginia Woolf (who published her own and others' books through her Hogarth Press), Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit) and Margaret Mitchell (Gone With the Wind)! 

Many successful film directors, writers and actors started their careers, or made a name for themselves, by creating their own projects.

~ Matt Damon and Ben Affleck catapulted their budding acting careers to stardom when they wrote and co-starred in the popular film, Good Will Hunting"

~ John Waters, whose Hairspray was a successful film and is currently a hit Broadway show, began by writing, directing and producing Pink Flamingos

~ Steven Soderbergh, who wrote, directed and edited Sex, Lies and Videotape, went on to direct Traffic, Erin Brockovich, and Ocean's 11, among others

~ Writer/director Robert Rodriguez went from El Mariachi to the popular Spy Kids series

Successful actors often form their own production companies as a route to gaining access to projects that really excite them.  These include such notables as Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, Robert Redford and Susan Sarandon.

Some of our best-known teacher/speaker/writers also took their careers in their own hands:

~ Visionary Marianne Williamson began her career by doing lectures on "A Course in Miracles" in her living room. She went on to write several successful books, and was honored when Nelson Mandela chose her words for his inaugural speech.

~ Wayne Dyer, today a best-selling author and speaker, didn't do so well at first. He bought copies of his failing book, Your Erroneous Zones, from his publisher, packed them in the trunk of his car, and traveled the country doing talk radio shows and selling books. The rest is history!

Current technology has enabled many people to produce their own music or spoken CDs and podcasts. With the Internet, you can create your own marketing outlet and sell your products online.

~ A talented young singer named Shawn Pander produced his own CDs and sells them from his website. Shawn got great exposure when he was featured on the "Dr. Phil" show.

On the business side, one of the best ways to advance your career is to initiate new projects or introduce new ideas, rather than just waiting to be told what needs to be done. Look at a problem or need your company or department has. See how you can address that problem or need, and write a proposal that you can present to your supervisor. And if you see an opportunity for a unique product or service, you could even start your own business!

So, don't hang around waiting to be discovered. If you're an artist, find a small gallery, library, or coffee house that would love to dress up its premises by showing some original art, and create a showcase for your work. Raise some money and produce your own CD or publish your book. Band together with your friends. Pool your resources to create opportunities for your work to be seen, as I did with my neighbors a couple of decades ago.

By taking ownership of your work and getting it out there, you can create visibility and momentum that could take a lot longer to achieve if you waited for someone else to give you the opportunity. And who's going to get behind your work more enthusiastically than you? Go for it!

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Action Challenge

What’s one action you can take to make your work more visible? What step can you take in the next week to get the ball rolling on that? Who can you join forces with to do it together?

 

Wise Words

“You don't have to sit on top of a mountain to discover what's right for you. You always know in your heart what you need to do. But you do have to ask yourself if you're willing to make choices. Put yourself in a position where you're making choices about your life, rather than letting other people make those choices for you. That's what balance is all about.”

~ Liz Dolan

“Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own efforts. Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.”

~ Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

“Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity.”

~ Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

“If you want to see your plays performed the way you wrote them, become President.”

~ Vaclav Havel, playwright and former president, Czech Republic

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Bookshelf

(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)

The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print, and Sell Your Own Book . . . Dan Poynter

Start Your Own Self-Publishing Business . . . Entrepreneur Press

How To Start And Run A Small Book Publishing Company: A Small Business Guide To Self-Publishing And Independent Publishing . . . Peter I. Hupalo

How to Start a Faux Painting or Mural Business: A Guide to Making Money in the Decorative Arts . . . Rebecca Pittman

How to Produce a Successful Crafts Show . . . Kathryn Caputo

The Fine Artist's Guide to Marketing and Self-Promotion . . . Julius Vitali

Fine Art Publicity: The Complete Guide For Galleries And Artists . . . Susan Abbott

Jumpstart Your Awesome Film Production Company . . . Sara Caldwell

Producing, Financing, and Distributing Film: A Comprehensive Legal and Business Guide . . .  Donald C. Farber, Paul A. Baumgarten, Mark Fleischer

Documentary Filmmakers Speak . . . Liz Stubbs

Making Independent Films: Advice from the Filmmakers . . . Liz Stubbs, Richard Rodriguez

The Real Business of Photography . . . Richard Weisgrau

Radio Syndication: How to Create, Produce, and Distribute Your Own Show . . . Scott B. Deweese

Building the Successful Theater Company . . . Lisa Mulcahy

Producing Theatre: A Comprehensive Legal and Business Guide . . . Donald C. Farber

Successful Syndication: A Guide for Writers and Cartoonists . . . Michael Sedge

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People . . . ~ Stephen R. Covey

Choice: Choosing the Proactive Life You Want to Live . . . Stephen R. Covey

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© 2006 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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