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Surviving the Doldrums Page 1
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  • Pursue Agents. Perhaps the second most despised profession (after lawyers) is agents. They've been the butt of jokes on virtually every talk show in history. Maybe that's why so many of us aren't as diligent as we should be about having agents represent us. While it's true that agents for performing artists get their pound of flesh (in the form of a percentage of our earnings), it's also true that agents spend most of their time looking for jobs for their clients. It's worth establishing good relations with your agent or prospective agent. And when you're not working, you're more likely to have the time to schmooze a little.

  • Write a Mission Statement. The most successful organizations in the world have mission statements that state The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Peopleexplicitly and succinctly what their goals are and what the organization is committed to do in order to achieve those goals. Why not emulate those who are successful? A personal mission statement helps you stay focused on what your goals are. And when you're not working you have not only the time but also the incentive to formulate one. (Not familiar with this concept? Check out Steven Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He is, among other things, a mission statement guru and his landmark book has now become a major part of the way our world works.)

  • Take a Daily Walk. Notice the world around you. Look to the sky, the earth, the mountains, the ocean for inspiration. Observe human nature. Watch the way animals interact with each other. Scrutinize a bug or a rock or a blade of grass. Our power of observation is one of the most valuable resources we have as performing artists. That which we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and intuit can be used, consciously or unconsciously, in our art. Whether you're a singer, a dancer, an actor, a writer, or a musician (or any combination thereof), there are always plenty of things to learn by keeping our senses attuned to our environment.

  • Reflect. Sometimes, in the grand scheme of things, having some time off is one of the best things we can do for our art. We can look at our past artistic accomplishments and see what we might have done differently or better. We can assess where we are now and what it is we have to offer at this point in time. And we can choose what direction we want to go in the future.

  • Take Inventory. While we're on the subject of self-improvement, making ourselves better people makes us better artists. In order to do that, we have to take an unflinching look at ourselves from time to time. Maybe we procrastinate. Maybe we smoke, even though we know it's not good for us. Maybe we don't get enough exercise. Whatever the human weakness, they are just that -- human. And, as such, we have the capability of ridding ourselves of those weaknesses and making ourselves into better performers as a by-product. And taking inventory doesn't necessarily just mean writing a list of all the things that are wrong with us. It also means that we can take time to acknowledge our strengths and even give ourselves an occasional gentle pat on the back for them.

  • The Artist's WayForm an Artists' Support Group. If you're out of work, you're not alone. At any given time, the vast majority of performing artists aren't working in their chosen professions. So it shouldn't be difficult to find others in the same boat. These groups aren't just mope-and-moan sessions. Instead, when you get together with your fellow performing artists, you can spark each other's creativity, you can revel in each other's successes, you can help each other get through the tough times, and you can brainstorm about finding or creating work. The seeds of genuine collaboration are often planted in such groups. (For some great insight into both the merits and the practicalities of artists' support groups, check out Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way.)

Do you have a survival tip that you'd like to add? Submit it to and we'll add it to our list.

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