Periodically, we pose questions about issues artists face in their work and lives. This month, we share responses from a question posed many times before (but useful nonetheless!): What is your advice for emerging artists?
Cristi Rinklin, visual artist
Work hard, don’t be afraid to take risks, be resourceful, and find your community. These will be the people who will inspire you and keep you going.
Patrick Gabridge, playwright and writer
The process of being a playwright is a marathon, not a sprint. When you first start out, it feels like every reading and every production is so important. Which it is. But there will be more (if you stick with this crazy thing we do). It’s useful to view each project as a steppingstone in your evolution as a writer, and not get too stressed out about potential success or failure. Try to consciously learn from it all. Otherwise the pressure you impose on yourself will make you less willing to experiment and challenge yourself and possibly fail, and you’ll squeeze the joy and richness out the whole process.
My other advice: marry well. By which I mean, you’re going to have many highs and lows, and if you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t understand and support what you’re doing (and the realities of the pay and schedule), then it’s hard to keep going. The other tips are simple: write great stuff that you want to see on stage, see a lot of plays, play nice with others.
Tova Mirvis, writer
The best advice I got when I was starting to write was from the wonderful novelist Mary Gordon. I once was complaining to her that I didn’t have time to write – looking back, I find it funny that I thought I was busy then! – but she looked me squarely in the eye, and very plainly said: if you are a writer, then you write. I’ve carried her words with me for at least twenty years. There are always reasons not to write, always numerous other things we need to be doing or want to be doing. But so much of writing is sitting yourself down. Nothing happens until you at least do that.
Rejection is very difficult to face, but for any artist, it’s inevitable. Try not to give rejection more meaning than it deserves. There are any number of reasons (some of which having very little to do specifically with your art) why a grant, contest, juried call, or other opportunity might not work in your favor – this time. Cultivate your voice as an artist, and envision that voice as being on its own journey that’s separate and protected from individual ups and downs. This is hard to do! But it’s worth the effort.
What do you try to instill in emerging artists?
Patrick Gabridge is a playwright, writer, and co-founder of the New England New Play Alliance. He will be artist-in-residence at Mt. Auburn Cemetery 2018-2019, where he will be creating new site-specific plays to be performed at Mt. Auburn. Recently, his play “Chore Monkeys” was performed at College of Charleston, and his play “Drift” was read at the Munroe Center for the Arts in Lexington, MA. Later this month, his short play “Beatrix Potter Must Die!” is being produced at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield, MA (Feb 15-Mar 4).
Tova Mirvis is the author of three novels and (most recently) the memoir The Book of Separation (Houghton Mifflin 2017). She is among the presenters at Grub Street’s Muse and the Marketplace writing conference (Apr 6-8).
Cristi Rinklin is a visual artist who has twice received a Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowship, as well as an Artist’s Resource Trust Fund award from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. A solo show of her art exhibited at the Gustavus Adolphus College Schaefer Gallery in Oct 2017.
Image: Cristi Rinklin, SLICE (2016), oil and acrylic on aluminum, 36×48 in.