Artists are at the center of profitable and growing industries such as entertainment, technology and social media. However, we face many obstacles when it comes to meeting our own basic needs as we pursue our careers. It is considered the norm across many industries that artists should expect to be compensated poorly if at all. We are subject to degrading, dehumanizing systems that invariably oppress the vast majority of us. Why are we susceptible to this treatment? I think we have a problem with understanding our value and consistently valuing ourselves. At the core of this problem is our desire to create in a society that does not have the systems in place to honor the integrity of the humanity of the artist. But why don’t we see this treatment of other professions? Do we see “America’s Next Attorney General” with lawyers from top firms battling it out for a chance to be recognized? No, we do not. The reason for that is because other industries are led by businesses that approach their employment processes through systems, processes and procedures governed by a predetermined set of rules by which individuals seeking employment can demonstrate their ability. Individuals who wish to perform a role within that industry clearly know how to prepare for and improve their ability to obtain the role. Why is the artist treated differently? How do we make the artist different? How do we elevate the artist?
To solve the problem, we have to first look at the artist mindset. Many artists do not see their own value or rather their value is determined by others. The mindset of most artists is that success means that someone, somewhere identifies the great thing you have made. This someone, then, provides you with all of the services that you need to reach your market because you, as an artist, are inherently incapable of doing so, or so you believe. Artists are encouraged to “get discovered” and to compete with one another in embarrassing and degrading ways to achieve the favor of some wealthy producer. We thrive on the approval of others. The numerous talent shows that urge dancers, singers, actors and models to battle it out for a chance to get noticed, demonstrate how we participate in systems in our society that have relegated the artist to the role of helpless beggar.
However, we are not victims, we are complicit in this system. By agreeing to be a part of it, by participating, we allow and condone it. In this article, I will present a very important part of being an elevated artist: knowing and owning your practical needs. I first started the practice of assessing my practical needs while acting in New York. After two years of getting no where, I stopped to assess my practical needs and I made a plan to pursue them while remaining insistent that I would be an actress but I was determined to forge my own path, maintaining my integrity along the way. The second step in the project selection process requires that you evaluate how the project will meet your Practical Needs
In this part, you will determine what you need so that when a project presents itself you can be ready to advocate for your financial, health and wellness, family as well as your social and communal needs. This is the second article in the digital guide: How to Select Your Next Project. I created this series of articles because I believe that the difference between a successful artist career and an unfulfilled one lies in the ability to decide what to work on. There is no reason why artists in all industries should not be living a life full of creativity, wealth and peace.
5. Health & Wellness
Good health cannot be bought.
Now that you know that the project will meet your basic personal standard expenses and personal project related expenses (or you have a resource plan in place), you can evaluate equally important impacts on your lifestyle. The second category is Health & Wellness. I define health as “a person’s physical, spiritual and emotional condition.” Health should be a top concern. In fact, health and wellness is more important than money. Don’t laugh. In an article, “A bad work environment can be bad for your health”, it reads:
“Working in a bad job is not good for you. It’s not good for your physical health, and it’s not good for your mental health. And nearly everybody accepts that,” said Tarani Chandola, lead author of the International Journal of Epidemiology study and professor of medical sociology at the University of Manchester. “But there is some backward ‘Oh, at least you have a job. Any job has got to be better than not having a job — so being unemployed must be the worst thing for your health there can be.’ It’s an assumption that people make, but not many people actually test this assumption.” He and co-author Nan Zhang, also of the University of Manchester, decided to test it. They surveyed 1,116 people in the UK aged 35 to 75 years and found that those who transitioned from unemployment to a poor-quality job had higher biological indicators of stress than people who remained unemployed.
Your health while working on this project is central to your ability to perform as an artist. To evaluate this and future projects create a Health & Wellness Practices List. This list consists of the things that you do for your health and wellness. For example, “Attend Bikram Yoga 3x a week” is on my list. Once you have this list ask yourself:
- How will this next project impact my health and wellness?
- Do the producers share my vision of what it means to work in a healthy work environment?
Once you have evaluated the project’s impact on your money, health and relationships, you are one ste closer to selecting the right project. There is more to consider so be sure to check out the next article where we will evaluate the project’s impact on your professional development.