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Technically, I guess, I’m working on two books, but only writing one.
The first is an editing project more than a writing project. It will probably get a better title one day but for now it’s 10 Questions Young Artists Ask (or should) About a Career in the Arts, or 10Q. I’m polling 50+ artists, educators, and theologians for their answers to 5 theological questions and 5 practical questions about life as an artist. Then I’ll edit their answers into a book targeted to high school and college fine and performing arts students and their parents, because I think the parents might need it more than the kids do.
The questions are:
- Can I really be an artist and be a Christian?
- Don’t other careers serve God better, or more?
- Does the art I make need to be “Christian” art – does it need to be evangelistic or have overtly Christian content?
- How do I set boundaries on what I’ll do artistically, based on my Christian values? Or do I even need to?
- How can I know that being an artist is really God’s will for me?
- Can I really make a living at being an artist?
- What’s the best way for me to train and prepare for a career in the arts?
- Will I be able to get married and have a family, or otherwise have a relatively “normal” life?
- Will I need to move to New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, or another major arts market?
- How will I know if it’s just not working out – if I need to stop trying and go in a different direction professionally?
I and most of the couple hundred artists of faith that I’ve talked to over the years have asked at least one of these questions, and many agree that we could have used a book like this early on. So I hope it will give emerging artists useful information and encouragement as they plan their next steps and enter the marketplace.
So far I’ve sent the questions to 35 friends, and have received wonderful, thoughtful answers to the questions from eight of them and a commitment to respond from another ten. I don’t expect that all of my contacts will have time to respond, and that’s okay, because my friend group is unfortunately not very diverse, racially or geographically, and I want to be sure that the range of answers represents the widest possible scope of experiences. I want conflicting opinions. There’s no road map for this. So the next stage will be to seek out friends-of-friends to expand the scope of the book.
My goal is to have 10Q ready by the end of June. The second book will take longer, potentially much longer….
The second book comes from my own brain (!?!) and is based on the work I’ve been doing throughout my career with arts advocacy, professional development, and entrepreneurship. Again, no firm title yet but the basic idea is How the Arts Work/How Artists Work, or How/How.
The main idea in the book is “the value of the arts” and what that means for both the audience* and the artist. “Value” is at the intersection of what I’ve been doing in getting people and communities to invest more in the arts, and helping artists make more money so they can make more art (my mission soundbyte). Jesus said “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and that’s what I’m talking about in this book on about 15 different levels.
In a few weeks I’ll start posting excerpts from the book to get your feedback. I’m still feeling through exactly what I want to talk about and developing an outline as I attempt to upend my brain onto the page (screen?). I’m following the advice of more experienced writers to just write something in this early stage and not worry too much about how it sounds. Which I’m finding is really hard.
Apparently it wasn’t Dorothy Parker who said “I hate writing, but I love having written” although it’s often attributed to her. But enough people quote this line to make me think I’m not the only one who hates sitting down and squeezing thoughts out through my fingers. It must be the idea of writing a BOOK for heaven’s sake, those are long and who do I think I am anyway? that causes the paralysis, because I don’t have any trouble cranking out a 1,000-word blog post, which is 2% of the suggested length for a non-fiction book. I just have to do it 50 times.
I know, Anne, bird by bird.
For the next few months, writing these books is my almost-full-time job. I also teach a theatre class at a Catholic high school and will stay active in the local arts scene until we move next June. Since I don’t actually get paid until the books are finished, edited, published, and selling – and from what I hear I shouldn’t expect to get paid much then – I am raising support to allow me to focus on the books rather than needing to work other jobs. The Arbor Fellowship, my business name, is a ministry department of Artists in Christian Testimony, International, and all donations are fully tax-deductible. I would so value your partnership in getting these books created. To learn more, visit this page.
To join my email list and receive updates on the books and The Arbor Fellowship, visit this page.
*I use the term audience for any person engaging with a work of art, performing or visual. Here’s your first taste of a rough first draft from the book:
“I know that technically an aud-ience hears. It’s an obvious choice for music. But in Shakespeare’s day, when playwrights were called poets, the audience was said to hear a play, not see one. We’ve kept ‘audience’ in theatre/film/TV despite the visual being more important today than the aural. Dance also uses ‘audience’ for the people in the seats. But the term would seem to exclude the visual arts, design, and craft. ‘Viewer’ would be a more appropriate term for them, but ‘audience’ is often used generally to describe people experiencing visual art. ‘Patron’ has a financial connotation that doesn’t always apply. So, for simplicity’s sake, I mostly use ‘audience’ to describe the people experiencing our creative work.”