"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe." Anatole France
I met Chris Grady yesterday for one of his arts surgeries: free mentoring sessions for people working in the arts, he does them once a month in the Lyttleton Bar at the National Theatre. What a great idea, for a start, and fantastic that they are openly offered: lots of people mentor but sometimes you need to already have a certain level of knowledge and an "in" to get a chance to benefit from it.
If I'm really honest with myself, I probably didn't really need my session. I'm not in any way saying it wasn't useful, interesting and potentially very helpful, it was both of the former and I expect prove to be the latter. But I'm sure I'm not the only one of Chris's mentees for whom most of the difficulties are in my head rather than in actuality. In actuality, I am in a pretty good position to be doing what I'm doing. I am aware of and grateful for this. I've got a range of experience, good part time work, somewhere to live and connections (maybe not quite as many as if I'd stayed in the same place, or studied theatre at university, but still quite a few as Chris made me realise).
I also do have the right skills. I've not been so confident in myself lately, and though the reason why is a long story, some of it's got to do with needing to work out my place within the industry. For a while I've been struggling with the fact that if you're not an artist, frustrated or otherwise - and I'm definitely not - the only other place to go has sometimes seemed to be being an administrator, and the thought of doing that for the rest of my career doesn't inspire me. It's not because it's a dreadful job but because I just don't think I'm suited to that either. I love a good spreadsheet, like things to be organised and am a bit of a perfectionist but I always catch the train at the very last minute, forget things, and get bored with admin tasks. We didn't discuss this specifically, but still, meeting Chris helped me to realise that these are not the only two options. It's difficult to define a creative process because it's different for everyone, but mine definitely works best when collaborating with artists to make projects out of ideas. I can also do, and enjoy, the talking about projects, the fundraising, the budgets, knowing the landscape, seeing the gaps, and working out of how things should and can happen. Chris helped me believe that maybe being a creative producer (a much overused and abused term but probably still the best one) is actually something I can say I am.
So all that is remaining, really, is the self belief, and my main feeling walking away from the meeting was that I need to get over that. Most of us have doubts but over the last year or so I've let mine get the better of me. I need to move on now. I'm not one of those types who just believes "I can" until I actually have, but as Chris reminded me, I've got too much experience to get away with thinking everything should be happening overnight, I know these things take time. I've got the required slightly reckless courage, I need to balance determination with patience and just get on with it.
Hopefully, then, at some point, I'll be able to actually start writing here about what's going on rather than what I'm thinking about it. It is starting. After earlier set-backs the director I'm working with and I have two really strong ideas which we're ready to at least start trying to get to a stage where we can make them happen, that early bit of investing time and resources into getting ideas to a fundable state of course always being the hardest as I've said before. I'm excited about both of them. One is a piece of immersive theatre (ha! Not so original these days but the form definitely suits the story), the other the project I had a session on at Devoted and Disgruntled, the notes from which I've posted up on this blog.
The best piece of advice Chris gave me yesterday is an old adage but one I'd forgotten: not to worry about difficulties until you've got to them: not crossing bridges, etc. Projects can feel impossibly intimidating but you can break that down into things which are doable and things which are harder, and the order in which they need to happen, get on with the bits which are achievable, and tackle the difficult bits when they come up, by which time they may not feel so insurperable after all. Maybe I did need the session after all. Thank you Chris. Watch this space.