The trick about being an “artist” (and, yes, the quotes are meant to make us all aware of a little of the pretension) is that you’ll always have multiple jobs. You’ll have multiple means of making money, yes, because we all have to eat and it’s difficult to land one of those gigs where you can just do what you love and get paid for it. But I mean beyond that, even if you’re one of the favored few whose work aligns exactly with their greatest passion every second of every day: as an “artist,” you will still have two jobs.
As a working playwright, I think about this a lot, especially during March. Why March? It’s the month that many playwrights–guided by the Playwrights Marketing group that Pat Gabridge started on Yahoo years ago to collect submission opportunities and general camaraderie–submit at least one play a day to a new opportunity. So, in the past twenty or so days I’ve sent out twenty or so submissions. I would guess that on a good day it takes me an hour or less and on other days, well, the Internet black hole of submission lists drags me in until I’m contemplating a ten-minute play festival in rural Ohio that wants scripts about six-generation family plays until I realize I don’t have one of those. The point being: submitting, marketing myself, takes time. My primary role as an artist, in a perfect world, would be to write all the time and then just magically sit back and get produced all over the country and the world. However, with this territory comes a second job–the one that actually feels more like work. Crafting cover letters, tailoring synopses, ensuring that the PDF is formatted exactly the right way–I’m not complaining, I’m just saying it takes time.
And I’m really not complaining. I’m owning that I’m running my own business over here, which is something it took me a minute to grasp when I started out. But I am. Even though I might not make hundreds of dollars an hour from it, I’m still my own marketing team, creative team, accounting, and HR department. (And yes, I do need HR with all of my characters talking to each other at once.) And I’m working on claiming that, knowing exactly how much time I need to set aside for my more logistical needs for self-promotion and actively scheduling time to do that. (By the way, if you decide to join me in claiming your businessperson-artist side, still never write “playwright” on your taxes–I read this harrowing article in the DG magazine about how the IRS will audit you if you do that because you have to prove the bulk of your income comes from what you list as your profession… it’s sad that that concept probably makes most artists laugh.)
Anyway–just a word to the wise for anyone who might be graduating college soon. Block out time to market yourself, schedule coffees or auditions, do all the work that involves spreadsheets and Google Docs that don’t have interesting characters woven through them. Don’t dismiss it, and don’t let it slide. Because that second job of promoting yourself is what gets your first job–your artistry–noticed.