John Scalzi on Escaping Poverty

John Scalzi is a best-selling science fiction writer, who has an excellent blog that I’ve been following for a few years. Many months ago he wrote a piece called “Being Poor”. I just checked his site to discover that he wrote it in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In any case, this week he’s doing his annual “Reader Request Week,” where rather than writing whatever he feels like writing, he writes on a topic that his readers request. Today’s post is a response to the question “What advice would you give to someone who wants to help folks who are poor (either specific individuals they know, or poor people in their community in general) become not-poor?”

While this topic isn’t specifically directed towards artists, I did find that there were many resonances with what I perceive to be success factors in a creative career.

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Garage Art

Late last fall I began my fixation with disseminating my work. I tried to think of some strategies for presenting my work given my knowledge of the venues in Saskatoon and my potential for access to them. Simply put, I didn’t feel that there was a venue that would host my work in the short term. I figured that I needed a garage gallery.

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Studio Activities: Oct 2006-Mar 2007

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll have noticed that since returning to Canada I’ve been posting here slightly more frequently than when I was in England in 2005-2006. Aside from the obvious reason of my not having internet access at home in England, I was simply too busy with other creative and writing projects. Now that I’m reliably online again, I’ve tried to write a bit more regularly. I was hoping to post weekly—as opposed to the daily posts of my final 4 months in Japan—but have been writing so much other stuff that I simply haven’t had the energy.

My success at regular blogging has been mixed, with clusters of posts rather than a set interval ones. What I’ve found recently is that I get a critical mass of ideas swimming around in my head, and am forced to work through them in my blog posts in order to clear my mind for actual work. I think I’m on a two-week cycle, but hopefully I’ll be able to tame this particular beast into something more regular and a little less invasive of my daily routine. As well, I’ve been really busy. But this time it’s been a different kind of busy-ness than that of England.

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Posted in Art

Gallery Admission Fees Part 4: The Numbers Game

I started drafting this post a couple of weeks ago. It was to immediately follow my other three posts about gallery admission fees. I started writing it and petered out partly because I had already written almost 6000 words on the topic, and partly because I realized how many enemies I might make by posting it. For better or worse, I’ve since recovered my energy and resolve.

In this post I want to talk about numbers, audience, and accessibility but I’m mostly going to talk about numbers, and only briefly touch on the other two issues. I already know that this post is not likely to endear me to the staff at the Mendel, but I believe my questions should be thought about. Having said that, I must stress that in writing this I’m not attacking anyone. I believe that organizations like the Mendel Art Gallery should continue to exist, they should continuing exhibiting challenging work, and that they should continue to get the majority of their funding from public sources such as our tax dollars.

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Overcoming Fear of The Unknown: Goal Setting and Role Playing

Fear of the unknown is a great barrier to inaction. Well, fear of anything is a major barrier to a lot of things. Today I’m going to talk about a few strategies for overcoming fear of the unknown, specifically as it applies to the business of being an artist. I’m not going to claim that any of this is original. In fact most of it should be fairly obvious to most people. But in my conversations with artists I’ve found that my description of these strategies is often greeted with a surprise, and then encouragement for me to explain further. It’s happened enough times that I figured I should write it up.

To put this in context, I find that it’s usually much easier to take no action than to try something new. I don’t think I’m all that different than others in this respect. Inaction can be rooted in the tendency towards being a maximizer—a kind of unreasonable perfectionist—that I described in my post about research-induced paralysis. But I think more than anything, inaction is based in fear: fear of the unknown, fear of the known, fear of embarrassment, fear of making a mistake, fear of change.

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Research-Induced Paralysis: The Paradox of Choice

I hope that these ongoing posts about life as an artist are interesting. It’s hard to tell without some feedback. Still, I’ll probably continue writing about them because they help me work through the maelstrom of my thought process.

Today we take another look at my limited arsenal of pop-psychological tricks: how to get from research to action. For those of you who have any experience with role-playing games, it’s almost as easy as a saving throw versus data overload.

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Vernacular Art Redux

Just when I thought life couldn’t get any stranger, the film industry had to go and twist around my worldview, and not in a good way. Via a chain of websites that is long and complex enough to make Rube Goldberg look like a master of direct action comes the news that a Hollywood studio plans to make a movie based on a Thomas Kinkade painting. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, have a look at my post about Gallery Admission Fees, where I attempt to give sound reasons for considering vernacular art for exhibition at contemporary art galleries. Also helpful in parsing this strange convergence is the fact that Kinkade has sold millions of copies of his paintings via malls, mail-order, and television shopping.

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Snow Day

Just when I was getting ready to put the finishing touches on my the fourth and hopefully final post in my gallery admission fees series, we were hit with some extreme weather here in Saskatoon.1 As such, I didn’t have a chance to follow through with my plan. The good news that the weather has forced me to pay attention to my practice. What does one do when the giant drifts of snow start to melt unexpectedly? Turn it into a studio, of course.

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Gallery Admission Fees Part 3: View from the Soapbox

This is my third post prompted by the impeding debate about admission fees to Saskatoon’s Mendel Art Gallery. In this post I get up on my soapbox and spew venom on both sides of the fee vs. free admission debate. I’ll start of by letting everyone know my position on this, so you can decide whether you want to continue reading. My position is this: I support reasonable user fees for public galleries and museums. I’m also in favour of exhibiting so-called “vernacular” art even though I don’t like much of the latter.

Update 11:00 pm, 9 March 2007: Be sure to check out my Vernacular Art Redux post after you’ve finished this one.

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