Sunday, March 4, 2012

not only plan but also believe

"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.


  1. Thank you so much for this really considered look at the process of self-reflection through mentoring (if that's what we do). A pleasure to meet you and I look forward to seeing more of your wild goose chases.

    I rather love a comment in Getting to Maybe from a famous explorer who says "I wouldn't be a very good explorer if I didn't get lost". We are all, as creative producers, meant to get lost !!



  2. Ah, would you not describe it as mentoring? Interesting!

    That chimes quite well with one of my other favourite quotes which is "Not all those who wander are lost" from Tolkien's "All that is gold does not glitter" poem in the Lord of the Rings - I've always liked to think of it as wandering!

  3. Really enjoyed reading this - the problem of to fit into the industry is something I've struggled with a lot too.

    I think you're completely right about the importance of sometimes just gathering your faith and going for it.

    Good luck!


  4. Dearest Bridget,
    You seem to writing about what you are not, and what you cannot do; you are not an artist (that is a lie, I know you are one). You are not an administrator (may or may not be be true). Most of the blog entries you write about your theatre career seem to be aimed at putting yourself down. I don't like it when people put the people I love down! I want to hear abou the successes, however small they may be. I want to hear about the script break through you have made with your director/writer friend. I want to hear about idas you have had to make the project you are working on magnificent. I want you to make me more and more sad that you never agreed to marry me!

    Yours with love
    Reverend Parris/Donalbain

  5. I don't believe you actually ever asked me...! Thank you though. I thought I was unusually positive about my abilities in this one! Not much has happened yet though so it's difficult to write about the successes (plus, am not very good at writing about the things I do well... ha ha ha ha, proving your point!) Ok, I consider my wrist slapped and shall try to improve.