Category Archives: Work Stuff

Free the Artist, Not the Art



(originally posted on on 9/29/14)


Show of hands – how many of you out there are willing to pay for art? How many of you believe that an artist should be paid for her output, whether it be a musical performance, an essay, a graphic design, or a painting of your dog?

Alright, another show of hands – how many of you have gotten these things for free? Have you attended a free concert in the park, or gotten free tickets to a show, or shared a music download with someone for free, or asked a friend for a favor to create a little logo for your blog?

I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of free art. But I’ve also been a giver of free art. For far, far too long. I daresay our culture has given us a sense that art should be given for free.

As I struggle to embrace the idea that I deserve to be paid for what I create, I’m surrounded by messages that it has little value. That art is a hobby, not a vocation.

If art is a hobby, why did I spend over $100,000 for my education? Why did I earn an advanced degree? Why do I continue honing my craft in endless classes? So that I could get a job as an administrative assistant and pursue art on the side? Fuck that.

I’m so tired of working for free. I’m tired of being expected to work for free, even from my own peers. I’m sick that our culture allows us to perpetuate this myth that it costs nothing to produce art, and that it is easy – anybody could do it at an expert level. How many plays have I been in where I haven’t gotten a dime? Or if I did get the union stipend of $15 per performance, I was expected to give it back to the theater, just so they would survive? How is my time of no value?

As artists, we’re encouraged to work for free, in the beginning. It’s a way to establish contacts and gain some experience. But I’m almost 40 – when does that stop? When will I actually be able to start paying on my student loans? Is it only when I give up what it is I trained to do? What I’m good at, and what makes my heart happy? The thing I feel I was put on this earth to do?

I’ve been told, time and again, that I undervalue myself. But how do I find value in myself if other people don’t think there is value in what I offer?

I’m making a promise to myself today. If you are an artist that is struggling as I am, I hope you will join me in this. I refuse to keep working for less than what I am worth. I refuse to “give up” because society thinks that is the responsible thing to do. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is the work I am meant for, and I will no longer undervalue myself. If someone doesn’t want to pay for what I have to offer, then I will move on and look for someone who does. They are out there, somewhere. I won’t find them if I continue to settle for less.

I am taking back my life today.

Money Changes Everything

(originally posted on on 9/2/14)


This is where I am today, and it’s kind of embarrassing to admit.

I’m just going to come out and say it. I have alot of issues about money. I grew up in a working class family, and although our needs were certainly always fulfilled I was hyper-aware of money and how much we did or didn’t have compared to everyone else.

I don’t think that’s changed much in my adult life. I’m still working class and I am still hyper-aware of how much I do or don’t have compared to my friends and colleagues. I realize I find myself in this uncomfortable place because of choices I have made, the largest and riskiest one being the choice to pursue a life in the arts. A life that is inherently unstable and for which you often don’t get paid. The kind of life where you have to have a “survival job” in order to make ends meet. I think in my mind I’ve equated being an artist with being perpetually poor. I worry, often to excess, about whether or not I need to change gears, to give up a life in the arts for something more stable. I’m smart and I’m a hard worker. I know I could get a job that pays me well. I just don’t want any of those jobs. I’ve had them, and I hate them. And I know this is a first world problem. There are billions of people in the world who work long, hard days and barely makes ends meet. They are barely surviving. This knowledge makes me feel incredibly guilty about my choices, which just feeds the worry and anxiety.

I’ve also come to learn in my adult life that what I think about, I create. If I focus on not having enough, then I will never have enough. If, instead, I focus on abundance and visualize money flowing to me, then there is a much greater likelihood that will happen. Putting that idea into practice is incredibly hard.

This is where I am in my artist life. I feel compelled to continue to walk this path, this is the path my intuition tells me to follow, and I’ve learned to trust my intuition. I feel I have been called to this life. But, damn, you guys, it’s fucking hard.

This is where I am today.

In and Out

originally posted on on 10/12/10)

This morning I had my dreaded “Job Search Assistance” appointment with the Employment Development Department for the State of California.  Barf.

For the last two weeks I’ve had to record all the jobs I’ve applied for as well as upload my resume to the job search assistance website for California.  Double Barf.  I’ve also spent this time imagining the horror that awaited me – body pressed against sweaty, smelly body in a crowded flourescent-lighted city office as I and dozens more listened to an underpaid and overworked city official describe in excruciating detail how to conduct a job search online.  Having the same city official look at me with disdain in her eyes as she encourages me to apply for any job out there – hey, we have a receptionist position open in this office! – nevermind that I have a very expensive graduate degree that I have yet to pay for (8 years later and counting, groan…).

So it was with barely-contained anxiety that I dressed myself as professionally and cute as could be this morning, as if my clothes could shout “Hey, I don’t need you to tell me how to find a job!  See how well-dressed I am?”, while having visions of myself pulling a George Costanza with my petulant interviewer.

Imagine my surprise, then, as I pulled up to the office in Marina Del Rey with plentiful parking just steps from the office door, walked in and noticed that not only were there no other people waiting in line, but that there were only two chairs in the waiting room – as if they never expected anyone to wait.  Guess I didn’t need to bring my book.  I sauntered up to the counter, vaguely confused by the situation, where a very cute man took down my name and asked me to hold on just a moment as he rounded up my interviewer.  Should I have a seat?  Oh no, that won’t be necessary.  Why thank you.  Smile, smile, make eye contact with the Very Cute Man, bat the eyes a little.  Hey, if a little flirting is all it takes to make this process go faster, then I’m all for it.  I’m glad I decided to dress cute.

Just then, Darryl, my interviewer, appeared in all his big, black, boisterous glory.  He asked me for the paper I had filled out with my job search results, at the top of which I had written in big letters so I wouldn’t forget – BRING SS CARD.

“Can I see your Secret Service Card?”


“You wrote up here to remember to bring your Secret Service Card.”

Wow – there’s even humor here!

“Yep, I brought it, it’s gold-plated, you ever see one?”

“Ah, I’m just joshin’ with ya’.”

I immediately like Darryl.

Darryl takes me back to his cubicle, where he reviews my passport (and my Secret Service Card, which was in my passport) and looks me up in the system.  He then proceeds to tell me that there are three things he needs to cover with me.  1) – that I am who I say I am, as evidenced by my passport.  2) – that I am capable and have been looking for work, as evidenced by my completed paperwork.  And 3) – that I have a resume posted on their job assistance website, as evidenced by my resume staring back at me from Darryl’s computer screen.  Bing, bang, bong.  Looks like we’re all covered.  Darryl then informs me he’s looking forward to his blueberry muffin and that he must accompany me out the door because, hey, if Denzel Washington were in here they don’t want him to be ambushed.  I’m not sure why Denzel Washington would be in the unemployment office in Marina Del Rey, but I went with it and also heard Darryl’s story of meeting Denzel while working as an extra on a film set.  Only in Hollywood.  I got my parking validated by the Very Cute Man and I was outta there.  It took about 5 1/2 minutes total.  Awesome.

Speaking of in and out, I am completely absorbed by the story of the Chilean miners and will be glued to CNN all night watching for the moment that they extract the first miner from that Death Hole.  The Chilean government has gone to great lengths to make this a media-friendly event (they have a live satellite feed of the process) and yet they also seem to be doing a good job of keeping the men separated from the media vultures that will no doubt be immediately swarming them.  I am interested to see this story unfold over the next couple of days.  I’ll be sure to have my box of tissues nearby.

All this talk of in and out, I think I need to go get a burger…

Is That In the Schedule?

(originally posted on on 9/21/10)

Well, hello there, Blog-Friends!  Long time, no see.  Is this turning into a weekly blog?  It kinda seems so, based on my behavior.  But do I really need to impose that sort of schedule on a blog?  Can I just write, you know, whenever I feel like it?  That’s just so out of character for me.  For three years I have been the Keeper of the Schedule…not my own, really, but my boss’s schedule (and let’s face it, he was WAY busier than me).  So I think I’ve become programmed to schedule every day down to the half-hour.  Hey, at least it’s not down to the minute.  Not yet, anyway.  Give me a few weeks.

Take this whole unemployment thing.  I’ve basically arranged my weekdays to reflect that of your typical desk jockey:  wake up, work-out, shower, get ready, eat breakfast, “report” to work.  9am-1pm is for responding to emails, browsing for jobs, reading the latest industry and world news, and admittedly checking out my friends’ Facebook pages (cuz, hey, I did that at my office job, too).  1pm-2pm is for lunch (longer if I have a lunch date, as you have to accommodate for transit times – I used to actually schedule “transit” in my boss’s schedule – and it was always in blue).  2pm-6pm is for longer-range planning, strategizing, project implementation, more browsing for jobs, snack breaks, perhaps even an errand or two.  But now there’s all kinds of other stuff coming up, and I think – where is that going to go in the schedule?  For example, I desperately need to learn some rudimentary Spanish for my upcoming trip to South America (I found through experience that it’s pretty essential to be able to ask where the nearest bathroom is).  Does that fall into my “work” day?  Or is that for my “time off”?  If I study Spanish from, say, 3-4pm every day, does that count as goofing off?  Should I wait until I “clock out” at 6pm?  How about that etsy shop I want to open?  Does making upcycled handbags count as my primary work, or should it be relegated to the “moonlighting” position?  And why the hell am I even obsessing over this?  Is that OCD gene kicking in?  Or is it my middle-class guilt that I’m collecting a wage (unemployment) without really doing anything?  Good lord, sounds like I need a Valium.  I think I have a bad case of Calendar-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  After so many years of living and dying by The Schedule, it’s hard to let go.

Oh, it’s 12pm PST.  Time for my regularly schedule bathroom break.

COBRA and Other Venomous Specimens

(originally posted on on 9/7/10)

I have officially made it through one week of unemployment.  I’ll admit, though I’ve made endless “to do” lists and have had a flurry of energy, I had moments of feeling at loose ends.  Moments where I felt that all my glorious planning about What To Do Next had done nothing but create a mountain of not-yet-started projects that, at times, felt insurmountable.

I felt a bit like that today.  Dealing with anything related to health insurance makes me want to jump off the Santa Monica bluffs on my next morning run, so I’ve been putting off looking at the big packet that recently came in the post containing everything I ever wanted to know, or not know, about COBRA.  For my dear Blog-Friends who may be reading this in Canada (or some other country lucky enough to have socialized medicine) and are super-confused about why I may be receiving poisonous snakes in the mail, COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconstruction Act.  Quite a mouthful, no?  Basically, it means that I can elect to pay the premium so that I can continue to have health insurance coverage.  So that if I were to, say, be bitten by a cobra I could actually go to the hospital for it.  Ain’t America great?  However, I swear you have to have a doctoral degree to understand the minutiae of this literature they send to you.  But I think I have it figured out.  If I am summarizing the information correctly, it goes something like this:  pay us an obscene amount of money, and we’ll try to do our best to make sure you don’t die.  Or something like that.

So while I might dream at night of being bitten by venomous snakes and have moments of ambiguity during my days, for the most part this unemployment thing is pretty awesome.  That being the case, I find it amusing that when I tell people of my recent lay-off, the first thing they want to do is console me.  I’m not quite sure why this is, since usually my admission is complemented by a huge smile or a shout of “Yahoo!”.  I don’t need to be consoled.  I needed the consolation when I was employed.  THAT was dreadful.  This…this ain’t so bad.

Reality? Check.

(originally posted on on 9/1/10)

A few observations since beginning my “funemployment”:

1.  There are alot of people at the gym at 10:30am.  Who are these people?  What do they do?  Are they unemployed like me?  Do they have night jobs?  Are they trust fund babies? (Probably no on that last one – I go to Bally’s, a distinctly low-budget gym).  Having been holed up in a windowless cubicle from 9am – 7pm for the last three years, I’m amazed that there are people out and about during the day.  Riding bikes.  Shopping.  Having coffee.  Hell, there is more traffic on Santa Moncia Blvd. at noon than at 9am.  How is this possible?  And why has it taken me so long to join this terrifically sunshiney world?

2.  In the 13 years that I have had my cat, I often find hairballs at least once or twice a week.  I have never actually witnessed him doing it, however.  No longer.  Now that I’m home during the day, I got to see it first hand.  It’s pretty impressive.  One second – nothing there.  Next second – giant sticky, smelly mess on the floor.  Like magic.  Like it came through a wormhole.  Wow.

3.  I have the ability to waste an enormous amount of time on Facebook.  Thank you, my friends, for being  endlessly fascinating.

4.  Daytime TV is depressing.  I’m sorry Rachel Ray, but I find you kind of grating.  And don’t even get me started on Oprah or Dr. Phil.  I’d rather gouge out my eye with a rusty spike.

5.  When I don’t know what to do, or I am avoiding doing what I should be doing, I clean.  My apartment is going to be fucking spotless within the week.

6.  If I don’t get out of my apartment regularly, I’m going to gain 20 pounds in a matter of days.  Food is my elixir for boredom and stress.  And the yogurt place across the street is constantly calling my name.

Still trying to sort this new reality out, but I’m definitely in it.

I Had a Dream

(originally posted on on 8/30/10)

I had a dream last night…

Okay, let me interrupt myself.  I don’t often like to share my nightly dreams as I know that it can be excruciatingly boring for the listener, but I promise this one time it is relevant.

I had a dream last night that I got an 11th hour reprieve on my lay off, and was expected to report to work today.  In my dream I was devastated.  I did not want to go back there.  Lucky for me, I woke up shortly thereafter and realized with a sigh of relief that I would not be driving to Burbank this morning, and that I am, in fact, still unemployed.

Which leads me to today’s biggest order of business:  filing for unemployment.

I received the above tome as part of my “separation packet” from my (now former) employer.  I must say, it’s a little daunting.  I’ve never applied for unemployment insurance before, and if the stories from friends who have are true, what I have to look forward to are endless hours on hold, lenghty waiting periods, interviews that could go awry, and the possibility of a dispiriting appearance in Appeals Court.

Good times.

As I sit here in my pjs, I wonder just how many others are sitting in their pjs doing just as I am doing this morning.  If the statistics are true, today in the state of California it’s approximately 4400 people.    That’s an alarming number.

I think before I endeavor to delve into this mass of confusing paperwork, I should head to the gym.  I believe it’s going to be important to me to keep up my daily routine as much as possible, so I’ll attempt to make sense of all of this at the more reasonable hour of say, 9:30am.  I’ll let you know how it goes.