Articles

A Survival Guide for Young Artists

A few posts ago I mentioned talking to classes of elementary and junior high aspiring writers. I said I’d post the outline of what it was I said. Well, in looking for those comments I came upon a presentation I gave several years ago called “A Survival Guide for Young Artists: Lessons Learned from Thirty Years in the Arts.” Upon rereading it I had one of those “Hey, this is really good!” moments. It seemed a shame to leave it mouldering in some seldom-visited file on my computer, so I decided to send it along to all of you.

It is intended for college students or artists just starting out in their careers. I hope you find it valuable, or at least interesting. Feel free to pass it along to students or young creators with whom you come in contact.

Be warned — it’s a bit long, but I think it is worth the read.

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What a gift and what a surprise

I promised you a note about my work with the young people, but I’m going to let that wait. I feel I need to issue a great and warm “thank you” to the voices that have written back. It is so interesting — some of you I have met in person on occasion; with others I have communicated by email once or twice; some of you are familiar names from comments you have made either on this website or on Amazon; still others are new names and voices.

What I didn’t expect was that the sum of the communications would feel like a community. Even though the connections are loose, they are real. There are people who have lived through Katrina, people who run visionary communities in upstate New York, people who sit at desks all day and keep their private lives and hopes to themselves, people who teach, people who heal, people who are just starting out in life and people who are trying to find the narrative thread to a life that has been fully lived, if not always in the manner that had been expected.

I’m at a loss to articulate the feeling of connectedness you have created. I only wish I could connect all of you with each other. There is no doubt in my mind that you are an exceptional group of caring, thoughtful, reflective human beings who want to make a difference, but are not blinded by ideology or false visions of our own importance. It is a rare group, indeed.

What this does to and for me is make me realize that I am writing to a community. I believe I have underestimated that. Your contacts and heartfelt comments have redirected me. I no longer feel like I’m writing to an abstraction or a void. That should help me be clearer and more confident in speaking my mind and heart.

And I will. It may not be a daily occurrence, or even a weekly communique. But you have touched me, and I won’t forget it. Together, we move onward, with faith and courage, through the fog, looking always for the moment of light.

Thank you all. And keep those cards and letters coming.


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