I Support Supporting.
I’ve been involved in community theatre for years. Once I began to establish myself somewhat in the local theatre circuit, I adopted a practice of supporting those people I knew who were also in theatre. Whenever a friend or someone I had gotten along with well in a previous show was to appear in a production, I’d make an effort to come see them in same. Even if the show itself didn’t appeal to me. First, it’s the decent thing to do. And secondly, I was building a network or artistic, creative types that hopefully would lead to bigger and better things.
During those years I too was also in many shows, to which I would invite all of those people I would come to see. After several years I noticed something; none of them ever came to see me in my shows.
If that sounds like an exaggeration, it’s because it’s a stunning yet true statistic. Unless I was in a show with one of these people I was supporting, or they were there to come see someone else that was in the show with me, almost none of them would attend shows I was in. Oh they really “meant” to, or “would have loved it”, but they didn’t do it.
The result? After a few years, I stopped going to shows to support people. It wasn’t worth my time or money to keep seeing shows, (some of which were honestly not good) only to support “friends” and “colleagues”, when that investment was never returned.
Strict adherents to the “networking magic” school of success would say that I made it all about me, and that is why it failed. That networking is about what I can provide to other people and “yammer yammer yammer yammer”…we’ve heard it all before ad nauseum.
The truth is, I wasn’t in it simply to collect future favors. I was doing it because at the time it seemed like the nice thing to do. Yet it wasn’t always easy to set aside ticket money, or drive 45 minutes to do it. A bit of reciprocity is not too much to ask, I don’t care how “selfless” you claim to be when you do something.
So I began to simply give the best I could give when I was in a show with people. I thought a few years of that would entitle me to some degree of respect and consideration. Last year, the failure of both my own theatre company, and to gain any interest in a play I directing was further proof that support for my creative endeavors is damn near impossible t0 come by.
I am a little bitter about the lack of support I have gotten from the vast majority of people I’ve worked with over the years. The same can be said for the fact I’ve kept a blog of some sort for close to eight years now, that only a few people I know have ever read or commented on. It literally doesn’t require anyone to leave their home, and the patronage is close to zero. I have gotten more response from strangers than the people I know since starting this site.
This is also troublesome. But there is something about the situation that makes it more than just sad, and projects it into the realm of the offensive at times. That extra factor is that many of those same people who didn’t come to see my shows, didn’t try out for my production, or don’t read my blog have projects in their own right that they have the audacity to promote.
Now, perhaps I’m just an unpopular, deeply hated individual. Believe me I’ve considered the possibility more than once. But I’ve not been so hated that others haven’t asked me to come to their show, buy a ticket for whatever, give something a look, and so on. They’ve created something after all, and an audience is an audience.
At least, when they need the audience. Truth be told they usually end up with a bigger audience than I ever got, and that’s probably enough for them. But it doesn’t take away the point I’m trying to make.
Being creative is not easy when it matters to you. When your play, your novel, your website or gallery exhibit actually means something to you, and you really want to move people, it’s not easy. Sometimes people get lucky, and have their first sloppy draft published, or get the lead in a play their first time out, but over the long haul, creating something artistic means effort.
In an increasingly fast paced Crowdsourcing world where iphones and text messages are king and everyone can publish a book or edit a movie, it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out as an artist, particularly a new one. Even in smaller communities, there is so much competing for our attention it’s not easy to stand out and have people take notice of what we’ve created, without some built-in audience or connection to the community. The internet, once a place that made such connections easier is now an even bigger flood of pointless garbage than the real world tends to be. Creatives can get lost there even faster.
My overarching argument is this; support creatives. Especially your friends or people you’ve met personally. It may eventually lead to diminishing returns, and if it does, cut your ties, and move on to something more promising. You don’t have to keep beating your head into a wall. I didn’t. I stopped going to plays that didn’t appeal to me just to support the friends that were in them. But you can keep giving new things a chance. Or a hand.
There will always be someone else with a project to investigate and support. Someone will always need any help they can get in spreading the word about their creations. So help out some of those people each day. Give a project or even a person that is unfamiliar a temporary benefit of the doubt, and attend their show or promote their blog. You can always step away if you don’t like it or if you don’t feel appreciated.
The very act of creating in this world is a brave one. Far too brave an act than to be shoved out of our minds by busy schedules and the next Facebook status update. We owe it to creativity itself to try a little harder as people to look into, talk about, and promote creative endeavors that we come across. Not every one of them, but not just those of our best friends either. Those of us who spend our lives being creative have a special obligation to at least try for our fellow creatives.
A handful of my friends have done so for me. I try to do so for others. Will you?