6 Be’s of the Art Biz

I first met Mara Purl as a member of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association. I didn’t think we had much in common. After all, I wrote about the art business and she wrote novels. We were both, though, focused on connecting with our people.

I recently heard Mara speak about her journey as a hyphenate (see below) and am delighted to be part of her blog tour for the September 1 release of her book, What the Heart Knows. Miranda Jones, the central character in the book, is a fine artist.

– Alyson

Guest blogger: Mara Purl

Mara Purl

Mara Purl, author of What the Heart Knows

An “artist” can refer very specifically to someone working in the fine arts. It can also be used in a broader sense to include anyone living and working as a creative professional. Following that definition, I’m a life-long artist. And in Los Angeles, I’m known as a “hyphenate”, or someone who works in more than one discipline. So I’m a writer-performer-producer.

As a performer, I worked as an actress in theatre and on television, probably my best known role being “Darla Cook” on Days Of Our Lives.

As a producer, I created my own soap opera, but for radio. My original radio serial Milford-Haven U.S.A. became the first American radio drama ever licensed and broadcast by the BBC, and had 4.5 million listeners in the U.K.

As a writer, I’ve penned scores of teleplays, radio plays, and theatrical plays; worked as a professional journalist for several years; have written several non-fiction books. And now, I’m a novelist.

The following are what I call the Be’s in the Artist Biz.

1 Be Authentic

I was intrigued to discover that “author” and “authentic” share the same root word, which means “created by one’s own hand.”

It’s important to study, and also to find and learn from mentors. I’ve been fortunate to study with great teachers and learn from extraordinary mentors. But ultimately, the most important part of the artist’s work is to listen to your own inner voice . . . listen hard and closely enough that it becomes louder than all others.

In writing it’s actually called “finding your voice.” This becomes the most valuable aspect of your work, that which no one else can duplicate, that which you are here to authentically share.

2 Be Brave

There is no substitute for the raw courage required to be an artist.

I can think of at least two moments in my life that required enough courage for me to leap over a chasm. One was quitting a secure day job.

The other took even more guts. I’d been invited by a radio station owner to create a show for him to broadcast. I outlined my show, a very early version of Milford-Haven, and sent him the first four scripts. But getting no response from him, I drove up to the town where his station was only to discover he had sold the station and was long gone. I, however, was not invested in my project. So I asked the new owners if they were interested. “No,” they said, “We’ve been throwing away your scripts.” I had to make an important decision on the spot. “What if I found sponsors?” I asked. “That would be different! Then we’d broadcast your show!”

I left the station knowing I now needed sponsors, but having no clue how to get them. So I started walking up and down the main street of the town, pitching my still non-existent show to store owners. And they bought sponsorships! If I’d stopped to think about what I was doing, I’d have gotten cold feet. Instead, I followed my heart. The word “courage” comes from the French word (coeur) for “heart”!

3 Be Persistent

I have now rewritten my first novel at least ten times. Why? First, because I was transitioning from writing scripts to writing narrative voice, and had a lot to learn. But even after I basically knew the form, I continued to grow as a writer. I saw what I’d left out, saw character’s moments of decision or trepidation, recognition or bafflement, and understood more clearly how to let my heart speak directly to my readers.

These ten rewrites and early editions have taken ten years. But what is time compared to realizing your heart’s desire? Time is nothing but a tool to use wisely.

Another example I could share is about my publisher. I’d heard of the president of the company for some time, and read about his projects. From the first, I felt resonance with what he believed in and how he’d created his company. About two years later, I had an opportunity to meet him, and prepared carefully for my short time with him. But the meeting turned out to be even shorter than scheduled, because he stopped it abruptly by saying he couldn’t work with me. Shocked, I asked why, and he said he felt I wasn’t ready.

I spent another two years learning everything I could about being ready . . . interviewing mentors, researching my genre. At the end of the two years, a very special opportunity arose for me to meet with him again. In a few minutes, he offered me a contract and I’m now working with the ideal publisher for me and my books.

4 Be in Integrity

What I mean by that is discover your core purpose and see how and where you can connect every aspect of your work to that purpose. Declare your word. Then live up to your word.

As customers search for or encounter things they might want to buy, one thing in their minds and hearts is trust. Can they trust you? Can they trust your work? Is it derivative or truly original? Will it be worth their investment?

Mara Purl, What the Heart KnowsThe visible part of this appears in the form of branding, a very important part of marketing. When my books are on display on a website or in a bookstore, my publisher, designers, marketing team and I work to create one impression, a recognizable brand.

We’ve chosen signature colors, fonts, and layouts for my covers. And the key to my branding are the original watercolors painted for me by renowned artist Mary Helsaple. Mary and I have worked together for several years and are closely aligned in our motives and aspirations. Starting with the line-drawings created for my radio drama, she is creating the watercolors that are the ultimate visual representation of my fictitious town, my story, and my brand.

The invisible part of this quality of trustworthiness is tangible to the intuition. If you are clear about your commitment to your work, and are living the word you’ve declared, your customers will know it.

5 Be the Experience

One key point where art and business must connect is “the recipient’s experience.” That recipient is called a “customer” from a business perspective, a “viewer” from a museum perspective, a “reader” from an author perspective, a “client” from a designer or decorator perspective.

Whatever that recipient is called, to me it’s all about that person’s experience.

I like to create for myself a “guided tour” of what my reader will experience when she (for me, it’s mostly women, as I write Women’s Fiction) encounters me or my book in any form whatsoever. So I work on this in all the ways I can think of, whether it’s for this current blog tour, or a bookstore signing, one of my Milford-Haven Socie-Tea events, or a seminar for writers, a book festival panel or a package received in the mail.

6  Be Creative

This is obvious. We are creative, that’s why we’re artists!

What I mean by this is own your creativity, treasure it, and use it in all areas of your career, not just the core creative work itself. Be creative in your branding, in your approach to clients/readers/customer, and in your approach to balancing your creative and your business activities.

In a place like Kyoto, Japan, or Florence, Italy, you find yourself in a place that is already creative. For example, lunch is “good” if the presentation includes the perfect flavors, plate, utensils, window view, aromas, music, and ambience. These are all artistic considerations.

But in America, lunch is generally considered “good” if it’s moderately nutritious and gets you back to your studio or desk in less than 90 minutes. So, in our culture, we have to rebalance our own space each day.

Is your studio/ office a place that inspires you to work for hours at a time?
Do you have a special location for reflection/ meditation/ quiet?
Do you take yourself on “artist dates” where you absorb something inspiring like hiking in nature, visiting a museum, or people-watching in a café?
Schedule these special times into your life to keep your own juices flowing.

Mara PurlAbout Mara Purl

Mara is an actress-turned-writer-performer-producer. Her wildly successful radio show based on the fictional town of Milford-Haven has 4.5 million listeners in the United Kingdom. Her book, What the Heart Knows, will be released on September 1, 2011.

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29 comments to 6 Be’s of the Art Biz

  • Mea

    Thank you for this, very affirming and thought provoking. I remember the terror of quitting my steady job, but I’ve never looked back. Lots of creative people don’t get very far because they don’t see numbers 1-5.

    • Thanks Mea! So glad the “Be’s” were affirming and thought-provoking. They certainly are for me. And it’s not the quitting a steady job that’s so important, but rather the following the inner guidance which sometimes leads in unlikely or seemingly unreliable directions. Joseph Campbell (whom I had the joy of knowing) used to talk about guidance sometimes coming as a “small feeling,” to which we should pay attention. Sounds like that’s just what you’re doing. My best to you!

  • Wow! What a fabulous and inspiring post!

  • Carolyn

    Thanks for an inspiring post! There are some challenges I find myself afraid to embrace because it means change, but that is life, right! Great, intelligent words from Marla. It’s making some stirrings in my heart.

  • This really strikes a note. I guess it’s the persistent part I need to focus on right now. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Thanks, Wendy! I think “Phase 1″ of any project is like infuation. It’s the easy part because it’s so exciting and engrossing. “Phase 2″ is about 1,000 time harder because it’s rowing a boat across endless, flat water. After a while we can’t remember why we’re doing it, or even where we’re going. But if you find ways to remind yourself of your core purpose, the satisfaction of completing “Phase 2″ is also about 1,000 time more rewarding than anything that comes before. So . . . keep rowing! :-)

  • Marla sullivan

    great way to start the week, thanks for this wonderful post

  • “But ultimately, the most important part of the artist’s work is to listen to your own inner voice . . . listen hard and closely enough that it becomes louder than all others.”

    Wonderful words ~ thank you!

  • What a provocative post! Concise and very useful. Thank you Alyson for having Mara Purl as your guest blogger.

  • Thanks for this. I realize that it also takes some examination to recognize a “be brave” opportunity and follow it by being “persistent”. Good luck with the release of your new book!

    • Thank you Lucas! You’re right, it does take examination and discernment to distinguish between being truly brave, and just expressing bravado. Thanks for the good wishes about my book! Alyson will be posting a bonus on her site in a month or so, for those who purchase it, so be sure to check back!

  • I’ve always believed in the “Ps”: passion, patience, persistence, perspective. Now Mara has added a handful of other “Bs” for me to take to heart and incorporate into my writer’s life. Thank you!

  • I was watching a silly movie called Greenberg…In the movie, Ben Stiller has a line: “My psychiatrist says that people only fail by 5%”…He goes on to elaborate that the difference between success & failure is really that small…If that is true, (& I can find the real statistic), then it really encourages persistence…

  • Thanks, Sari, for that quote! Love it! And it’s so true. If we picture what it takes to tip a scale one way or another, just one gram will do it. A majority if 51 percent. And I keep rediscovering what great metaphysical muscles “persistence” build.

  • Good advice I try to share all the time.

  • Ellie Giannelli

    Great touch points. I really like the “artist dates”. I’ve done this for many years and find it restores me and gives me a sense of balance and inspiration.

    • I agree! “Artist dates” are from Julia Cameron’s brilliant “The Artist’s Way.” Wasn’t that a fantastic book to read?

  • Mara, I am going to bookmark your article so I can refer to it on a regular basis. It is a great summary of what we artists need to do consistently. Keep writing! :)

    • Carol – Thank you so much! Yes yes yes, will keep writing. May I put you on my newsletter list? If so, please send your e-mail directly to me. All the best with your artist-work!

  • Mara,

    Well I have to say you sure nailed this one! One of the very best, if not the best write ups regarding what it means to be an artist and creating a balance between art and business.

    As an artist and now mature student, who went back to school at 56 , graduating with my BFA next Spring, I know about courage and fear and all those words like prayer, persistence, trust, humility, humour and humanity that I strive to actualize in my life daily!

    You confirm what I ‘ve learned through my own life experience and what others have shared with me.. Woman like your self Mara, are a wonderful example and mentor to other women, sharing what has been freely shared with you. This, is what life and learning are all about, passing it on and paying forward.

    Living a creative life is a myriad of things, but mostly for me, it is an exciting journey.
    When you mentioned the artist date, I immediately thought about Julia Cameron’s life changing book “The Artist’s Way.” That book changed my life and was recommended to me years ago, by an fellow woman artist and art therapist.

    She also recommended I get the book “Women That Run With The Wolves”. Now these two pivotal life affirming books I have integrated into my life, and they have made all the difference for me as a woman , as an artist and my daily creative practice.

    I’m so grateful to have found you, and like Carol, I will be book marking this one! You’ve made my day!

    Thank you so much!

    Catherine

    • Dear Catherine,
      Thank you so very much for this thoughtful and supportive message!! As to Julia’s Cameron’s “The Artist Way”, I adored it! Read it many years ago and put myself through her program, and also found that I’d hit upon many of the same principles in my program “Ten Keys to Creativity,” which I used to teach regularly. Truth is Truth, and we get those golden moments when it resonates through us. And Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ “Women Who Run With the Wolves” was also recommended to me by an older-wiser-mentor-woman in the early 90s. I took her suggestion and read it immediately, but then have continued to re-read it through the years. (My copy is heavily annotated!) Just brilliant insights into the different chapters of live both as women, and as artists. The stepping stones these two dedicated, unselfish mentor-women provided in their work allows us to go farther across the pond, and plant the next stepping stones for others. Yet it’s more than that, for each of us has a unique gift, a jewel that powers inspiration, a lens that magnifies what is real. Thanks again for your comments and if you’d like to be on my mailing list, please e-mail me directly. My best to you in all your endeavors! Mara

      • Thank you very much for your reply Mara.

        I gave a little chuckle to myself when you said you have continued to re-read Clarissa Pinkola Estes book, Women That Run With The Wolves. I have done the same lots of highlighting, and am actually re-reading it again at present and studying it intently as I am basing my art work/egg tempera paintings on the imagery.. I would love to get your feed back on these.

        You make an excellent point and description of these women being stepping stones for others and of us all being blessed with unique gifts to share and inspire. I see it very much as being an oral tradition of story telling. We all have one to share that act as guide posts to find our way.

        Have you read The Spirituality of Imperfection? All about the important and power of story telling. Another one of those life changing books.

        Yes I will email you to be included on your mailing list! Thank you Mara.

        Catherine

  • Mara, thank you for your heart-felt words of wisdom. My first introduction to you was in a Tango class but my first introduction to your work was at UCCS a few years ago when you debated Pride and Prejudice. You were brilliant in your approach. That is when I discovered your writing and became a fan of your Milford-Haven series. So looking forward to the next in the series.

    Also enjoyed your interview with Alyson on your blog tour.

  • I completely agree with your tips! Be Brave is a great one that I need to remind myself of every day ~ push the envelope and be different ~ and be yourself.
    And I will definitely say yes to your question: Is your studio a place that inspires you to work for hours at a time?
    http://brightboldbeautiful.blogspot.com/2010/04/art-studio-home-office.html