Reflections: What advice would you have given your younger self about pursuing art/music as a career?
In December 2022, Kimmortal—a Filipinx artist, musician and writer based in Vancouver—shared a written response to some of the themes that emerged from our recent workshop, Alternative Revenue Streams for LGBTQ2S+ Artists (view the recording here). Read on for a great source of inspiration for “weirdos” and people of all walks of life!
I have learned that I don’t need to know the answer to every question and that it is okay to not understand. I can go at my own pace when I am learning. I have learned that my art doesn’t need to speak on everything. I am not a bad person if I don’t check all the boxes and if I don’t know all the answers. I don’t need to capture everything, everywhere, everyone in my work. I have learned that coming from my own experience in my body and spirit is enough. People will project on you. You will try to please every single person. So please grow your self-compassion and self-forgiveness and self-kindness when you inevitably will make mistakes baby. Keep going and do better next time while staying curious about love, liberation, and the gems within your journey.
Cultivate a private routine of rest and rejuvenation. Do nothing. Sleep. Stay in bed. Take breaks from creative output, social media. Value private projects that are in the realm of expanding that inner space for just you. Value that just as much as you value your creative tangible output. Seek outlets for reflection and healing. Journaling? Walking? Dancing? Tell not a single soul about it. Know you are worthy of inner peace and deep rest. What do you need to show up as you are fully in this world?
Learn about what the circles of support around you can look like. Making your artistic visions reality are exciting but can be stressful if pursued alone. Start with intention when seeking a team around you. Self-managed? Manager(s)? Co-manager(s)? Mentors? Advisors? Life coaches? A sound board made up of trusted artists and friends? The idea is to create a circle that feels exciting and supportive to you and that you can imagine allows you to thrive in the process of creation. You are not a burden for asking for help or to be held accountable to your goals. People also learn for themselves what support can look like for them when you ask for help. Remember to listen for people’s boundaries and capacity levels before working together. Our collaborators won’t always be our friends and our friends won’t always be our collaborators. Appreciate and stay in gratitude for what is given because what a miracle it still is.
My core team is still forming as I type and I know it may change in the future. A lot of the folks in my circle are people I have been in relationship with for years, and others are people who I’ve felt safe around and who’s values resonate with mine. Others I am still in an extended trial period with, testing grounds, and in light communication with. I move with instinct and consult with my best friends. I also consult with my ancestral council—my inner spirit realm accessed through meditation and journaling. Be patient as your circle shrinks, plateaus, grows. From what I’ve learned of the music industry, it is competitive and can feel isolating. To stay sane, I stay true to valuing healing in community over competition, and over industry. Reflect and create relationships and communities that defy white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy.
Only say “yes” to collaborative projects that deeply excite you. Stray away from doing projects out of obligation. Dodge stretching yourself too thin. You do not have to answer to any offer right away. “No” is a welcome answer. For each “no,” you leave space for what excites you. Look forward to “yes” projects where you can be fully present.
- Some ideas of questions to ask before getting into a project:
- Does the work genuinely excite you? What is your capacity? Does this project align with your values and your desires for growth? Will your energy be reciprocated?
In any work relationship or collaboration, clear communication is key to make sure no one leaves feeling like they wasted their time or is taken advantage of.
- Start by asking questions:
- What do you want from me and what will I get in return?
- What will the project be used for?
- What is the turnaround time?
- Where and how will I be credited?
- Get it in writing:
- Clearly lay out expectations through email and phone.
- Make sure you are clear about what type of creative input you are giving. There have been issues in the past where my collaborator has also wanted me to help in another aspect of creation. Make sure you choose to do it instead of slowly getting roped into it.
- Do your research:
- Before working with an artist or company, do your research, through their social following and/or website. Who and how big is their audience? Do you want to be professionally associated with them/their brand? It is not selfish to think about what you are getting out of a project.
- Have clear boundaries with your time and energy, especially how much time you are willing to give for what you are getting.
Many layers of emotions: As someone who deals with neurodivergence and social anxiety, it can be extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable for me at any stage of my artistry so I make sure to prepare as much as I can. Friends, a therapist and my own rituals hold me down. In the release process of art, you can feel many things at once. When I have put my art out into the world or after I get off stage, I have felt joy, discomfort, happiness, depression. I thought there was something wrong with me but I am slowly learning to accept how there are many emotions at once. Seek support/grow rituals that can support you around the release process.
Organization/admin hacks!: Sometimes this artistic career just feels like a bunch of fuckin admin work! Lol! But we gotta do it. Organizing my life in a way that works for me allows me to thrive as an artist. Get yourself motivated to do that shit. I bought myself a comfy ass chair to get excited about sitting at my desk. I set an alarm to do at least 30 min each day to label, arrange and organize my files, both digital and physical. On my computer: audio files, folders for different art projects. Keeping good records of income and expenses for my taxes, receipts. It will all pay off in the end. I customize through colour coding and having cool retro icons. I reward myself with a coffee or reading in my book when I get that done. Whatever you need to do to, know where all your shit is. Do that!
Be cool with your untrainedness cos there’s a lot of potential play and inventiveness there that trained people want. Focus on your skills and dope perks. Comparing yourself to others is not the way to go. We all do it on this endless scroll. A great podcast that looks into the psychology of comparing yourself to others is right here.
Remember to play. Are you having fun? Are you tickled? Are you excited about what you are making? You might be on the right path. Does it feel like obligation, a task to check off, boring? Yikes. Keep inspiration close to you—expose yourself to the work that pumps you up or makes your head bob. I would also recommend seeing an art therapist to help you out if you are feeling that creative stagnancy.
What is meant for you will not pass you by. It is never too late. No need to rush even though you are convinced other people are ahead of the game. It’s not a race. It’s very personal to you. Trust your process, it is beautiful!
Imagine and write down what a successful career as an artist means to you. I had a conversation with my friend Superknova about what success means to us in our careers and she said something that really stuck with me that she learned via Ari Herstand:
“I’m not Starbucks. I’m not in every single state and I’m not a chain. I’m that one awesome café in the corner that people feel safe at and feel good in.”
I am obsessed with this metaphor because it made me excited for the niche space I occupy as a weirdo queer nb filipinx artist. I don’t have to live up to this singular road to success as a musician who achieves thousands of seats stadium status or has huge teams behind them. For now, I am smiling just thinking about having a long career, selling out 150–200 seat venues, making art that excites me, making portals that give a glimpse of liberation and hold space for queer spiritual deepening, and where I can be a part of making weirdos feel less alone.