Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Village Voice Trick...

This post is dedicated to the musicians, comedians, bloggers, & entertainers who have a gig coming up/cd to promote. This is an easy way to get free advertising and is completely legal. This trick goes as follows. Pick a weekly publication that you feel the readership would enjoy your show/blog/cd etc. In my case it would be the independent alternative media source such as Village Voice or NY Press. For example, if you are a comedian with a cd on Itunes, pick The Onion. Both are free in all of New York City's Burroughs and can be found on most busy corners. Put together an attractive flyer or postcard that gives all of the information a reader needs to go see your show, buy your cd, or read your blog. Most of these are published weekly, so set the calender on your phone to remind you when the newest batch of your publication comes out. Go down to the corner with the nearest free magazine stand and take 20 or 30 of them home with you. Place a flyer in each newspaper and stack them back up. NOTE: If your show is in somewhere say the Lower East Side, fill your backpack up with the newspapers and bring them right near where you are doing the show! Also remember that most people that live in Manhattan are bored and have a lot of money so they will be a good target market. Place the papers back in the newspaper booth inconspicuosly and leave the scene. Do this weekly and you will find a big big boost in your audience. Mom will be proud.

Top 11 Websites that Will Make Your Life Better...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Creative Blocks and How to Get Rid of Them

(the inner workings of a poetic terrorist)

Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “reading is for the uninspired.” I didn't understand at first, but then it came to me like a sock-shock from the carpet. If you were inspired, it would be you that was doing the writing instead of the reading. He then went on to say that whenever inspiration struck, he would immediately put down the book and work on his own creative works.
It is the passive, yet subjective engagement of reading in which we become inspired to create our own works. In part, this is a book about inspiring you to go out there and to start writing that novel, song, or whatever it is you want to create. Perhaps you’ve already put this book down. If you have, good for you, but tell the rest of your artist friends how inspired you became after just the introduction of the Starving Artist's Guide! The other part of this book is about the finding the means to achieve such ends without feeling mentally and physically exhausted by the job you do to keep afloat financially. You could figure this out on your own, of course, but consider this a telescope that allows you to see some of the potholes that already exist on the windy, exciting and sometimes dark road of artistic expression. If you’re still here, read on, in the hopes that you put this book down sooner or later and continue on your artistic quest.
There are a few things I do when trying to tackle writer’s block. There are a few tried and true methods to beating writer's block for good. First, simply look at your creative environment. Is there a television on somewhere in the background? Loud noises that aren’t helping? If so, you should take your television, unplug it and throw it out the window. Please make sure there isn’t anyone directly below. I am serious. Television is evil. It will kill every ounce of creativity you have. Every minute you sit and watch television is one minute of experiencing a creative vacuum. As Bill Hicks used to say in his comedy routine, “watching television is like taking black spray-paint to your your third eye.” Use your television to watch good movies and keep up on politics via the world news. And forget about actually paying for cable! It's a waste of money! Watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and other good shows on the internet and save yourself $360 a year. Tired of the bunny ears and fuzzy PBS shows? Go out and get yourself a digital converter box for about $50. You can even go to to get a $40 coupon from the U.S. Government for it.
If a neighbor or roommate constantly makes noise that you can’t stand, man up and ask him or her to quiet down. This is your apartment too, remember! (If it’s you that is making the musical dissonance, there are some easy ways you can soundproof your room in order to save others from grief. See References for Musicians on page XX) If you can’t change either of these things, find a quiet place like a library or park when its nice out to work on your craft. Caf├ęs are nice and quiet too, but usually want something in the form of currency in exchange for sitting there for eight hours.
There are some days in working on a writing project that are simply not conducive. If you find yourself at a standstill on one creative venture, a good way to grease up the wheels creatively is to either start a journal or another project altogether. Keeping a journal not only will be a valuable look into your past life as an artist in the future, it also will keep your writing sharp and your stories concise and to the point. Collaborating with different writing partners can be a breath of fresh air from writing alone.
If you are simply uninterested in recording your waking life as an artist, an interesting alternative to keeping a regular journal is to keep a dream journal. Many times your subconscious is trying to tell you something when you have a creative drought. If you are attuned to it, you can find out exactly what it is by recording the dreams you are having. An excellent resource for understanding dreams is the book Conscious Dreaming, by Robert Moss. It goes in depth about how to become conscious within your dreaming life, as well as how to interpret what they might mean.
Curiously enough, when playing music came to a standstill last year, I had a dream that manifested itself into the basic outline for an entirely different project. I then was able to map out a ten-episode plot for a graphic novel, which I am currently working on with a graphic artist. In this instance, I went from a creative standstill musically to a flood of creativity in a completely different medium. Similarly, Einstein was said to have drawn deep insight from his dream-life, constructing his ideas about relativity from an early morning dream. Watch the movie Waking Life, directed by the great Richard Linklater for a surreal and visceral adventure into the dreamscape.
Exercise, meditation and music for me are also key motivators in my creativity.
If you keep your body fit through exercise, you will find it easier to write and less tired than you get from watching television for two hours. Practicing meditation and “getting away” from constant stimulation via television, radio and advertisements helps create a palette in which the inner psyche can create art. A great place to go is the ocean to clear your mind. There are free ways to keep in shape, instead of buying a gym membership that will be a drain financially. This will be covered in the chapter on exercise.
There will be days that you just won’t want to create art. I’ve heard stories about professional writers who force themselves to write a certain number of pages per day. I leave this to your discretion. Remember that you are not yet a professional. My argument is that if you feel unable to create art, it is probably for a good reason. Personal problems, depression, and the like are often conduits for art to take shape. But if these issues become too much of a weight on your shoulders, perhaps you should look to friends and family for help before inadequately dealing with it alone. Can art be forced? I suppose it can, but what will be the result is something that is not necessarily something you will be happy with. A good example of melancholy art is one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Elliot Smith. Almost every song he wrote is drenched with beauty and sadness. His death seemed untimely and yet somehow poetic.
Always remember that eventually, creativity will come flowing like water that bursts through a dam. It also pays to change mediums every once in a while; next time you can’t write a song but still feel inspired, try painting or drawing or writing. Creative forces usually directs themselves, and you must be there with the right materials.
The tried and true best way to defeat writer’s block, or any creativity block for that matter, is to actively experience art being performed by professionals. On any given night in New York City, you can attend any of the events listed below. A source for this can be going to see an author do a free reading, or go to a professional artist's gallery. Personally, going to see an improv-comedy show is the equivalent of an adrenaline shot to my creative ego. Something about creating successful art on the turn of a dime in the form of gut-laughs inspires and renews my own artistic endeavors. It is more real and more powerful than any episode of Saturday Night Live I’ve ever seen. You can also see tapings for most of your favorite talk shows for free by getting tickets ahead of time online. Seeing live music also has a similar effect on my ability to create art. It takes away the camera lens between the audience and the musician, creating a visceral and entirely unique event in time and space that a recording cannot match in the slightest.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

To Beard or Not To Beard, That Is the Question...

This is the last interview that Kevin Prockup gave before cutting his locks and turning into a Billy Corgan lookalike. Unlike Festivus, No holds were barred and I got the real deal in the form of a 25 minute interview ranging everywhere from political beliefs to musicianship to what makes a good beer. He then turned the tables and gave me an impromptu interview that spans everything from the meaning of friendship to the ultimate goal in moving to New York City as an artist. Here it is, uncensored and real, the 4 part documentary "To Beard or Not to Beard"

Monday, January 26, 2009

Salvation Army & Goodwill Locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan

Brooklyn Thrift Stores
(and eventual reviews +trainstops nearby)
ANB Thrift Stores 6614 Bay Parkway 718.232.0864
Bee Thrift Shop 183 Wyckoff Ave 718.821.1916
Cruzer Thrift Shop 2761 Fulton 718.821.1591
Dave's Thrift Store 3043 Fulton 718.277.1902
Dekalb Vision Corp. 1377 Dekalb Ave 718.443.6940
Emon's Thrift Store 5615 5th Ave 718.492.8518
Goodwill Pride Inc. 101 Park Ave 718.237.0301
Goodwill Thrift Store 1102 Fulton 718.789.0856
Hooti Couture Inc. 321 Flatbush Ave 718.857.1977
Housing Works Thrift Store 122 Monague 718.237.0521
Jackmili Thrift Store Inc 289 Kingston Av 718.346.3060
Khalid Thrift Shop 674 Myrtle Ave 718.935.0941
Meshimar 433 7th Ave 718.499.5731
My Favorite Place Thrift Shop 2010 Fulton 347.221.0793
Salvation Army
436 Atlantic Ave 718.834.1562
180 Bedford Ave 718.388.9249
Zukkies Thrift Shop 279 Bushwick Ave 718.456.0048

Set the Artist Free...

The Tao of the Dude
"If I was just gonna say one thing to y'all tonight,

I'd say “set the artist free.”

I'm talking about the artist in here, set it free.

I'm saying “Quit your day job.”

--Tenacious D

The Starving Artist

Word of advice--Don't quit your day job. When it comes to doing what you love to do, remember that you also have to put some food on the table. But never, ever give up on your dream. I won't pretend to the end-all, be-all expert in the field of art. I can't cite dates or name obscure names in the realms of early jazz musicians, and I haven't read too much regarding post-modern theory in literature. What I do know, however, is that art is the soul's search for some type of tangible truth. The greatest gift we have been given is the ability to percieve and understand the present moment. Flawless and abstract, we humans glide through time and space essentially free from the past and future like any other mammal, connecting each past and future moment with present being. Early in the development of the human mind, we realized the potential beauty and truth in creation. Creating something from nothing for the sake of others enjoyment was an attempt at breaching the into the divine and understanding perfection. Men were given the female form and vice versa to wonder over, and thus for eons we have taken blood to wall, stick to sand, fist to clay, brush to canvas, pen to paper and fingers to string, playing out our parts in a cosmic symphony. Human beings did not fall from the Kingdom of Heaven. We are in the midst of building it for ourselves. It is in this search for beauty, this artistic endevor in which the artist takes, in which we realize our own collective Godhood.

When I came to New York City last year, I moved here on a wing and a prayer. I didn't have any friends, had only about two-thousand dollars in my bank account, and was vastly inexperienced when it came to the city-life. As an aspiring musician, I had dreams of playing around town a couple of times only to find some record executive in the audience one night handing me a record contract the next morning over breakfast. What I found, however, was that everyone and their grandmother living in New York City has that same dream.

Suddenly it wasn't about the collective joy of creating art, but rather an endless Darwinian competition as to who was “better” at their craft. After only four gigs, I became disenchanted with the whole system and stopped playing gigs. The root of the problem was the loss of faith in myself. To see other artists who have honed their craft for years and years is not something to sneeze at, no matter how high the horse is that you come in on. Remember that someone will always be more skilled than you, but they can never be you. Your music or art, or whatever it is you do, is yours and can never be taken away, so it is entirely unique and beautiful. Sometimes, however, you need practice. You wouldn't take a dull sword into battle, would you?

Following shortly after this abrupt “end” to my music career, my creativity also shriveled up and receded somewhere deep into my subconscious. Struggling financially, I prodded and pleaded with my unconscious mind to tell me what I was good at. Not just good, but what was I great at?

What I realized was that over the course of over six months of living paycheck to paycheck was that I already was an expert artist, in an unconventional sense. I was an expert in the art of surviving as a starving artist. I had honed my skills of urban survival in the fires of the “real world,” living on only two-hundred dollars a week, a sum most normal people might cringe at. I have been successful in finding loopholes in the structures of society so that I can live comfortably, without stealing a dime. I also found full medical and dental health care for a little over fifteen dollars a week with paid time-off. My schedule was flexible so that I could take time off for any creative venture I wanted because I was only part-time. My rent is still ridiculously cheap, and I live only a subway ride away from the artistic capital of the world.

So, instead of giving up, my creativity switched to a most Buddhist notion to that of living daily life. I began writing down the solutions I had come up and this book was born. More than a few times I felt like throwing in the towel and giving into the temptations of a better salary, essentially forsaking my dreams of artistic success for a paycheck. But something inside me told I couldn't quit. Perhaps that same, strange voice from deep within is telling you the same thing. Perhaps you too cannot force yourself into the same mundane lifestyles of the middle-class and bored.

For those of you that are in search of something within, hopefully this collection of tips and tricks to survive in as a starving artist in the real world will prove helpful, because the world needs more artists. This book is essentially a collection of tips and tricks I’ve learned in order to live a life of comfort while dedicating the least amount of time and cash possible to the necessities like paying for rent, food, and everything else. I will give you the know-how, and explain some of the common mistakes that a burgeoning artist might make when coming to New York City. Once you get on that train, plane, or automobile, you are on your own. Please allow me to be your guide to such an enchanting city.

I’ve had to make some sacrifices here and there, but I am still able to do everything I used to be able to do, like getting drinks at a bar, as well as having a reliable means of transportation, the ability to go shopping when I want to, and so forth. So if you just graduated from a Liberal Arts school with a piece of paper you just don’t know what to do with yet, and want to give being an artist a shot before going down that other path that starts on the bottom of a corporate ladder, then you’ve found the right book. I actually started this book because I felt that if I had been given these tips, some obvious, some not-so-obvious, that I would be even better off today. Best of luck to you in all of your artistic endeavors, whatever they are. Remember that without you and people like you, there would be no such thing as art.

A word of warning—this book is not for people looking for long-term fulfillment in the wage-slave industries that this book takes advantage of in order to further hone your artistic craft. That is because there isn't long-term fulfillment to any wage slave industry—they will slowly drive you insane. However, no good writer, musician or artist that I know of has ever made meaningful art without surviving through struggle. Just as a rose grows out of a pile of manure, so does the artist out of struggle. This book is not for armchair artists. Having a strong work ethic is fundamental to being a successful artist. I believe that the myth of being a lazy, unemployed artist should be dispelled this instant. There is not a single successful artist that just happened to be discovered while sitting in their living room eating cheese doodles and watching reruns of Seinfeld. Even the winners of American Idol had to stand in line for a day or two. Getting out of the parent's basement and setting up an actual plan for moving to New York City is the first step to realizing one's dreams of success in the entertainment business. One must actively be pursuing their work, not giving it lip service by telling everyone how great an artist you are and then turning on the boob tube for hours. Practice your art. You can’t be a concert pianist if you’re practicing the skin-flute all day.

With that said, it might seem impossible at first to succeed as a working artist. This brings up another type of person that this book is not for—the unbeliever. If you don't believe in yourself, then how can you believe in your art? This book can only show you how you get to the door, but it can’t tell you which door or what kind of key you need to open it. It might take years for one idea to succeed, but as long as the idea remains relevant, it is never a failure, it is merely in limbo. Constantly look for other artists to critique and give constructive criticism to your ideas. The slab of marble, Michelangelo said, was always the statue of David, he just cut away the excess. Have your friends help you do the same to your masterpiece.

Another helpful tip is to always have multiple projects to work on in case you find yourself the only person interested in your idea. If you are actively pursuing your dream, success will find you. Perhaps not commercial successes at first, but so long as you believe wholeheartedly that you are saying what you believe is truth, you should feel the success in waves. Th first wave will barely be a ripple; a compliment, a “keep doing what you’re doing,” and then bigger and bigger, and finally as a tsunami in which you are playing a sold out show at Madison Square Garden, auctioning your art for a cool quarter-million, or getting interviewed by Leno in promotion for your next film. If you believe it, you can be it. If you don’t think it can be done, ask Eddie Vedder and that little garage band called Pearl Jam.

I know what you’re thinking. “This writer has such a bloated ego! He’s comparing himself to Eddie Vedder!” In truth, I’m not. What I do believe is that if Eddie Vedder was still a starving artist, there would be something deeply wrong with the music industry. In the end, his voice was one of truth that couldn’t be stopped by any corporate stranglehold on the music industry. He also believed in himself and kept honing his ability until it paid off in a big way. If you believe you have that same voice, who am I to say that you don’t? This book is about people who believe in their heart of hearts that they have something inscrutable and unique that needs to be sung from the mountain tops. So I say, compare yourself to the greats. Even if it doesn't work out, you can always look back with some level of gratification to the fact that at least you tried your best. You will have a much more interesting and fulfilling life if you have the life of an artist instead of a corporate shill who goes to bed with the ghost images of his accounting spreadsheets dancing in his head. My advice is to follow your heart, not your wallet.

My next blog will be dedicated to creative blocks and how to get rid of them....

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