It’s been a horror week in Australia with multiple and far reaching cuts to funding across the sector, plus news of companies at risk of or needing to close down. Even the announcement of council mergers in NSW has potential impact on funding and infrastructure at local and regional level. Nothing is certain at the moment.
The question Can the Arts Recover is not one I thought we would be needing to ask at the beginning of this year. But this year has seen organisations close, programs cut, and the impacts of this year's policy changes are still to be fully felt. At a time when we should be celebrating our successes and planning the year ahead, many of us are stuck staring at the worst of times ahead.
Whilst I want to cry with frustration at some of the decisions made by policy makers, I remain optimistic for the sector. This is due to my belief and faith in the inherent resilience of arts and creative workers.
As a community or tribe, arts professionals deal with the kind of uncertainty on a daily basis that would make a corporate trader turn in her shoes. In making new work, no day is the same and there are challenges every moment.
Funding (as we can see) can dry up in a moment, and policy priorities change year to year. Sponsors and donors can change direction or be effected by their own economic issues. Collaborators and partners work in the same turbulent environment. Audiences make up their own mind and let everyone know via social media in the moment.
I remember listening to a very successful film maker speak, and she said to be a producer you must love solving problems. Because that is what your working life will be. Forget fame and glamour (and she had won an Oscar), you have to love the problem-solving.
So how do you develop your resilience?
1. These are the best of times and the worst of times: There is no better time to develop resilience than when faced with a crises. If you are directly effected by funding cuts you have an opportunity to find out just how resilient you are. It won’t be fun, but you will see that you can survive the “worst case” scenario in your career and still carry on in all your other roles in life: friend, partner, family member, pet owner, sport lover. What you learn now will make you stronger. I promise.
2. Press pause on your problems: Learn how to create space in your working day. A simple technique is to write down (physically on paper) everything that you need to do, think about or worry about. All of your fears and concerns. Get them on paper. Then stand up. Give yourself a good shake. Pick up that piece of paper and put it as far away from you as you feel comfortable. It might be across your office, out the door or just under your chair. Give it to a co-worker to mind for you. Then set yourself a time that it feels OK to leave all that alone – 5 minutes or half an hour. Use that time for reflection or doing something refreshing.
3. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is not something you can only do when the time is right. Nor does it need years of practice to perfect. Give your brain some much needed rest and self-care by connecting to yourself and your surrounds for a few moments each day. If you are new to the concept, take baby steps such as just noticing everything on your desk, without judgement, without trying to change or fix anything. Just turn your eyes from your keyboard from a few moments and notice the colours, textures, shapes of all the objects on your desk. It is that simple to be mindful.
4. Practice gratitude and kindness: When life stinks, these are your best strategies to make yourself feel better and be a better person to be around. The world will thank you in weird and wonderful ways if you are thankful and kind. Before you turn on your computer each morning, take a moment to write down 3-4 things you are grateful for each day. Reach out to people who have inspired you or supported you, and thank them. Notice the little services that others do for you, and consciously thank them for what they do. Don’t be creepy, but just mindful of all that you do have. Equally, find moments to be kind to yourself and others. Just because. There may be karmic return, but basically you will just feel better. So do it. Start small. Today.
5. Realise it is OK to walk away: Being resilient is not about being a masochist. Sometimes it is just fine to notice when enough is enough and you want to walk away. It is very unlikely that you will be thought a quitter, and even if others do, so what. It is your life and your choices and you have the freedom to determine how much shit you will put up with. As an adult you are responsible for your own wellbeing, so noticing when the ground has shifted and it is no longer in your interests to stay in a workplace or working on a project is a sign of maturity. Taking action to move on is an appropriate thing to do. Pay attention to your feelings, and be willing to exit in a way that best honours the relationship you had with the organisation and colleagues, and move on.
Sometimes life is just crap. I wish it was otherwise. But change brings both opportunities and challenges and I know that the arts will survive in Australia, because of all of the amazing people who work for just that.
Contact me for strategies on how to develop your resilence and respond positively to change.