SEASON 1 – EpiBLOG 17:
Rub some elbows. Kiss a few babies. Smile for a selfie with a happy-looking person so that you can add to your colorful image on Facebook or Instagram. Entrepreneurs and politicians seem to make connecting with people seem so easy. And oftentimes, connecting with people can be as simple as holding out your hand and saying “hello.” (Please refrain from singing Adele’s song here and keep reading the blog).
What I know about several artists, specifically writers, is that they fear talking to people that they don’t know. I can’t make a blanket statement and say that all artists are introverted or socially inept; as I’ve seen many extroverted artists as well. However, I feel I can speak openly about artists because I’m one myself.
When I taught at the Art Institute in Phoenix I had the opportunity to meet so many different types of artists within my classrooms. I was one of the Effective Speaking (Speech) professors, and Effective Speaking was a required course for every degree program. Because of this, I had game designers, filmmakers, interior designers, graphic designers, fashion designers, culinary students, animators – you name it – they all sat before me in my class. Many of them admitted to procrastinating on taking the course because of their fear of public speaking. I discovered that public speaking is a very big and real fear to many individuals.
My approach to the course was to show students the applicable benefits of being able to speak to others effectively in real-world situations. In other words, this was not going to be another classroom where students stand in front of each other and regurgitate content that they could care less about. No, not me. I’m not a textbook teacher. I desired for them to learn about themselves and to be able to pull out what is already within them that allows them to connect with others on their own level. So often Public Speaking courses become about turning people into something they are not. Instead, I desired to bring out the “good stuff” that’s buried within students and polish it so that it can be put to good use.
The only way to make a living as an artist is to be able to connect with people. Otherwise, you’re just going to sleep on somebody else’s couch with your talent that nobody knows about like the “Mooch” that I was telling you about in the last blog.
How do people find out about that awesome script you’ve written, that spectacular recipe and dish you’ve created, the clothing line you’ve designed, or the video game you’ve created? You need to be able to open your mouth and somehow get people to like who YOU are. Not who you are pretending to be, but who you actually are. You don’t need them liking a facade, as acting is a temporary activity, while who you are is permanent. People need to like you. The great thing is, you don’t need everybody to like you and not everybody will. And that’s okay. Who cares?
I always tell my students to never be phony with people by pretending to like them so that they can get something out of the other person. If you don’t like somebody, don’t try to associate with them to use them. Find another person who you can be genuine with and vice versa. Look for that real connection.
Put yourself in a position to meet great people. Leave it to me to join a writer’s group that actually writes when we’re together. I’m sure I mentioned in a few blogs back, or maybe in a Facebook post, that I meet with the writer’s group Shut Up and Write twice a week. I’ve only been in San Diego for nearly 7 months now, but I joined that group about a month after being here. I wanted to meet other writers in the area and I was seeking to connect with like-minded folks. At the same time, I’m not one of those people that likes to stand around talking about what I plan to do with my life and career, which is why the Shut up and Write approach attracted me to the group. I get to actively write AND actively connect and network with people. I get everything that I want.
Remember, you want to surround yourself with people who can help move you forward or positively “feed” you. Only choosing to associate with other artists who do exactly what you do, is not always going to be beneficial. Those relationships can be positive and nurturing, but you need to make sure you’re also connecting with others that have particular strengths that you need, while your strengths will serve their needs as well. For example, it’s in a screenwriter’s best interest to meet producers and investors if the screenwriter is looking to producer her work. Seeking out other writers will not help the screenwriter to produce.
As a screenwriter, I can be very reclusive. I enjoy my “alone” time – actually, I enjoy my time alone with my characters and within the world that I’ve created for them. But honestly, I know that I can’t survive without being in front of the classroom inspiring my students. Connecting with people doesn’t always come easy, but it is something that I desire. I know once I connect with others that I actually can positively impact their lives. And whether I do that in the films that I produce or in the classrooms that I stand in front of, I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing.
Today’s LESSON is that you will find that connecting with the RIGHT people is a mutually beneficial gift.
FUN ASSIGNMENT: Meet at least 1 new person [in a public setting] within the next 7 days and see what happens and/or find a local networking event that caters to your needs, and attend it.