On Why Writing About Your Work Matters

Hi there! If you read my blog post last week and you’re tuning in again, welcome back! Thanks for entering this space again with me. If you didn’t read my blog post and you’re like “Wait, who is this chick? Why am I here?” Hi, hello, don’t leave! My name is Tatiana and I’m a multidisciplinary theater/filmmaker born and raised in Clearwater, Florida. I have a producing company where I make and develop new artistic work called Experimental Bitch Presents. You can read more about us and what we do at our website www.ExperimentalBitchPresents.com

        Photo by Corinne Louie

Like I said last week, I hope in these posts to be radically transparent with you all. I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I will probably ask more questions than I will be able to answer. Above all, I’m hoping to use this platform to reach out about the questions on my mind and to talk about the things that I wish someone had told me when I was first starting out in the arts. I hope that you will feel like you have the space to respond. As always, you can reach me at tatianabaccari@gmail.com.  

Ok, let’s get into the theme for today’s blog post: why writing matters and why, if you are an artist, no matter the discipline (but for theater especially), you must learn how to write about your work. I am not talking about creative writing like writing a play or screenplay or that weird yet beautiful shadow puppet piece you’ve been dreaming up. Those are all great (especially the shadow puppetry) but what I am talking about is something more akin to an artist statement. 

Until I was about 25 years old, I had never really invested in writing about who I was as an artist or my work. I’d done the occasional cover letter for jobs, but they weren’t always in the arts (we can talk about how I’ve worked in retail and nannying for survival jobs another day). So, why had I gone so long without doing this and what changed? Well, because I started out as an actor and much of my arts training revolved around “the craft”of learning how to do that acting stuff well, I hadn’t been taught how to do this and until I transitioned into writing, directing and producing, I didn’t realize its importance.

But along the way I’ve learned that being able to distill an arts mission that communicates what you make and who you are into a few paragraphs is incredibly powerful and necessary, even if you are an actor. It is what allows folks who are reading your website or your grant application or your cover letter to immediately connect to you and have a sense of who you are and what you care about most. I literally wouldn’t be in this program, writing you this blog if I hadn’t taken time and practice to develop this skill. And maybe, in a super meta way this is why Creative Pinellas has asked us to write to you all every week.  

But it’s hard to start. A friend of mine sent me a cover letter for a job she was applying to a couple weeks ago. She is a kick-ass creative producer and digital media manager, but her letter was vague and general. It didn’t represent her range of skills and more importantly what matters to her. I told her to write as if she already had the job, with her most confident foot forward, even if it feels a *little* bit phony. You shouldn’t write things that aren’t true, but write as if you are inhabiting your most confident voice. It’s also good to be specific. What, specifically do you do or make? Why? Can you give an example of how you did this successfully? What makes your point of view unique? What has affected you most in developing this POV and/or aesthetic in your art?

After a lot of practice and a lot of rejections (read: A LOT of rejections, like more than 50% rejections), I feel like I’ve finally *started* to get the hang of writing artist statements and writing about my work for applications. But the funny and wonderful thing is that it’s always changing! Because as you change so should your writing! 

There are constantly new aspects to representing my work in writing that I am discovering. For example, right now I am adapting a stage play called New Nostalgias that I was developing with playwright, Sophia Heinecke, pre-COVID into a tv/web-series. We are working on a 10 minute proof-of-concept that we are hoping to film in St. Pete and Tampa in January. I’ve flirted with film but theater has always been my main squeeze. So it feels particularly scary and challenging to put together what those in the film biz call a “pitch deck”: a slideshow that encompasses our style, vision, and goals for the project and introduces the story and characters in a compelling way. But the great thing about navigating these things, is that what I don’t know, I know that somebody else knows. And people love to give advice! 

So if you’re just starting to make that website or apply to that grant or residency and you feel stumped, I get it. But you don’t have to be a stressed SpongeBob! Reach out to your friends, ask that person you admire to coffee, or send it my way 😉  

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