2. A few weeks ago, Wonder Dave gave the advice to say yes to every sort of opportunity you’re offered. I second that – it’s advice he gave me four years ago and I couldn’t be more thankful, because following it did wonders for me. I read three poems at a coffee shop once and ended up getting a job, being solicited for two different publications, serving as an editor for a literary magazine, and making friends with show organizers at local community colleges. Six minutes of poems led to at least five different opportunities. You never know.
3. Be yourself. I know, I know, it’s the job interview advice that no one wants to hear, but I do most of my shows in rolled-up jeans and band T-shirts because, y’all, that’s who I am. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, and you as an intelligent individual don’t need me to hold your hand through them, but the audience will know if you’re putting on a face. A few years ago I was having a conversation with my mentor about another writer, and I was expressing concerns that I “got” what he was trying to do. She responded, “I know, and please never become more of an artist than a person.”
5. Be nice, part 2: Be nice to yourself. There’s another Golden Rule, which is to do unto yourself as you’d like to have others do unto you. If you had a rough night on stage, or producing a show, or just getting to the venue, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s okay. A few years ago I went into the Minneapolis grand slam sure I was going to make the team and ended up taking last place. If I could go back and do it again, I’d try harder to spend the night thinking “Maybe next year” instead of “I guess I’m totally worthless.” Being nice to yourself and your art can take a long time to work up to, but it’s essential to try.
6. Take care of your body. I’m not saying you need to sign up for a gym membership or buy those funny rubber toe shoes that I guess aren’t actually good for you at all. I’m saying that as a performer your body is part of you art and you should work to take care of it. Get rest. Don’t blow your voice out by screaming all your poems. Eat before you perform, because stage lights are hot. I’ve seen someone pass out mid-poem because he wasn’t listening to his body. You don’t want to pitch head-first off the stage. Trust me.
7. Read. This isn’t just advice for writers. Read books. Read blogs. Read magazines and newspapers. Read social media comment threads. Reading is one of the most important ways to take in how the world is working and be ready to engage with it, no matter what your discipline is.
8. Don’t listen to every piece of advice you’re given. I’m serious – this isn’t a gimmick list item. Don’t listen to every edit or correction you get, because you’re doing things the way you are for a reason. Check in with that and if you believe that what you’re doing is the way you should be doing it, that matters.
9. Buy my books. (No, I’m kidding – I just wanted you to have to read to the end of the last one to get here.)