Creative

Debra Recommends Songwriting with Jason Blume

Debra Russell recommends, songwriting, Music BusinessFellow TAXI Drivers Ed Faculty -I often talk about getting feedback from qualified experts – and Jason certainly is that!

Songwriting tutor and cross-genre hit maker Jason Blume recently celebrated ten years of BMI-sponsored workshops and seminars. Since the BMI Songwriters’ Workshop inception in 1997, Blume has mentored more than 6,000 aspiring songwriters from at least 38 states. More than 120 workshops have been held in music hotbeds and invigorating locales including Nashville, Austin, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Kauai, and Atlanta.

If you want to learn specifically how to write hit songs, songs that will sell, Jason is the guy.

Check out Jason Blume’s Website

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Debra Recommends Songwriting with Steve Seskin

Debra Russell recommends, songwriting, feedback, Music BusinessI’ve known Steve Seskin for several years as we are both speakers on the Music Conference circuit.  Steve is renowned as one of the best songwriting craftsman around and you can learn tons about the art and craft of songwriting from him.  He can teach you how to make your songs good and then how to take your good songs and hone and polish them until they are truly great.

One of the best in the business – and an exemplary teacher.

Find out about studying the Art of Songwriting with Steve Seskin

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100% Ownership – The First Key to Leadership

Artists MBA, Foundation ProgramYou may think, I’m an Artist, I don’t need to be a Leader.  But this isn’t about being a political or religious leader.  This class is about being a Leader in your life and your career.

The first foundation of Leadership – taking responsibility for your outcomes – all of them.

Blaming others, or even ourselves, for unwanted and undesirable outcomes is a way of life in our society.  What you may not realize is the tremendous loss this way of thinking creates – loss of self-esteem, loss of empowerment, loss of courage, loss of your dreams and your vision.  If any of these issues are a concern for you – this class is essential to your success.

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.”
Henry Ward Beecher

We explore:

  • The difference between responsibility and blame
  • The pros and cons of taking ownership of your outcomes
  • Simple tools to create a new habit of ownership

I know that this topic can be sensitive, even frightening.  If you are feeling resistant, apathetic or fearful, this class is definitely for you.

Additional Resources for this Class:

Prerequisite Class:

Listen to the Class:

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Enroll in the Artists Marketing & Business Academy to access these classes today!

Your Tuition ($5 for first 14 days then $39 per month) includes all Foundation level classes PLUS the Time Management Mastery Course & App.

Read the Class Transcript

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Enroll in the Artists Marketing & Business Academy Mastery Lab to access the transcript of this class today


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Ready to get serious? Enroll in the Artists Marketing & Business Academy Professional Program to access these classes today!

Your Tuition ($79 per month) includes all Foundation level classes PLUS the Professional level classes PLUS the Time Management Mastery Course & App.



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Debra Recommends Audition

Debra Russell recommends, Artist's EDGE, Art and Entertainment Industry, acting, film business, audition, michael shurtleffI was lucky enough to study with Michael Shurtleff for 2 years when I was acting in NYC, in the 80’s. In my opinion, this book solidifies in very simple terms the choices an actor must make in order to create a believable character. What’s so beautiful about this, is it enables you to make those choices in the few minutes you have before you step into an audition.

This review is from Amazon.com:

Whether one is an actor, director, writer or teacher, Shurtleff’s book is simply a critical must read. Shurtleff who spent many years as a top casting director possessed an absolute love for the brave souls who dare to place themselves on the stage. His ultimate legacy to his beloved craft is this indispensable “How To” bible.

Much has been written already about his twelve guideposts, and I have nothing new to add to those already glowing (and well deserved) comments. What I did find most illuminative and refreshing is his comments on how to behave at the job interview. It is in this chapter that this book becomes helpful to even the non actor. In this chapter/section, Shurtleff urges all people to realize that ultimately the pressure in the job interview is on the employer and that a good prospect will immediately put the interview board at ease. All too often actors become so self centered and fail to realize that their performance is really about their audience, not them. The same is true therefore of the job interview. It is about the employer, not the employee.

As a teacher, Audition has been most helpful to me as it has provided objective certainty to an area filled with far too many subjective judgements. In other words, Shurtleff has helped define the skills and tasks necessary to train actors in a manner that will help them transition successfully from the educational venue to the professional market. He has given us clear, active objectives to teach toward.

In Audition, Shurtleff articulates what constitutes good, effective acting. Once that becomes defined clearly, then success becomes not a nebulous ideal, but rather a concrete proposition.

If this is not in your theatre library, it is time you add it now.

Buy Audition from Amazon.com

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Debra Recommends Songsalive

songwriting, businessSince 1997, Songsalive! is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the nurturing, support, promotion and education of songwriters and composers worldwide. Founded in 1997, by Gilli Moon and Roxanne Kiely in Sydney, Australia,  Songsalive! is run by volunteer songwriters for songwriters and has reached the far corners of the globe with over 25 chapters worldwide. Through our grassroots international efforts, we’ve put a stamp on what “global community” truly is and it’s the type of community that is definitely needed in this ever changing music business where songwriting can be a very isolating experience and career.

I have spoken for the Songsalive! organization and count Gilli as a good friend.  I’ve interviewed her for the Artist’s EDGE Membership and given great value to my Members.

Check out Songsalive! – supporting and promoting songwriters and composers worldwide

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Creator’s Block

Here it is a rainy March morning and as I sit down to write to you, I realize that I’ve been avoiding doing this writing for some time.  Would you call this writer’s block?  Perhaps.  And it occurs to me, that writer’s block – or creator’s block for the purpose of this conversation, can look different for different people.

But if you endeavor to live a creative life, and even more so, make a prosperous living from your creative endeavors, feeling blocked around creating can be an unpleasant, even painful place to be.  And of course, it just may get in the way of pursuing your dreams.

What Causes Writer’s Block or Creator’s Block?

Whether you are writing words, writing songs, painting, taking photographs, sculpting, designing jewelry or in any way creating on a regular basis, creator’s block can happen.  Perhaps it shows up by being “too busy” with other things.  Perhaps, you sit down and nothing comes – just blank.  Or you get “distracted” by email, the phone, the dishes….

In my experience, most creative blocks are caused by one of three obstacles:

  • Your inner critic,
  • Your outer critics,
  • And/or a lack of creative space – physically, temporally or emotionally (which leads back to the first two).

I’ve often heard from clients that they got blocked because they got a bad review or what they perceived as negative feedback and found they couldn’t create for months after.  Has this ever happened to you?  I’ve found that the artists most vulnerable to this are already fighting an inner critic and that external voice, especially from a mentor or someone you really respect, can just amplify the inner critic to the point where all creative juices stop flowing.  For artist’s who have a strong internal supportive voice, external feedback becomes just that – feedback.  Take what you can use, leave the rest.

When it comes to your environment blocking your creative endeavors, this can be tricky.  There are so many ways in which your environment can act as a block –  whether it’s your physical space (like the gardener who is right now outside with his leaf blower!), your temporal or time management, or your tendency to give other people’s requests for your time and energy more importance than your own creative priorities.

Learning to set up your environment to support your creativity is a key skill for any creative entrepreneur.

All of these issues can be summed up into one: the inability or unwillingness to prioritize yourself – prioritize your needs, your values, your beliefs, your own inner voices and muses.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be open to other people’s needs or constructive criticism, but if their needs and voices are drowning out your own, then you have a problem.  And I’m betting a creative block isn’t the only way that issue is turning up in your life.

In the Artists Marketing & Business Academy, I have several classes designed to address these issues.  I also will be writing more about them in my blog.

How Can I Move Past My Block?

For this issue of the Newsletter, I’m going to focus on a method that has helped me tremendously and that my clients have used with great results.  When you are creating, whatever you are creating, use the following steps:

Step 1 – ideas, brainstorming, brain dump – no editing
Step 2 – sort through the ideas and brainstorming and develop an idea into a first draft
Step 3 – edit that idea into a first public draft and send it out for feedback
Step 4 – take the feedback and polish and hone the work
Step 5 – repeat step 3 and 4 until you are truly happy with the result!

Step 1 – The brain dump

The first step is to put all your ideas down on paper.  Good ideas, bad ideas, bits and pieces of ideas, unformed ideas – everything.  You want to have absolutely no filters here.  You may work this step in a structured way – you sit down to the page for 1 hour every day.  Or you may just carry around a notepad or tape recorder with you, every where you go.  The key here is to capture the ideas – good, bad and ugly – all the ideas down on paper.

This step can show up in many forms, depending on the medium in which you’re creating.  For a visual artist, it may be doodling in your sketchbook, jotting down ideas of themes or concepts.  For the songwriter, it may be bits of melody, lyric phrases, or even just a book of song titles.  For the novelist or screen writer, it could be bits of dialogue, scene ideas.

I was working with a novelist awhile back, and she was blocked.  My assignment to her was to write 1000 words a day – badly.  She was to write as badly as she could.  We were going for her writing to really suck!

The point is to just put the perfectionist on hold here.  This isn’t about creating a final product or even a good first draft.  It’s just to allow the creative juices to flow.

Step 2 – Creating the first draft

This step should be scheduled and given a decent chunk of time several days a week.  What you want to do with this time is to sit down and look through your ideas, your bits and pieces and starting with the pieces you feel most drawn to, flesh them out into a first draft.

You may work on more than one project at a time during this stage.  But what’s most important is that you set up this time as completely separate from either Step 1 or Steps 3, 4, or 5.  Again, we aren’t going for a final product here and you want to continue having the perfectionist on hold.

During this stage work on your projects enough to find out if there’s a solid idea.  Flesh it out enough to be ready to show to some people for feedback.  Get to a first draft.  And then put it aside for at least 3 days.

Step 3 – First round of edits on your first draft

After you’ve left this project alone for several days, come back to it and give it a read through.  Edit it, play with the language, the order.  Try different things with it, perhaps change the rhythm or the key it’s in.  Try using a different size brush or color scheme.

Again, do not mix this step with either Step 1 or 2.  The part of your brain that you use during editing and adjusting is not appropriate during the initial stages of creation – it only tends to block things.  Because this is when you begin to use your critical facilities.  This is when the voice that tells you that you can do better becomes useful.

But beware of spending too much time here.  Again, we’re not going for the finished product yet.  We’re looking to create a version that’s good enough to get feedback on, which leads me to Steps 4 and 5.

Step 4 – Get constructive critique and create a second draft

There are two critical factors for this step.  You must choose your people very carefully.  You want someone who is going to be ruthlessly honest with you.  You want someone who really knows your medium and your genre (and if they know your niche, it’s even better).  And you want someone who can communicate feedback in a voice you are willing to hear.

Some successful artists use family – although this can be tricky.  Most successful artists use experts in their field (which includes editors for the written word).  Some even use their loyal fan base.  Many songwriters use the TAXI submissions to get feedback to improve their music or the TAXI forums to get feedback from fellow songwriters.  Some writers will go to a writer’s group or their editor and agent for feedback.

Whoever you choose, remember to stay open to the pieces of the feedback that you can use.  Not all of their suggestions will be immediately useful – that’s ok.  Sometimes they may make a suggestion which you don’t want to use – but if you stay open, it may trigger you to discover the exact right change you need to make.

Sit with the feedback and go back to your project and edit it.

Step 5 – Rinse and Repeat until finished

You may go through Steps 3 and 4 several times.  Probably the hardest part is to know when you’re done, to know when more editing ends up doing more harm than good.  Be wary of ironing out all the ripples in the fabric of your creation.  There’s no such thing as perfection.  And if there were – it would bore us to tears.

If you listen to your inner quiet voice – you will know when you’re done.  And use your discipline to stop, declare the project done, and start marketing it!

One last note:  Your voice is the voice that matters.  When being open to feedback, trust yourself.  Stay open to their opinions, reactions, and suggestions.  But don’t sell out on yourself.  It’s a fine line and one that takes practice.  This isn’t about creating by committee.  It’s about always growing, developing and honing your craft.  No matter how talented you are, truly powerful art is always a marriage between talent and craft.  This method allows you to use the best of both.

Debra Recommends I Am A Professional Artist

Art and Entertainment Industry, Music Business, Success

The Key To Survival and Success in the World of the Arts

by Gilli Moon

My dear friend, Gilli Moon, brings a level of reality to this topic filled with illusions and lies. And she does it with great humor and compassion. A fellow TAXI Road Rally speaker, she created Songsalive! and several other resources for musicians. I’ve also interviewed her for the Artist’s EDGE Membership.

Amazon says:

Some say succeeding in the Arts as a professional Artist is all about fame and fortune. So much of our desires are based on false illusions about the industry and what we read in glossy magazines.  Being a professional Artist is a life long journey of becoming who you want to be, and achieving success through what you love to do.  It’s about living your dream.  It’s also about setting goals that you alone determine if they have rewarded you rather than what the industry defines as success.

The Arts industry, whether that be in music, theatre, film, writing, dance or any business about Art, can be cruel and very un-artistic. It’s often about survival, especially survival of the fittest.  It can feel like a competitive war against large corporations, those who judge you (which can even include your family) and the other artists who are also climbing their way to the top.  Gilli Moon, artist, author and record company owner, brings to you her first book, I Am a Professional Artist offering Artists who’ve chosen the professional path, practical steps in harnessing one’s creative abilities to succeed and survive in the Arts and enjoy your artistry at the same time.

Including interviews with various professional Artists, I Am a Professional Artist combines a self-empowering practical guide in surviving and succeeding in the Arts with key business principles and spiritual nourishment. Consider it an Artistic soul’s survival guide in business!

I AM a Professional Artist follows 2 simple principles: If you want to be a professional Artist, the first thing to realize is that you have to be two people: An Artist, and a Business person. The second principle is based on her own coined phrase: The three Os: Optimism + Organized equals Opportunity I Am a Professional Artist will certainly change the thinking of any professional artist who may doubt themselves or their art, who may feel pressured by the industry, or may feel the hardship of the roller coaster ride.

Buy this book now

Debra Recommends The Artist’s Way – How to Recover Your Creativity

Debra Russell recommends, The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron, creativity, art, overcoming blocksby Julia Cameron

Working through the Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron got me through one of the most challenging times of my life – dealing with a 10 year bout of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. And later,  leading Artist’s Way groups led me to coaching – the most satisfying career of my dreams!

With the basic principle that creative expression is the natural direction of life, Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan lead you through a comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity. This book links creativity to spirituality by showing how to connect with the creative energies of the universe, and has since its publication, spawned a remarkable number of support groups for artists dedicated to practicing the exercises it contains.

Buy this book now

Debra Recommends Screen Actors Guild

Debra Russell recommends, Film Industry, Television, Acting, Entertainment Industry, castingScreen Actors Guild is the most distinguished performer’s union in the world. Their members are experienced professionals who require certain standards of working conditions, compensation and benefits.  Membership is often a major milestone in an actor’s career; every SAG card issued symbolizes success and solidarity with a community of 120,000 talented and accomplished artists worldwide.

In addition to negotiating and enforcing contracts for professional performers, Screen Actors Guild also offers members the tools to navigate the industry and expand their craft along the way. From the workshops of the SAG conservatory to resources for young actors, the Guild protects and enhances members’ quality of life on and off set.

www.sag.org

Debra Recommends Writers Guild of America

wga-logo
The Writers Guild of America is a labor union
wga-logo-east composed of the thousands of writers who write the television shows, movies, news programs, documentaries, animation, CD-ROMs, and content for new-media technologies that keep audiences constantly entertained and informed.

If you are interested in writing professionally for screen, television, or new media, this resource is for you.

Writers Guild of America – West

Writers Guild of America – East