August 18, 2006

Critics and Emotional Armor As An Artist

By Kirsten Anderberg
Wanna be a political artist, woman writer, or solo performer? Then you’d better start growing some emotional armor right now. I had grown certain calluses to public opinion and heckling as a solo woman act doing feminist comedy for decades, but my last 3 years as a political writer lunged knives in places no one attacked when I was a comedian. Especially some anarchists, they are/were the most brutal (and hypocritical), while other anarchists have been my staunchest supporters and are responsible for much of my web savvy. I have been tested repeatedly and can survive controversy. I am beginning to get my “sea legs,” so to speak, in this whole political journalism game now. And I have learned 4 things were the collective wisdom that served as my life preserver, letting me end up still alive and kickin’, after going down a Niagara Falls of controversy for years. Those 4 things are: Self-Initiation (or Production), Organization, Complete Independence (or Control), and Intuition (or Self-Reliance).

I am an extremely emotional person. My wild passion is infamous and/or notorious and as much a burden as it is a blessing. I wear my heart on my sleeve and it has taken a lot of gruelling lessons and sucker punches to my soul to get to this more stable ground I have finally come to. Art involves emotional risk-taking. I consider myself a performance artist and musician, but also consider my articles and website as art too. Artists are very emotional folks, that is legendary knowledge, and that is perhaps why we hang out in enclaves together. But I have needed to keep full access to my emotions, to write and perform, while needing to shut my emotions down to accomplish those very same tasks, due to critics. It has been a sophisticated dance, to keep feelings, but to not go down with the punch after punch I take for speaking my mind. But I am starting to hit that balance, finally.

No article like this existed for me to reference when I jumped into the frying pan of indy media and anarchist press. That is my motivation for writing this article. It is written for you others out there, who are emotionally vulnerable too, still sensitive, still *feeling* so fully, and you have so much beauty to give and share with us all, if you can just survive the violent waterfalls of controversy and petty attacks on your art and self.

When I first began street performing, man after man told me to go home and stop it. I wonder what their motivation was. And now, I do not think it is coincidence that several male-run anarchist publications, such as Anarchy: A Journal and Alternative Press Review are telling me to “go home” too...they have been running stories about how terrible I am for “anarchy,” you know, the anarchy whose press they claim to own, while I am simultaneously in the #1 ranking on’s rankings in Anarchist Magazines and Ezines for popularity, and right on their heels in all other ranking engines as well. just announced the page with my article on it was one of the most visited on their site last year. It seems to me that certain people get threatened when I become viable, in any art field I go into. Whether it is music, or writing, the men who are threatened will tell you to quit and go home. But seeing it happen over and over, makes me less vulnerable to their words shooing me away. So I am saving you the hassle, and telling you this happens now, so you can just brush their breath right out of your hair (as Jimi Hendrix says), when it happens to you.

I am sure it is driving those Men O’ Anarchy Press *nuts* that a chick they cannot get control of, has become a serious competitor, in 1/3 the time they took to get their names in media, and without anywhere near the money, resources, or volunteer staff these men have. So, I have become direct competition for them in less time, with less to work with, and the potential therein terrifies these guys, that is obvious...because imagine what I could do if I had some money and a staff! But instead of letting those guys bug me like sand in my bathing suit, I’ve learned to just keep moving forward, without their approval. Even with their published disapproval, I am not going home! And there is great power and freedom in proclaiming that with conviction out loud, and showing that I *mean* it!

This leads me to my tip #1 for growing emotional armor: PRODUCE LIKE A MUTHERF*CKER! Seriously. If you create quality, useful product at a rate your competitors cannot keep up with, they will not only get lost in your dust, but they will quickly lose hold of a genre, in this day and age. One of the things I have done that has paid off is I have had a steady rate of self-initiated production. Saturate the market with quality new material constantly and you cannot lose. You will “win” on merit alone and that is a great feeling! If you can stand on a solid foundation of production, of integrity in product (and yes, you can have some crappy stuff in there by mistaken experimentation too), you will have an emotional armor of merit and that is priceless.

The 2nd tip to help you grow emotional armor is: YOU MUST ORGANIZE. You need credibility for emotional armor, and you can’t have that without organization. People will constantly try to put down and question your validity, so why not just log *collective evidence* of your accomplishments to easily thwart that nonsense? When I began writing, I would write an article, post it on an indy media center (IMC) site, and then send it to *one* editor I knew in my town, who would print everything I sent him, basically, in a local paper called Eat the State! But as time went on, I wanted to reference my own past articles in new articles and I wanted a collective body of my work as a resume, and that is still an organizational nightmare for me.

I still do not have one complete archive of articles I’ve written in the past 3 years, and I also do not have a complete resume of all the places I have been published. The way I found out I was on’s front page was by Googling my own name! And I have been through several computers, and computer crashes, wiping out archives, etc. Keeping lists of editor contacts, submission venues, contacts for different issues, of fan bases, is a lot of work to keep your achievements in an up-to-date resume format! I experience this as a performer too, trying to archive current and past gigs, contacts for gigs, fan bases, etc. Agh! I have seen people give up on music and writing simply because they could not get a handle on this organizational component.

The 3rd essential building block for emotional armor is INDEPENDENCE AND CONTROL. This relates to *control* on many levels. There is one freedom in writing my own material, but there is another freedom in running my own website. Until very recently with the internet, the person who owned the printing press owner the writers, in essence. And even as recently as 1998, I had a computer geek male lover who refused to teach me HTML and how to make and run my own website, but he was willing to run, design and update a site *for* me. In the beginning, I also had male editors whose sites I was building up, rather than my own, with original written content. I eventually taught myself HTML and how to run my own website (with the help of some kick ass anarchist allies). And I learned how to syndicate myself. And now my site is competing directly and viably with the very men I was once building up with my work on their sites. Sexism is still alive and well and my solution is just to go around male roadblocks and to invest in myself. In the long run, the more control you retain over everything you do artistically, the better off you’ll be, even if it takes longer. The independence is worth it. There is power and inherent freedom in independence.

And last but not least, you need to RELY ON YOUR OWN INNER VISIONS to have emotional armor as an artist. Self-reliance is essential for all artists, whatever the genre. If I had done what men tell me to do, I would never have been a street performer or musician, and I would quit writing right now, and I would also only publish in male-controlled and owned web sites and publications, and I would be “less” feminist for those male editors too. (*And* I would be a mistress for several unhappily married male editors, if I’d listened to them, also! LOL!)

If I listened to all the crap hurled at me in cyberspace, I’d have given up years ago. After enough crap was hurled at me, I was actually able to categorize the crap into different trash heaps! Such as I finally got what a “troll” is, through harsh public hells, but in the end, I no longer “feed the trolls” as I can *recognize* them now. I also learned that in this sexist world men attack women’s bodies, not just our work. Mildred Hodittle talks about how men yelling “show us your tits” during one of her first street performances shocked her, and I also found things like “go write a diet book” in the comment sections of Portland and Santa Cruz IMCs after articles I wrote on things like police brutality! I have learned certain articles bring in certain brands of hate mail and once I began seeing these patterns, the insults hurt less and I also felt less inclined to waste time defending myself the 200th time over the same stupid thing. For instance, am I “too feminist” as some anarchist men are whining? Who cares? Let those interested in that debate waste time on it, but I have other interests. At this point, I have a ‘been there, done that” attitude towards the whole gossip and defending game now. Yawn! I feel like people can say whatever nasty gossip about me they want but it won’t influence my artistic choices nor my merit-based success. I most often write and perform *for me* first and foremost, and for people *like me.* I am not writing *for my oppressors.* So if my work pisses off deadbeat dads, the middle class, trendy anarchists, homophobes, etc., so what?! I guess part of self-reliance is understanding who your audience is and then following your *own* intuition and no one else’s.

If you are at the whims of what others say all the time, it interferes with creation. It wastes time and energy. I learned this the hard way. And I found that after all is said and done, almost none, as in not even 1% of the things my critics have hurled at me in the last 3 years, has changed how I write or what I write about! Nor has that negativity some critics laud on me for their own personal motives had any effect on my success or popularity as a writer. In fact, the controversy may have actually *increased* my popularity, which is ironic as hell. Anyway, my advice is to walk on through the storm, get your courage together, and keep producing like a mutherf*cker, keep organized, keep total control of your work and venues, and you will eventually grow a functional, healthy emotional armor as an independent artist.


Blogger Candy Minx said...

Well, this reminds me of many things...often by the time you have studied and gone to school practiced and competed...very many talented people are left by the ways ide because they were just too nice. It is well known that some of the most talented actors and performers we will never see because...they were too nice, and too sensitive. Once someone "makes it" they are often the kind of people who could take it too.

Friday, August 18, 2006  

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