Creating Art from a Multi-Dimensional Life
by Elena Greco
Typical reading time: 5 minutes
September 28, 2013
For 25 years now I have had four professions. I have kept them separate professionally until now, but I am feeling compelled to combine them to bring forth something new. This post will explain why, I believe. Unlike all of my writing up till now, I do not have a topic or an outline for this article, but am going with the flow. You are welcome to flow along with me…
I am a computer professional. I do graphics, web maintenance and design, PowerPoint presentations, software applications administration and development, software training (Microsoft and Adobe products) and CD production, as well as word processing and complex document formatting (financials, agreements, pitches).
I am a healer and counselor. I focus particularly on issues of creativity, trauma, boundaries and communication, and in accessing the unconscious, the true source of healing. I also address physiology with regard to nutrients and energetic flow.
I am a writer. A former technical writer and poet, I now write about the creative arts, psychology, communication, persuasion, health, social issues, culture and politics.
I am a musician. I am a singer, pianist, artist, artistic director and producer of multimedia productions. This is who “I” identify with most, the strongest inner drive, the thing that I can’t live without.
There is a belief in our culture and within each of these professions that we mustn’t ever present more than one aspect of ourselves professionally. Why is that? Does having other abilities or focuses really diminish us professionally? I believe this might come out of an outdated belief exemplified in the old adage, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I believe the opposite might be true. The more of ourselves we use, the more abilities we develop, the more we have to offer, and the more freedom of expression we find. And out of a composite of abilities, professional and otherwise, can come something unique and perhaps more useful than any one of them alone.
If you have to submit a professional resume as a singer, for example, it makes sense to limit it to the jobs you’ve done as a singer. But I keep running into advice from well-meaning career advisors that you should keep anything non-musical far removed from your professional music website, as though if producers and directors knew that you had any other abilities other than singing, they would reject you, or that being multifaceted would make you look less than professional. I realize I am somewhat of a renegade in this business, but I find it absurd that people think we must exist in small boxes and that living full out in multiple arenas is somehow unprofessional and must be kept secret.
I would hope that young artists in music and other arts fields develop themselves fully. It is extremely difficult to make a living totally by practicing your art. I remember in my young singer days, I wanted more than anything to make a living singing, because I wanted to spend all my time doing just that. The great passion to make art does want us to do that to the exclusion of other things in our lives at times. And a few people are able to do that. But the majority of artists will need to find other ways to fill in the budget, to pay rent and buy groceries, and more than that, to thrive.
Unlike some of my colleagues, I always felt the need to have steady income, rather than constantly searching for brief temp jobs with unstable work and no benefits, and so found a job that paid well, and gave me health insurance and paid vacation time so that I could take off for performances and still eat. Over time, through the various jobs, I learned what I enjoyed doing and what I was good at, and focused more and more on that area, which was computer technology. It so happened that my art skills came in handy, not only in doing graphics, but in something as mundane as formatting a prospectus, which requires an eye for balance and layout. Working with graphics felt close to art, and teaching software felt a little like counseling and healing. So I wasn’t terribly unhappy doing this job (except for the administrative nonsense, of course, which is unfortunately a part of almost every job), and it felt good to put in my time productively and come home with rent money so that I could focus totally in my off hours on my art and healing, without worrying that if I didn’t get a singing job or a counseling client, I couldn’t buy groceries. I could be with my clients because I wanted to be, not because I needed their money. It took the survival anxiety off of pursuing my music and counseling careers. Having fewer hours to do my art actually made me learn to use the time more efficiently. Whenever I got a singing job, I took a few vacation days from the computer job, and came back to have the rent and the groceries paid for.
Over time the computer job turned into a career, something I was respected for and could expect to get top-level, good-paying jobs doing. In each job I added skills to my repertoire, taking any free classes or training that was offered and developing any skill that I could within the job, so that I have an unusual number of areas of expertise, something that really helps in times like these when jobs are scarce. I am a complete computer professional now.
Healing and counseling was something that I had a gift for early on, really from childhood. I found some practices that resonated with me, obtained training and certifications, and practiced these skills often. Eventually I got a degree in Counseling Psychology by going to SUNY part-time while doing the computer job and still singing a bit. I was able to pay for school through the computer job income. As I worked with clients, I learned more about the human condition, developed my skills and interests, and continued to do extensive research in my areas of specialty, both in didactic material and experiential practices. I am an expert in those specialties now, and I continue to study constantly to increase my knowledge and understanding of the mind-body connection and of health. I do have a background in the required basic studies (thank you SUNY, for giving me this required American Psychological Association program while allowing me to focus on my particular interest simultaneously), so my work is founded on a solid foundation, but because I did not follow the traditional path of study beyond that, but created my own based on my particular talents, and went where my curiosity and passion led me, I can offer something truly unique.
Music was a bit of a challenge in co-existing with the other two professions, as it takes not only time, but creative and physical energy to produce art. No energy, no art. I learned the art of life balance out of necessity, another extremely useful skill that has supported me in being able to pursue multiple professions. Eventually, I left the music business for a time, because I did not feel comfortable with the business aspect of music, and was not willing to make music if it did not give me joy, as I knew no one else would enjoy my music if I did not. I never stopped loving to make music, and always intended to return after figuring out some adjustments so that I could survive and thrive in a business I did not find particularly comfortable. I love music and music-making; I do not love the music business. Eventually I found my way and my purpose (the really important part of making music!) and returned to music-making. Not only has my voice found itself fully now, as my technique is extremely solid and allows me to sing multiple genres simultaneously with ease, but I have found the means for doing what I love without participating very much in the business part of the music business. And I still have a computer job to fund the multimedia concerts I am producing and artistic directing.
This is not the path for everyone. It might not be the path for anyone but me. But the point is, it is and was the path for me, and I didn’t give up until I found it. For those who are comfortable following the traditional route in the opera business, for example, hats off to you, and I wish you success, whatever that means for you. But while you’re going down that highway, don’t stop paying attention to who you are at your core, what makes you happy and what makes you uncomfortable, as these are important clues as to how you can develop fully as a human being and bring that fully to your art. And please don’t neglect to develop other areas of your life as fully as you can, or to fully experience whatever arises in other areas of life, because in those other areas, you just might find the gold that makes you a great artist.
If you study the lives of many of the great artists, a great number of them had very difficult or unusual lives. The fire of adversity made them the great artists they were. I’m not suggesting that suffering is a good thing, but simply that a musical or artistic life needs to contain all the elements of life, not just auditioning and performing.
As for my own path, it seems that the time has come to merge the four professions in a more complete way now. My own website contains links to all of my professions (although you might have a hard time finding the computer one), but they are still segregated. I am beginning to merge the four tentacles of my professional life in ways that feel natural and apropos. In the multimedia productions I am producing, for example, music and healing and technology unite. I am beginning to bring healing, slowly but surely, into The Music Salon™ so that it is a complete experience for the artists. And I am finding that I need to bring my healing skills into my computer profession to a greater degree than I already have. I currently do computer work for a law firm, so that idea is perhaps a bit outrageous and certainly a challenge. But it no longer feels natural or healthy to attempt to divide myself into pieces, something I never really felt I did on a personal level, but certainly did professionally for the reasons I gave at the beginning of this post.
So you can expect to see more about these developments in the future. There will be performances, seminars and groups that will offer healing and inspiration if you choose to participate. I invite you to participate with me, to explore consciousness and freedom with me, and also to share with me the challenges you face or questions you might have, no matter what stage of your artistic career you are participating in. You can always reach me on Facebook or through my website, www.elenagreco.com, or by writing to me at email@example.com.
See Elena’s bios for more information about the author.