When you step off the well-worn path in the woods and venture forth into the brambles and briars you’re going to get lost and you're going to get hurt. That’s what happens. But what also happens is that sometimes you find something extraordinary that no one has seen before.
You bring it back for people to see. When you show people what you have found...
Some will not understand what it is...
Some will refuse to look at it because it does not fit into their vision of how the world should be...
Some will question why you needed to head off into the wild when there was a perfectly good path right in front of you…
Unfortunately, it’s usually these people who like to make their thoughts known to the rest of the world. They shout about your folly, and their voices are loud. People will listen to what they have to say, not because they are right, but because they say it with the authority of someone who simply cannot be wrong.
To those who question the need for new paths, let me tell you a short story… are you ready?
Once upon a time in a land far far away there was a deep, dark wood…
There. I told you it was short. Because, once upon a time dear reader, there were no paths, no trails or bridleways. There was just the wood… dark, ominous and forbidding. And, but for the courage and curiosity of an intrepid few that’s all it would remain, it’s treasures, beauties and gifts locked away within it’s depths forever…
But thank goodness for courage and curiosity. Because, once upon a time a storyteller stepped into that wood, cutting fearlessly with their machete, pushing aside the brambles, negotiating the gorges and fording the rivers with nothing but their expertise and their ingenuity. Because that’s what storytellers do. They are explorers of the uncharted territory. It’s why they are here. They are the pathfinders, the trailblazers, the ones who have the ideas that no one else has had.
“Fine. I get it.” the naysayers say, “But that was all a long time ago. Now there is a path through the wood. I’ve followed it, I’ve seen the treasures and the gifts and beauties. Why would you go off that trail into the wild when there’s a perfectly serviceable path in front of you?”
The storyteller, with a twinkle in their eye, beckons the naysayer close.
“Because the path isn’t going my way.”
If you know of what I speak, then may I direct you to ignore those critics mocking those who are busy making new paths to new places in the wood.
Go and see WASTED at Southwark Playhouse.
Chris Ash, Carl Miller and Adam Lenson are pushing fearlessly at the boundaries of musical theatre storytelling. They are cutting a new path into the wood and they are using all of their considerable experience, craft and ingenuity to do it. It’s full of intelligence, humour and wonder. These exceptional storymakers know how stories work, they have a huge amount of experience in creating them, they know the paths that have gone before. The choices they have made are not borne of ignorance. They know they stand on the shoulders of giants but they also know there are new paths to find. They know that their path involves danger and peril.
But it is imperative that innovative work of this kind not be dismissed simply because it is going somewhere we haven't been before. I'm not saying that the opinion of the critic isn't valid or important but, it is as ever as valid as the next person's opinion, but opinion it is and opinion it should remain.
So... a person, a small group of people stand at the edge of the wood warning you, dear reader, not to enter. Remember that the voice of the critic was never the voice of progress. Their job is an important one. Their job is to evaluate and compare against what has come before. But they are not the pathfinders, they are not the trailblazers and there is simply no way they can predict where we are going or what we shall do when we get there.
To quote from Wasted…
“Fuck off. I’m writing Jane Eyre.”
A Composer, a Lyricist & a Day Job walk into a bar…
The Composer says to the Lyricist. “You’d be nothing without me, I write the beautiful tunes that make your words sing.”
The Lyricist says to the Composer: “You’d be nothing without me, I write the beautiful lyrics that make your tunes shine.”
The Day Job says to both of them: “You’d both be dead without me.” Then downs three tequila’s and heads off to work.
Just a little joke to break the ice, that's how all good relationships start right? I thought I might tell you a little about my current relationship...
Me and my Day Job have been seeing each other for about 16 years now…
So I guess we are now in what you would call a “long-term relationship”. Over time we’ve both changed. I mean, that’s normal right? You can’t expect to stay the same over sixteen years. When we first started going out, my Day Job was kind of all consuming…
We met online and it was my first time in a full-on relationship. I reckon it’s fairly safe to say (and I don’t think my first real Day Job would mind me saying it) that at first it was pretty overwhelming. I mean, I didn’t really know what I was doing and I had a lot to learn about visas and sending kids on holiday to America. It was pretty hard work, but it could also be fun. My Day Job introduced me to some great people who were also going out with a Day Job of their own and we would all hang out together. Sometimes we’d leave our Day Job’s at the office and go out drinking and bitch about them behind their backs. But overall it wasn’t so bad.
I was with my first Day Job for about a year, a Visa Officer at Camp America. But we both changed a little bit over that time and I think we must have started drifting apart. I also remember that that was the year I started seeing my Passion seriously… Don’t get me wrong, I was so grateful for the time that I had spent at my Day Job, for the things I had learned, the experiences shared, the people met, the rent paid. But when I’d go out at night with My Passion there was a little spark that I didn’t really feel at my desk…
That first relationship ended on fairly good terms. I’m not sure if my Day Job ever found out that I was cheating on it with my Passion but I like to think that we’re still friends today. And my Day Job was never really the jealous type anyway. So I moved on to another relationship, this time with a Libyan Oil Company. A bit of a sideways move, but I was looking for something a bit different I suppose. This Day Job came with a little more money, a good location and more new friends but it was only ever going to be a rebound Day Job. Having said that I learned a lot about myself during that relationship. I learned that a Day Job could get me a little bit more money and higher specialisation, and this particular Day Job was a little less emtionally demanding of me… I could go away on holiday without it and it wouldn’t really mind for example.
But the best thing about it meant that I could spend a little more time with My Passion…
I know, I know. I’m a fricking shit right?
Well, I’m sorry but I couldn’t help myself. By this time I was spending a few nights a week with my Passion. We would stay up late staring into each other’s eyes. It was beautiful. Sometimes we would even spend a whole weekend together. I suppose I was young back then and had more energy, but I was definitely burning the candle at both ends. I was putting a lot of work into both my Day Job and my Passion. But I don’t think I was ever really happy with that particular situation because I was actively looking for other Day Jobs online. Sometimes I’d be looking for other Day Jobs while I was supposed to be working at my current Day Job. Oh the betrayal.
Then I found it.
Something I thought was My Perfect Day Job. Working in administration at the Royal College of Music, surrounded by gorgeous music and brilliant musicians, fine colleagues, making a difference in the lives of students and professors so they could get on with pursuing their… hold on… MY PASSION!
This is when some bad things started happening. Me and My Passion started fighting. Sometimes I would be seething with rage and envy that my Passion was seeing all of these other people at the same time as it was seeing me. And what was worse, it was spending a hell of a lot more time with them. I was still seeing it regularly on the weekends and in the evenings but I could hear it making sweet sweet love to countless others in the practice rooms of The Royal College of Music throughout the day.
My Passion was not a quiet lover.
And so this wasn’t an entirely happy time for us. We shouted at each other a lot. And we fought about petty things. Even being with my Day Job, as fulfilling as it was, just reminded me even more that I wasn’t with my Passion. I became a little despondent with both my Day Job and my Passion. I don’t know if either of them really knew what was going on inside my head. To be honest, I don’t even know if I did.
But gradually, over time, I came to recognise that it wasn’t my Passion’s fault, it wasn’t my Day Job’s fault. It was my perspective on the whole situation that needed to shift. I was the common denominator and I realised that I had the power to do something about it…
So I started saving a lot of money. I worked hard at my relationship with my Day Job. I worked even harder at secretly restoring my relationship with my Passion. I put together a band made up of people from my Day Job, all of us collectively cheated on our Day Job’s at night when we went out a few times a week. It was an exciting time. My Day Job meanwhile, all the time, thought things were getting better and better. I was engaged at work, we were earning more money, I was even spending a little more time with My Day Job than I had done in the past, I genuinely seemed happier.
But my Day Job had no idea what was to come…
In 2012, I told My Day Job that I was leaving it.
My Day Job didn’t quite know what to say. But by that time it kind of knew that I had never really broken things off with My Passion. In fact, at that point my Day Job and my Passion had even met on a couple of occasions. They were very civil to each other.
So I left My Day Job. At last, I was alone with my Passion. I had dreamed of this moment. I had talked about it with My Passion late into the night. We were both so excited, we couldn’t quite believe that we could finally be together. This was the beginning of the rest of our lives together!
Except… the dream did not entirely match the reality.
It turns out that my Passion wasn’t great with money. We made a little cash, my Passion and I, and my Passion did it’s best to take the place of my Day Job but we were not brilliant at planning together. We really hadn’t thought this through… and now that I was spending so much time with it, it turns out that my Passion could also be quite volatile. Mean even. So it was just me and my Passion for a year, haemorrhaging cash, worrying about where the next pay cheque was coming from, wondering how we might be able to afford the next months rent, worrying about things we had never had to worry about before… for example being able to prove that you could pay the rent on a flat without regular payslips. I began to think about all the things that My Day Job had done for me. Things I had never appreciated whilst we were together. And you know what? My dream of living with My Passion turned into a little bit of a nightmare.
I became depressed and I began to miss my Day Job…
I missed the things that it provided me with. Structure to the day, a social network, people to talk to at the water cooler, people to have a drink at the pub with after a long day, a sense of contribution to society. And yes, fricking MONEY. But more than all that I realised that My Day Job provided me with a hold on sanity and a healthy perspective on my life.
After a year of this, it just so happened that I was having dinner with a friend who knew my old Day Job. He was joking about my idiocy in pursuing my Passion (this particular friend thought My Passion was both admirable and ridiculous at the same time) and mentioned that he had been talking to a colleague from another Day Job who had said they could really use a bit of help doing exactly what I used to do…
He mentioned it as a joke. But I grabbed him by the shirt and said ‘Hook me up bro!’ He was surprised, having thought that I was living the dream. At which point the truth about me and my Passion came pouring out. It wasn’t really working. It wasn’t that we didn’t love each other, it’s just that at this point in my life, I needed things that my Passion in it’s beautiful, youthful state simply could not provide. I needed my Day Job back…
But.. my Passion had learned a thing or two over the past year and was working hard to change. It was bringing in a little cash so I didn’t need a full time Day Job anymore. I needed something that could provide me with a little bit of security, a bit of sanity and enough money so that me and My Passion didn’t have to sleep on my friends floor anymore. But I needed my new Day Job to not be too demanding, to be more flexible, to let me go off with my Passion for weeks at a time (with enough notice) and to be encouraging of my dreams.
Not too much to ask right? But the important thing was, I had learned what I needed, I was smart enough to ask for it, and I was lucky enough to get it.
I started my new Day Job at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music in 2013. I started spending about three days a week with my new Day Job. As my Passion grew up, it became a bit better with money, it became much better at planning. It used it’s time much more wisely because it had less of it to throw around.
Over the last few years my Passion has come to bear a strong resemblance to my Day Job. It is now bringing in more of the cash and it is able to rent a flat and pay bills all on its own. Whereas, once upon a time, my Passion really hated my Day Job, resenting the time that I spent with it, now my Passion appreciates how important my Day Job is to my life. The two have now become quite good friends. I’m sure they get together sometimes and bitch about me behind my back but I don’t mind.
At the moment, where I am in my life, I need both of them. My Passion alone was too wild, my Day Job alone was too suffocating. Now I think that they both appreciate each other a hell of a lot more than I once did.
For your reference I earn approximately 80% of my living now through royalties and writing commissions. I earn the remainder through my administrative work at Trinity Laban. But it’s not just about money. It’s about sanity, it’s about structure, it’s about planning and it’s about remembering that it’s fun and that you love it.
People who say you aren’t a real artist just because you have a day job, don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.