I recently spent four nights giving artistic and life advice at Readings, Carlton. It actually worked, and I ended up ‘counselling’ about 25 people. Armed with walnuts and Elderberry tea, I sat in my disarming booth and shared intimate ideas with kindly strangers.
- A Dad wants to film his kids at school doing a dance routine. He reckons he could crowd source / fund a $2000 budget. He would probably have to work with a director who would also edit it. His main question for me was: “What do you think of all that?” When he invited his five year old daughter to sit in my chair she instincitively went to fold it up and put it away. Later, I drew a picture of her which she scrunched up in my face.
- A cute Readings staff member wants to pursue acting. She’s aware of how crowded and competitive it is. She wants to study in London. Her parents don’t really get it, but are supportive enough. “What if it doesn’t work out?” she asks me. She fears following the dream and it not working out and having wasted her time. She does believe she is talented and special enough to make it.
- A girl is not sure what to do with her life. “I’m 24, that feels so old,” she informs me. We narrow down that she wants to help people, ie social work. She’s cautious about spending two years doing a degree incase it doesn’t work out and she’s wasted her time. I tell her it won’t be time wasted. It is life experience that will enrich her soul and it is always better than sitting on the fence.
- A young Tassie dude wants to play piano and explore his musical comedy. He used to play music as a kid and received a lot of praise which he found embarrassing. He has since got out of the habit of writing and performing and while he misses it he’s also anxious about it. If he tries and fails it will be painful, while if he does well he’ll just get too much praise again and be embarrassed. (You can’t underestimate the self-worth issues of a Tasmanian). I tell him to think of an artist he admires. Imagine if they never existed because they were too sheepish. It’s all part of the cycle of art life. He deserves to contribute to the conversation. There’s always 943 valid excuses for not doing your art.
- A passive aggressive artist woman refuses to sit down. “The book would be pretty grim wouldn’t it?” We back and forth until she concludes “You’re a pretty terrible salesman but I’m gonna buy a book.” I say “great” in my usual way (people have trouble reading my deadpan, including me) and she says “you don’t even care, do you?” I reply “You’ve made four assumptions about me in the last twenty seconds'” She says “I’m sorry, do you want to make assumptions about me?” I say “no.” She buys a book. This is the closest anyone has come to hassling me.
- Older writer man. He was writer in residence at a Mt Eliza cafe for three years. He’s a writer of young adult fiction. He has no idea where the story is going to go. It’s a daily meditation. A subconscious journey. He got head hunted as a lawyer or psychologist? “Do you read palms” he opens with. “Only when in Hawaii,” I reply. He doesn’t ask me for any advice but tells me about himself for a solid twenty minutes.
- Artist girl commissioned to paint a mural at her favourite pub. It’s of her ex boyfriend, naked in bed saying nasty things. She’s unsure whether it’s legit and worried that “people” will think she’s mean spirited. Also, the boyfriend may recognise himself. I tell her to go for it. Art’s what you can get away with (said Andy Warhol). They invited me to their house party with an “Under the sea” theme, but I’ll be in Tassie.
- Twenty three year old male comedian, managing some high profile names and working two days a week. Unsure whether to pursue his own career or not. We had a long chat about time management. He’s probably doing too much. He needs to try and drop the two days a week job and make money from managing. He needs to concentrate on his writing.
- A woman wants to know where she should live in Melbourne. She’s moving from Geelong with a dog. I suggest Thornbury / Preston. It’s not too pretentious, but affordable. She wants to live with one other. I give her some tips on finding the right housemate. Be upfront about your needs – ie – not wanting to be too social and going out for drinks all the time. Also, do as much screening as you can on the phone – you can pick up a vibe and save yourself some time.