“I just wanted to blow up the facade,” says Heazlewood. “I wanted to be a literary terrorist dropping a truth bomb on what’s supposed to be a glamorous industry. I was hanging around in my Thornbury apartment, wondering what I was doing with my life. And I realised the best thing I could do was turn a disaster into art.”
Broadsheet – May 2014
GROOVE ON THIS SELF-INTERVIEW & LIFTED BROW PLAYLIST.
and/or CHECK OUT THE RN RADIO SERIES! (lynx below)
#1 Sell Yourself
#3 The Black Dog
#5 The Black Cat
#6 Selling Out
#8 Giving Up
“It’s a wonderful, sad, beautiful, interesting memoir and anyone that’s working in music or art in Australia should definitely read it.” Marieke Hardy, ABC’s The Book Club.
“Perfect for artists who’ve been at it for years and want to read the story of someone who’s telling it like it fucking is.” Amanda Palmer.
“Endlessly interesting and genuinely helpful. You manage to be both depressing and inspiring at the same time. Depressing in the way that cold, hard truths can always be, and inspiring in that it reminds the artist at any level why we actually go through all that.” Tony Martin.
“It’s brilliant and should be required reading for any aspiring artists and anyone working with them.” Chris Scaddan, Triple J.
Read about Justin Heazlewood’s Advice Booth.
ARTIST FEEDBACK FOR ‘FUNEMPLOYED’
“It’s like getting a hug.”
“It’s like getting a punch in the face.”
“I just had to tell you what a wise, funny, courageous, important book you’ve written. You’ve given comfort to all us mid-career, perpetually struggling ’emerging’ artists, and potentially saved the next creative generation years of figuring this shit out for themselves.” Mileta Rien, Poet.
“You’ve done a really amazing thing in publishing it. It is open, honest and perfectly funny. Genius stuff.” Leigh Ryan, Animator.
“Loving the book, by the way. The whole sharehousehold (we’re all creatives, usually in creative debt) is passing it around like a joint.” Zenobia Frost, Poet.
“Everything I had taken away from your book had helped to put me a good head space, free from unhealthy levels of excitement, ambition, jealousy and gratification. I honestly haven’t enjoyed a show like that for so long. I felt calm and peaceful before and after the event and I feel obliged to thank you for reminding me how simple and beautiful it is to feel in touch with your true artist. I truly commend you on your great book. It was interesting and so easy to read. Please remember that it has made a difference in the life of a fellow artist!” Sam Cromack, Musician – Ball Park Music.
“Dropping a line to congratulate you on writing the most comforting, inspiring and – excuse the publisher pun – affirming publication of the year. This was a book that sorely needed to be written and I’m glad it was undertaken by someone with such a unique, yet all-encompassing perspective on the state of the industry.
I write to you from the precipice of leaping into the circus again without any form of safety net. I’ve released a couple of singles and an EP which, at the time, I lacked the confidence to properly promote. Reading Funemployed galvanized a lot of the observations I’ve made over the last few years and assured me – as I’m sure it has for everyone who’s read it – that I’m not alone.” Art Pleasley, Musician.
“Funemployed says it all with wit, honesty, humour and intelligence and is also great to beat people over the head with when people tell you how lucky you are to have art as a profession ( hobby).” Lara Bardlsey, visual artist.
“It has helped put a lot of things into perspective for me being a 23 yr old singer/songwriter with a new album out, dealing with management, record label and booker, working in a call centre, receiving part payment from newstart, paying rent, living in Northcote, touring, having self doubts, a black cat and ‘why?’ moments all the while trying to forge ahead, be creative and make a career out of being a musician.” Jackson McLaren, Musician.
ABOUT THE BOOK
“I believe that a copy of this book should be mandatory reading for every youngster at the start of their creative journey.” Cecile Blackmore, The Creative Issue.
“Overall, Heazlewood’s style is easy to read, full of cute analogies, witty observations and – that most Australian of traits – self-deprecation.” Kelli Rowe, Artlink.
Funemployed goes beyond the press releases and the hype to show what it’s really like to be a working artist in Australia. With brutal honesty, self-deprecating wit and candid interviews with people from across the creative spectrum, Justin Heazlewood (aka The Bedroom Philosopher) provides a fascinating portrait of life in Australia for artists and aspiring artists alike. Justin explores every dark corner of the arts. From starting out to giving up, running a business to overworking, the trappings of fame to the advantages of failure, the obstacles and how to sidestep them. This is a landmark book, written with the raw passion of someone with over a decade in the ‘trade’. Part-confessional and part rogue self-help book, Funemployed is a wholly fascinating insight for anyone who makes or enjoys any sort of artistic endeavour in Australia.
Q&A with Justin Heazlewood (From Readings newsletter)
Justin Heazlewood – AKA The Bedroom Philosopher – talks about his rogue self-help book.
In Funemployed, you look at the actualities of being a working artist in Australia. Can you tell about your motivation to write this book, and how the process unfolded?
I was down and out! I was thousands of dollars in debt from an overly ambitious Melbourne Comedy Festival campaign. I was bitter and burnt out and hadn’t been enjoying live performance for a couple of years. I was suffering social media anxiety and felt resentfully self conscious on trams. I was having coffee with Martin Hughes from Affirm, the one publisher who had taken particular interest in my self-published book The Bedroom Philosopher Diaries when he said, ‘So… Do you have any ideas for another book?’ Grey-faced and slouched, I replied, ‘Someone should write about what it’s like to be an artist in Australia’. And there you go. As I say in the introduction, I needed to do an emotional audit and travel back in time via writing and deduce at what stage I let the business of my art ruin the pleasure of creating it. I unleashed my black box recorder, with jokes. I spent a few months working on it full-time, and soon got into a 9 to 5 rhythm. I read everything I could and interviewed as many people as possible. My first two drafts were ripped to shreds, (damn cat) and also by my editor (‘Why am I reading this?’) – so that was a big learning curve. I was happy to listen to my editor’s advice as I’d never written a book like this one before. I nailed it (and myself) on the third draft by warming up the tone and being a bit less cynical and abrasive. There’s nothing like sitting in a small room with your editor while the publisher says, ‘I know the author is in the room, but how would you describe their voice – would you say they are likable?’
You mention interviewing as ‘many people as possible’ which turned out to be over 100. I’m interested in whether a common theme emerged immediately, or if you found that experiences were widely varied?
A common theme was that we are all in the same boat (alas, not a yacht, as visual artist Lyndal Walker emailed me). Everyone, at all levels, are battling away and holding their credit cards close to their chests. Artists I spoke to fanned out the peacock tail of their frustrations, whether it be the hand-to-mouth financial predicament, or the Circus Oz-grade work/life balancing act. I reckon just about everyone is feeling like they’ve fucked up somehow as well – that’s the nature of the beast – you can never live up to your own ‘catch-all’ expectations, right? Also, a lot of artistic failures are suppressed, (debt, grant rejections, poorly attended shows) which only act to amplify the trauma. That said, we work very hard and are passionate and determined. A common theme was the frustration of not learning more small business skills at art school. Also a self-loathing of selling oneself, which is a hell of a catch-22. Imagine committing to a difficult lifestyle to express your humanity, and then essentially denying that identity while punishing yourself for choosing that lifestyle! We put the ‘carer’ in career.
The book has been described as a ‘rogue self-help book’ – can you tell us how it works?
It has little to do with Rogue from X-Men, although a new X-men movie is about to come out, and Rogue is a mutant whose special power is: Absorption of memories, skills, and powers through skin-to-skin contact. You could argue that artists are society’s mutants, inflicted with a similar power. During their career a writer, musician, performer, dancer, photographer or visual artist will absorb a torrent of criticism, praise, fear, doubt, success, failure, jealousy and bitterness. How do they do process this raw emotional data without turning into a neurotic freak? A good question. You require many skills and techniques, some of which I outline in my book. Funemployed has plenty of practical advice, from embracing Excel so you can formulate a budget, to writing your fears down in a journal so you can sleep better. Like Rogue, Funemployed is a mutant of a book – it’s a traditional memoir fused with journalistic non-fiction with a hearty dose of advice. I wanted it to tick all the boxes and give the most three-dimensional portrait of this truly complex industry! The arts onion has many layers, it’s a bulb that is good for your blood and makes you cry!
If you were compiling a must-read list for other Australian artists, what are some books you’d include?
Centrelink has a range of helpful pamphlets including ‘How to disappear completely’ and ‘So, you want to work in hospitality?’ Books about Australian artists are rare – The Divided Heart: Art & Motherhood talks about the ‘double life’ of the artist mother – but there are parallels to be drawn between anyone trying to hold down a day job and a dream job. The Artist’s Way is still the go-to self-help book for artists from the 90’s, and is one of the only texts I’ve read dealing with taboo topics such as the perils of fame and jealousy (you do have to wade through some pseudo-religious American nonsense.) For writers, the Emerging Writers Festival ‘Reader’ series is fantastic, and most are available from their website. I thought Mark Seymour’s “Thirteen Tonne Theory” was one of the few memoirs that really opened up about the industry side of things – it’s surprisingly poetic and funny.