David T. Lewis

Father, educator, drinker, listener.

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Small Fish. Small Pond.

I often meet with young artists who tell me they are going to move because their town is some total shithole. They aren’t wrong per se, but I always give them the same advice… stay home until it hurts.

Don’t get me wrong. I see the move to a big city like Chicago, New York or Los Angeles as a really positive career step. If you want to work in the arts it is in some ways inevitable, but when you are starting out these moves can be costly and demoralizing.

Conventional wisdom is that you must move to a bigger city for bigger gains. That the goal should be the broadest possible audience, but moving to a larger market without a body of experience leaves you at the starting gate. It becomes easy to feel lost and rudderless, you shut down and get defined by your drudgery. The first step should be staying put until it’s absolutely unbearable, building your network locally before drowning

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Take the risk. It’s enough.

You start out and it’s a blank page. That is it. It doesn’t get any better or worse. Really when we think about creative impulse, a blank page is all there is. This is the same blank page that birthed Citizen Kane and Sharknado, Sonic Youth and Nickleback.

So you stare at it with equal blankness, with the urge to make something great, something profound. To write something that literally starts a fire, that burns down your desk.

You want to make something that impresses your mom, that makes your ex-girlfriends regret dumping you. Something your father shows off to his colleagues. Something that makes your wife blush with pride.

You imagine your work is so tasteful that it is featured in DWELL magazine, so compelling and new that Sean Parker calls to invest in you, so funny that Todd Barry compliments you on your timing. You are so earnest and true that Ian MacKaye actually writes

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Why You Aren’t “Just Lucky To Have A Job.”

Over the last 8 years I have been working with young artists on developing their careers. Many times they get stuck somewhere in the process and their hope turns to bitterness, “I’m just lucky to have a job.” I’ve heard this sad phrase uttered and muttered as some kind of self-fulfilling, defeatist mantra. Its wrong. If you are any good, any employer should be so lucky as to have you. The whole sentiment of the benevolent, single-sided employer is a twisted idea that has much more to do with our own crippled national ambition than it does our current downturned economy. (Though we most certainly should feel lucky for the opportunity to work, but that is another post.)

Watching Larry Smith’s TEDx Talk, Why You Will Never Have a Great Career, really reminded me how much of our work environment is a direct reflection of our own drive to innovate and demonstrate our merit in the

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Speaking up and speaking out.

On the eve of September’s Suicide Prevention Month, I’m reminded of how important it is to discuss the challenges that so many of us face in our mental health. If for no other reason than to attempt to normalize the loneliness that comes along with the acute discomfort of depression.

Very rarely do I post anything this private, but I think it’s important that I say out loud that I struggle with social phobia and anxiety …and have done for years.

This has been incredibly difficult, not only for me, but for my closest friends and family. It is something I have been really ashamed of and as a father of two beautiful children it is a constant reminder of no matter how adult we might look, how truly fragile we might actually feel.

In order to try to keep this panic at bay I’ve explored just about everything: avoidance, therapy, medication, drinking, denial. It has not gone away

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