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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

(F4) Which One Are You: Writer or Artist?

(Meet Dan. Yes, he is crazy.)

Dan Cavallari is a man of many talents. Apart from being a freelance writer and photographer, he plays the guitar and has recently published his first novel called Confusing the Seasons, which is a bitter-sweet account of a man’s life after he had lost his wife. In addition, Dan makes the whole social media concept seem so easy, what with working, blogging, tweeting, and amassing a Facebook fanbase. 

Not too bad for a man who almost crashed his bicycle into a moose once.

When Dan came to me with his idea for this guest post, I was thrilled. Just one look at his site managed to inspire me because of the way he presents himself and his crafts. To me, the idea of mixing and matching one’s artistic talents is admirable. After all, most artists are just that: artists, yet we all choose our ‘prime art’ and leave the rest behind. (Or maybe that’s just me?) Not Dan. He’s embraced all of his gifts and is thriving because of it.

Being More than Just a Writer
by Daniel Cavallari

I must have been eight or nine years old when I got a rollicking case of the flu. I only remember bits of that week, as I spent a good part of it hallucinating.  Sleep, visions. Sleep, visions. That was the pattern; I would wake up only briefly, long enough to see my grandparents puttering around the house. Grampy would be in the yard one minute, trimming the hedges. The next minute, I was asleep.  Wake again, and he'd be mowing the lawn. Then sleep. Wake again and he would be reading a book in the chair. Then sleep.

When I think of my life in the arts, I think of that time, not only because of the hallucinations that would later make for fun writing, but because of the frenetic energy my grandfather displayed as I tried to contain my puke. He did so much those days! Hours or days could have passed between tasks, but in my flu-addled mind, he was going lighting speed.

Being a writer no longer seems enough. We must be marketers, salespeople, entertainers, and adventurers...the days of writing a tome that will be received with awards and other pomp are over.

I've taken a slightly different approach.  I write, I play music, and I take photos. These talents always seemed separate to me, and it wasn't until recently that I decided this did not need to be the case.

That's when I thought of the Apocalypse Project.

The Apocalypse project is a mixed media project that will include photography, writing, art, and music, as well as an online presence. I want to create a new type of storytelling: the hardcopy book and the e-book will be part of it, but so will video, photography slideshows, music, and a website to contain it all.

Why bother, you ask?

Because writers need to be so much more than writers now.

But Dan!


All I want to do is write! How come I can't just write?

Good question, noble reader. The answer is, of course, you can! But you will need to temper your expectations. Readerships have declined, and the immediate gratification bug is voracious. Combining media only helps your cause, and here's a grand revelation:

It's damn fun!

When I think of myself as a writer/artist rather than a writer, my expectations are higher and, generally, the reception is much stronger. People want to be wowed by your art. Hemingway could write a book and wow the masses because that was the best available media. Literary geeks will certainly argue that it still is...most of your audience, however, will disagree.. They want an experience. Can you do it with a book? Probably. Will your audience trust you to do it with just a book? Probably not.

When I taught high school composition, I told my students the golden rule of writing: GRAB YOUR READER'S ATTENTION. If the reader doesn't like your first line, they won't read your second. The same holds true to marketing: you have to grab your reader's attention before they'll pick up your book at all. In other words, if you're boring, your date won't want to go home with you.

Am I saying you need to take up photography, or start smoking crack on a reality TV show, or standing at subway stations waiting for just the right moment to save someone from impending death on the tracks?

Well, it couldn't hurt.

But, that's not realistic for most of us.

Something all writers can do is start a website, but remember: content is key. I'm doing the Apocalypse Project because I love the idea, but more importantly, it will distinguish me from other writers. It's content that might cause people to visit my site often, and that's the kind of visitor you want: the one who will come back again and again, probably to buy.

You are more than just a clicker of keys, a creator of literary worlds, a turner of pages. What can you give them that’s not just another book in an endless quagmire of books?

Maybe you're the person willing to do a Skype interview with a book club. Perhaps you're just the guy who's willing to walk the strip in Vegas and hand out your books to random (hopefully sober) strangers. Your dream is right there...what net will you use to catch it? The bottom line is, you need to engage your audience, and more importantly, you should have fun doing so. Find a way to have fun with it and you win, not just as a writer, but as an artist in general.

Me? I have a ton of fun behind the camera, and not just because sometimes I get to take photos of scantily clad women. I love it because I feel like a real, genuine artist, not just some guy swimming in a sea of mediocrity, screaming for a life preserver, hoping to god that someone will please, please, please, just read my book that I spent so much time writing!

I feel gratified, in other words. You should, too.


K.D. said...

Really great post. I try to be all kinds of artsy/writer-ly at the same time. Now, I feel like I've just been given a permission slip to continue to do just that. (p.s. That Apocalypse Project sounds really neat).

Dan Cavallari said...


You never need permission! Just do it! I think that's one of the strangest things about being an artist (I am guilty of it, too): we sometimes think it's necessary to get permission to try new things. We don' took me a long time figure that out.

Thanks for reading my post. If you like the Apocalypse Project, be sure to tell your friends so I can get it's looking a bit bleak right now, but with a bit of help, I might be able to make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post, I'm always artsy, I've just never said it out loud! And that Apocalypse Project sounds rad (do kids still say that?)

A x

Anonymous said...

That's always the dilemma; artist versus writer –I started out as a bit of both –then ventured into art –at University I was fortunate enough to amalgamate art, video and the written word (that was fab) –we did Fine Art with Related Arts; then I veered back to just art and now my passion for writing as well as photography has burst through... I was thinking I must be a mixed bag of fruits or something and now I see I am not alone in this madness!

It is true if you are a creative soul –in more than one way, then you should embrace it and make it all work together.

Good luck with your project and thank you for a lovely post.

Kathleen said...

Great post! I look forward to seeing more on the Apocolypse project! It sounds really interesting!

Leslie Rose said...

Love this concept. Creativity shouldn't be contained to one mode of expression. There are so many cool outlets to share your art these days - why not tap into as many as possible.

Dan Cavallari said...

Thanks for the support, folks. Leslie, I completely agree. The struggle for so many artists is the general mood of society concerning art...there's so much bad art out there, so there's little encouragement for artists to experiment, try new things, create new ideas.

I think the Apocalypse Project is my way of trying to create a new medium for art. It's an important one, and I hope to carry it out soon.

So, if you're interested, consider throwing a few bucks at the project. You'll get rewards in return, and it will help me be the wacky, moose-avoiding, nutcase artist that I am...

Anonymous said...

Love this. Sometimes when my writer-self is working on something, the artist-self interrupts. And vice versa. Maybe I should let them work together more often.