The Days of Yore began with an idea that we loved and a name that we didn’t (kind of like a band in that way), and in the last five months it has evolved into something we hope is unique and inspiring and has the potential to continue building for years to come. We’ve even come to like the name.
Now seemed like a good time to hit up the database we’ve amassed thus far and pick out a few choice proverbs that represent what this site has been about for us. We also hope it serves as a sort of call-to-arms for you guys, the people who come back to the Days of Yore week after week, to keep sending us suggestions/connections for artists you’d like to see interviewed. DoY runs on the idea that we’ll be able to continually lock down artists each week for these longer-form interviews – all help in this regard is valuable! Please keep sending suggestions to doyinfo at gmail dot com. And, if you’re one of our returning readers, or if this is your first visit and you like what you see, please spread the word about the site. Our goal of sharing the wisdom of the wise relies on a growing readership of people who want to be inspired. As a special treat, and a little DoY thankee, here’s a 20/20 feature on Jeremy Renner “before he was famous.” This is worth watching if only for the adorable, elderly drama teacher they unearth midway through.
Gary Shteyngart was our very first interview and has since become one of NYC’s hottest literary figures (on a grand scale, we mean, but also literally, because he’s very hot). Shteyngart brought up the very valid point that if you can find a day job you don’t much care about, you can find ways to use it to your advantage.
“If I had to have a job besides writing, I never wanted a corporate job, a profession. Because people who work law, medicine, finance, their entire lives are consumed by what they do. There is no room for writing. You have to be an insane person, like Chekhov. And Chekhov really didn’t practice medicine much. You need that job where you can close the door behind you. You need that concentration. The other problem now as opposed to then is that then there was no Internet. There was no distraction. Now, it’s impossible. It keeps going BING! at you.”
Kristen Schaal, a comedienne and actress who seems to be everywhere these days, talked about how hard it was for her to break through the “agent/manager barrier” and why it only inspired her to follow her own projects.
“You have to realize that you have no control over the industry and just do your own thing. That’s the secret. As soon as I started pouring myself into my own comedy and shows the biz started to perk up. My own projects became my job and I didn’t have time to sit around waiting for a questionable manager to call.”
Jan Maxwell, two-time Tony Award-winning Broadway actress, almost left New York after ten years to move to Seattle. But an after-dinner snack kept her feet planted a while longer.
“I loved [New York] City – I had never ever decided to leave before and it was very hard on me. But I realized I wasn’t really concentrating too hard, and my soul was suffering from that – my acting soul. And I’d worked out in Seattle before for a [regional] show and really liked it. But then, this is a true story: I got a fortune cookie and it said, ‘When winter arrives – good fortune will rain upon you.’ And on December 21st – Winter Solstice – I got the call that I was going to be an understudy on Broadway. I remember going out and buying a dress.”
Anne Bogart, world-famous theatre director and author, discussed one of the biggest obstacles in the way of even the most established artists – that no matter how renowned you become, the idea that you never really have any clue what you’re doing still remains somewhere in the back of your mind.
“I want to give up often. To this day when things are not going well in rehearsal I feel that I should be fired and a real genuine professional theater director should be hired in my place. I imagine that everyone involved is wishing for someone with a more definite sense of direction. This feels lousy. It’s hard to pin down what keeps me coming back to the plate. Perhaps it is ego or will and ego or stubbornness that keeps me sticking with the project through exhaustion, butting up against challenges until I break through and then coming back for more.”
Lisa Sanditz, international painter and artist, brought up a topic that many of our artists discussed in their interviews: the whys and why-nots of graduate school. Why did she choose to go?
“I was attracted to the idea of attaching myself to something around which I could build relationships. And, at the time, I was working in my studio and with the mural projects, but I was basically a secretary at work. I was making fine money but not sustainably. I just wanted to immerse myself more, to really devote myself to the work. The argument can certainly be made that art school is too expensive. For 100,000 dollars or whatever it costs today, you can just go get an apartment and a studio in New York and see what happens! But I wanted more of a structure.”
Wells Tower, a bright and shiny new literary star, reminded us that even successful artists have often had a semi-starving once-upon-a-time, and that there are always ways to be resourceful.
“I made my own hummus— that was a great money saver. You make it out by the pound. It was interesting feeling so besieged financially. It was the same thing when I was at graduate school at Columbia. Those were real flood-relief quantities of hummus. Seems like I had the whole town mapped in terms of where you could get a good deal on cheese or bok choy or coffee. I had an entire values circuit in lower Manhattan. It would take me three hours to go shopping because it felt worth it to walk fourteen blocks to save fifty cents on a bag of oats.”
Will Cotton, iconic painter and recent Katy Perry video mastermind, shared the valuable lesson that being social, deliberately, can be a huge help in making your way in a world that is still very much about who you know.
“We started to have loft parties. If you have a loft party in the art world and there is alcohol and you invite 50 people, by the end of the night there are 300 people in your loft. The upside is that you meet a lot of people. And that is actually how I met most of the people I know, still to this day. That’s also how I got hooked up with Mary Boone [his dealer in New York]. At one of those parties, someone brought Damian Loeb [the artist], and he saw my work, and he introduced me to Mary Boone, who he had just started working with. So, being social, deliberately, definitely did a lot for me.”
Thomas Roma, legendary photographer and storyteller, doled out some of the toughest and most candid advice of all of our interviews so far. If you want to make a life as an artist you must be prepared for a fight, for the prospect of failure, and for the grinding work that comes with the task.
“Perseverance is everything. People become experts of the obstacles in front of them. “I’m not tall enough to play football,” “I’m not smart enough to write a novel”…whatever it is. And school, school shows you exactly where the minefields are and is supposed to give you a map so you go around them. What about if stepping on a mine is part of it? You have to live the life you claim you want to have. No one will prevent you, if you only want to live your life. I think we dance around the issue of doing exactly what we want. One of the reasons we don’t talk about doing exactly what we want is to cushion the blow—“Oh I didn’t want it anyway, so it’s OK that I didn’t get it,” etc. No. Apply for the jobs that you really want, and if you don’t get them, it should hurt.”
Finally, George Saunders, MacArthur Genius and one of the most respected and adored writers of our time, found solace in his life outside of his writing. He found that it could actually be his greatest source of inspiration.
“It was actually really great to get submerged in a completely non-literary world. There was a specialized language, and moral system, in that world, which, I’d say, honed my idea of what “beautiful” language might be. Plus it gave me a kind of special access to… certain psychological environments: the crushing boredom that must be endured because you have a beloved little family at home to support; being the low man on a very small humiliating totem pole, etc etc; coming to understand that the cliché of the corporate bad guy was just that: a cliché. I got to know some people in big corporations who were both really nice people and in positions where they occasionally did some questionable things (which didn’t seem questionable to them, necessarily, but expedient/in service of a bigger cause, etc). So I guess I’m saying that it was eye-opening to have your easy, first dream denied you, and to find yourself living, workwise, in what would have been, even a few years earlier, a nightmare – and then find that you could do it, and it would yield amazing insights and all sorts of odd tonalities of beauty.”
So keep coming to our site and keep telling your friends about what we’re doing. We hope what you find here leads to new inspiration and enrichment for the path you are staking out for yourself.