Sound Advice by Taleen Kali
Cosmic wisdom of the punk rock persuasion
How do you reconcile your hatred of capitalism with the “push” to market yourself? I’m living in obscurity and wallowing in discontent. Don’t wanna die here… too cute and full of life.
Sometimes, we only get glimmers of feeling “full of life.”
The feeling of obscurity and discontent gets to the best of us. Blame it on capitalism and its attendant evils.
The good news? You’re feeling cute and full of life! So use whatever positive energy you’ve got—when you’ve got it—to do something creative.
In fact, do it right now.
It can be anything.
It doesn’t have to be the great American novel. Also, it doesn’t have to be pricey—it can cost you nothing.
If you’re stuck and have no idea what to do, my go-to advice for a creative gateway drug—and I might be sounding like a broken record here month after month, but this is a punk zine after all—MAKE. A. ZINE.
Any zine! It can be a standalone, turn into a series, inspire a playlist, a song, just for fun, or foreshadow whatever’s next for you around the corner. Making a zine is one the most accessible formats because the materials are usually found around the home (paper, scissors, glue, let’s go!). Here’s a handy list of resources on how to get started (https://lazinefest.com/resources/), courtesy of L.A. Zine Fest.
Whatever medium you choose, the goal is to simply immerse yourself in creative activity for a sustained period of time, as many times a week as you can muster.
I’m giving you this advice because my personal experience with self-marketing has been complex, to say the least. Capitalism is a fucking towering concept, and yet working with larger venues and publications has, on occasion, given me more visibility and assisted me with the means and opportunity to create more art. However without an active creative practice to back me up, I would never have been able to work up the nerve to self-promote in the first place. Furthermore, when I haven’t maintained an active creative practice to anchor me in the midst of it, capitalism has sucked the lifeblood out of me.
If you’re wondering whether doing art and marketing at the same will zap your energy, I’m here to assure you it won’t! The very act of creativity is generative, acting like a recharge button, which offers respite from the daily slog. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you as an artist. When you have an active creative practice it’ll make the push to market yourself all the more tolerable: whether it’s navigating your day job, giving yourself a boost to put your work out there, or coming up with a creative business. It may even give you a rad new idea for promotion that’s not running on fumes. Soon enough, you’ll become your own personal feedback loop of art, energy, and creative ideas on the reg.
Once you’ve built up your project(s), it’s okay to self-promote, and it’s okay to work with bigger outlets if it means your survival as a creator. We’re not going to toot your own horn—especially if we’re already in marginalized communities with a lack of visibility to begin with—who is? Kathleen Hannah recently reminded me on a podcast episode on Sagittarian Matters: “feminist art isn’t free.” She was referring back to when people were pissed she wasn’t throwing five dollar shows anymore in her jump from Bikini Kill to Le Tigre, but she was putting on larger-than-life multimedia shows, pushing herself as an artist. She deserved to get paid for it!
I’ve worked with some rad companies with amazing ethics who valued me, and I’ve worked with others who in post-recession desperation wanted boring listicles and didn’t give a fuck about art. (I didn’t last there long before I collected my paycheck, quit, and started my own zine). A regular creative practice also helps fine-tune my inner voice, and allows me to better discern what I do and don’t stand for as an artist within the capitalistic landscape. Furthermore, when I don’t play a DIY show or raw solo set after a string of nightclubby shows I feel like I’m going to fucking die. I’m lucky to have collaborators who share my values, so I get to experience both realms with my band.
The point is that when we seek moments of artfulness and commit to them, the art drives the course more so than external (albeit sometimes necessary) pressures to market oneself within the capitalistic grind. One of my favorite writers and cultural media theorists Christopher Hitchens wrote in his book Letters to a Young Contrarian that we’ve got to act “as if” we live in a world we want to live in.
Make art as if you didn’t have to become a self-promotional social media demon afterward—if that’s what you’re worried about. If you were knee and elbow deep into a project you were passionate about right now, I’ve got a feeling you wouldn’t be as worried about this divide.
Make it ’til it fills up your discontent. Do it in a vacuum if you have to, and do whatever it takes: cancel one dreary obligation a week, or delete social media off your phone for a day, or don’t pick up “that phone call” for once. You know which one.
So try it. Make art regardless of your obscurity. And make it like it’s the last thing you’ll ever make, because the present moment is all we’ve truly got.
If you make space for these small windows of time, the moments of artfulness will grow into more moments, creating more ideas, and culminating into an artful way of living. I promise it’ll make the slog easier once it comes around. That way, anytime you have to engage with self-promotion and marketing, you’ll be operating from the foundation of creativity instead of capitalism.
Don’t let ’em get you down, sis. Make l’art por art, art for art’s sake. I know that’s not the same as the bills getting paid, but I promise you it’s better than wallowing in discontent. We can live in these shitty times and come out the other side making art. We can feed our own fire. It will only beget more.
Got a question about punk rock, self-care, or creativity? Send your questions to @taleenkali on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/taleenkali).
Taleen Kali (http://www.taleenkali.com) is a writer, musician, and artist native to L.A. A multi-hyphenate to the core, she is founder of cult favorite DUM DUM Zine (http://www.dumdumzine.com/ ) and Kali Punk Yoga (http://www.kalipunkyoga.com)
Look out for her solo debut Soul Songs out now on Lolipop Records. Poetry, essays, and photography appears in The Onion, Filter, SPIN, Entropy, TL;DR Magazine, The Bushwick Review, Funhouse Magazine, and zines in all your favorite cities.