©2011 Odilia Rivera Santos
In January, I resigned from a teaching position, at a community center, with the clear goal of finishing two novels, my collection of poetry on the subject of love, and organizing poetry readings for my company, Haiku Empire. In addition to those goals, I decided to learn as much about online marketing as possible. The foci of an artist these days -- making art and promoting it. After much deliberation, I decided to send my novels and poetry to a traditional publisher and to self-publish nonfiction, in the form of e-books, for the rest of the year. I gave myself the luxury of completing the aforementioned projects within a year, but I was pleasantly surprised: I finished within six months. I have my parents to thank for my work ethic.
I attempted to live without a cellphone for a year, but kept receiving concerned emails from friends, so the phone is back on. When I'm writing, the Internet is never a distraction, but circuitous conversations really bore me. I really think people need to read more, so they can stop talking about their feelings all day -- it's like the Oprah couch universalized.
I have also been a person who feels very content spending time alone and this makes some people uncomfortable. I go to concerts, the movies, the gym, and even dancing alone. Sometimes, it's easier to be alone because there are no schedules to coordinate. In NYC, coordinating schedules with other people is complicated; we are all busy.
I did not have a clear vision of how my adventure into a full-time artist life would look; thus far, the experience has been magnificent. I am single and have no children, which is helpful because I don't have to discuss my plans with anyone. After talking to a lot of artists about romantic relationships, I see how it takes an extremely confident person to date someone who feels self-actualized. My friend Nelson Cabán, the Puerto Rican artist, and I talked about romance and making art some months back and agreed on how difficult it can be for the artist's lover to deal with our obsession with making art. I sometimes get up at five in the morning to write, connect myself via headphones to my Mac and disconnect from everything else. During this wonderful process of leaving work that no longer suited me, I have had the luxury of moving toward a closer approximation of my ideal life. There were weeks in which I got up, drank coffee, exercised, and wrote without speaking to anyone for days. After years as an advocate for homeless people, victims of domestic violence and immigrants, it was cathartic and wonderful to not speak.
I also connected with some great musicians, Tato Torres of Yerbabuena, Maurice Brown, Arturo O’ Farrill and Wynton Marsalis, who were kind enough to sit for interviews, allowed me to attend rehearsals and I will be posting those interviews on Leisurefications
The Wynton Marsalis interview was strange; I was sitting down waiting to order breakfast at a coffee shop. Marsalis comes in and looks at me like he knew me and I waved. When he sat down, I yelled out 'let me interview you!" He asked me to join him at his table and I asked him to join me at mine. He acquiesced and we sat for two hours talking about Jazz, Hip Hop and his fourteen-year-old son joined us. He was very gracious and fun to talk to.
I firmly believe when we let go of things and people who no longer serve any purpose in our lives, the right people and situations materialize.
Another big change is that I have decided to perform more -- people have asked me to act in their plays and movies for years, but I was never interested. Somehow, the idea of becoming a writer/performer makes sense now. I am speaking to someone this week about television work, some poetry readings and perhaps, becoming the creative director on someone else's very successful project.
My brother used to say a lot of people fear success more than failure, and I can see this is true. I chose to put myself in situations completely inappropriate to who I am and allowed people who are chaos-makers to enter my life. And excising toxic people from my life feels like clearing cobwebs along a path.