Q&A with Author and Performer, Holly Shaw
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I’m really passionate about the idea that artists are powerful agents of change. Like the idea that we are today’s shamans in some sense.
ABOUT HOLLY SHAW
Holly Shaw, author of the Amazon bestseller, The Creative Formula, and the newly released, Making Art In the Middle of Madness, is a life-long artist who has not only performed in film, TV and on stages all over the world as an actor and dancer and stand up comedian, but has also helped thousands of performing artists, some of them Emmy Award winning and Grammy nominated, overcome stage fright and creative blocks. She has taught for the SAG/AFTRA conservatory in SF and LA. Her podcast, Performers & Creators Lab, was named One of 2019’s Most Outstanding by Databird Research.
On to our interview!
Q: Tell us who you are and what inspires you to write.
A. I’m a lifelong performer. An author, a performance coach, hypnotherapist and an artist. For the last couple of years I’ve been focused on stand-up comedy. I’ve always been fascinated with the creative process, whether it’s writing, dancing, acting . . . I love doing them, but just as much I love thinking about them and why something works or doesn’t. I think that’s why I’ve found myself involved in so many different things. In the cross-section of disciplines. I find insights that I might not have seen had I always been looking through one singular lens.
Q: How did you get to this place in your life? Share your story!
A. I was a child actor – by choice. I begged my parents to get me an agent. So from a young age I did film, theatre, dance, but at some point it all kind of fell apart from stage fright. As I continued to pursue dancing on a professional level, I also began studying the healing arts: somatic therapy, hypnosis etc. and began tying it all together. In the process of healing my own trauma, I began to want to help other artists as well. That’s how I’ve found myself coaching artists.
Creativity is almost like a spirituality for me. In the flow is where we connect with who we really are. And wouldn’t the world be a better place if more of us were connected?
Q: What are you most passionate about?
A. I’m really passionate about the idea that artists are powerful agents of change. Like the idea that we are today’s shamans in some sense. I’m really inspired by mind-blowing creative work when I see it – when it clicks into place and it’s like seeing a person’s soul. It’s gorgeous. It can be life changing to witness. I’ve always felt called to bust through anything in the way of that. It can be so painful to experience a block in your creativity or in your potential, and so I’ve always wanted to help not just myself, but other artists get through those dark places. Creativity is almost like a spirituality for me. In the flow is where we connect with who we really are. And wouldn’t the world be a better place if more of us were connected?
…music helps me feel a little more like it’s a party.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process, routine, and/or rituals around your writing?
A. I’m not a regular writer. I don’t force myself to write a certain number of things a day. I know that works for some people but not for me. But I do write things all the time: sometimes in an email, a blog, or a social media post with a bit of poetry in it. I find that it turns out to be quite a lot. At some point I start to see some connections and I have this urge to put it all together and write a book. At that point, I do have to get a little more disciplined. The thousands of words don’t just appear on the page! I find writing kind of lonely. Inevitably you have to turn down fun things with your friends to really focus and get the flow going when you’re in the home stretch. And so, to help myself feel a little more fun about it, I’ll put on some great music: gentle music, some R&B, some inspiring music, nothing too funky or upbeat or I’ll want to dance instead of write! So, music helps me feel a little more like it’s a party.
Q: What are a few challenges you faced in creating, marketing, or publishing your creative work? And your solutions to them.
A. Initially this book was just a book about stage fright. I shopped it around to literary agents and publishers and didn’t get a nibble. I knew there was something powerful about the information, it just wasn’t landing right. Finally, I was on a date (of all places!) with someone who had self-published several books, and they gave me the advice to not wait on a publisher for this second one. If I really wanted to write books, “then write books!” They said that once you have a few books out there on different topics, more and more people start finding you and you’re more likely to get a publisher because they see you have the chops to write and write more. Once I decided that, then I began to work earnestly on this book. And then the pandemic happened and I realized the direction of the subject matter needed to shift. That the information I was wildly excited about finally had an avenue where it could make an even bigger impact to more than just those suffering from stage fright. So that’s how this second book finally came to fruition.
Q: What do you wish you had known before you started writing fiction?
A. Your closest friends, lovers, and family members probably won’t really read your book. I remember feeling disappointed at first that I’d get vague answers when my mom or boyfriend would dodge the question of “how do you like my book”? My brother in law, T.A. Pratt, who is a Hugo award winning novelist, finally broke it down for me and told me this fact: his family doesn’t read his either. I think it’s because a book is a big time commitment and your family and closest friends already give you a lot of support; it may be hard for them to see you as much as an expert. Anyhow, there are plenty of other people who do read my books! Colleagues, fans, my collaborative creative “soul mates,” potential business partners. . . I’ve come to accept that some people just never will!
Q: What’s next for you in your creative work?
A. I’ve got more books I want to write! My hope is that eventually I’ll get to a place where I have enough trust from my reading audience that I can venture into some more far out topics that I’m interested in, like our abilities to channel spirits or entities through art, growing your intuition – things like that. I’m super interested in the esoteric world and phenomenon and yet I want to always “check my woo” and make sure I’m bringing my work back to things that are actually practical and helpful for my readers who are mainly artists. Eventually, my hope is that a more “woo” audience finds me! Ha! And I can take some more risks into some edgier topics. I’m also really loving doing stand-up for the same reasons. I get to take bigger risks in the things I say. I’m looking forward to getting to be a better comedy writer too as I continue to write and perform new bits all the time.
Q: Is there anything else you wished I’d asked? Please share!
A: Yes. People often ask me: Do you ever still get stage fright?
Oh sure! The nervousness never really goes away fully, but what I’ve learned is that it is a welcome energy that you can use. For example, one time about three months into comedy, I got boo’ed by the audience. Not just one person but almost the entire crowd was boo’ing because of an edgier joke I was trying. It sounds horrific but I remember that feeling of them hating me and experiencing it not as bad, but simply as energy.
There was such a charge in the room and it fueled me! So, instead of letting it throw me, I was able to use that attention to kind of find a way back. I went on and got them to like me again, and that was a great feeling! It’s one of my favorite memories. Stage fright doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be performing, or putting your art out there, it actually means that you SHOULD. It means there’s an energy that’s working through you and it’s up to you to get up to speed with it and learn how to work with it.
Are you feeling stuck in your attempts to make art or perform in these times of pandemic, environmental and political madness? Making Art In The Middle of Madness delivers groundbreaking and original insights into your fear, your shadows, and what makes you, as an artist and performer, a brilliant agent of change. This book is a call to all artists, performers, speakers, and limelight seekers to wake up and chart a path forward not by running from or suppressing fear, but by learning to work with it to create something new.
Connect with Holly Shaw