Tatiana Hotere isn't just a passionate creative force - she's a devoted one. Her one-woman show, Skin Hunger, made an award-winning debut at last year's Auckland Fringe Festival, and is back for another season this month at Q Theatre (7-10 February).
One of the many success stories to come through the Toipoto free mentoring and creative career development programme, the performer/producer/writer's road to career satisfaction has been one hard earned. Hotere has important and emotive advice for her younger self - and any creative facing self-doubt.
You have been taught to ask, and wait, until you receive permission before you make your decisions about your own life. You have been told that your creative dreams are nothing more than wishful thinking, that art won’t put food on the table. You have been ordered to stay in your lane and commanded to not dare stray from a small and safe existence.
Darling, listen to me. Fuck that!
You do not need anyone’s permission to follow the calling of your heart and the desires of your soul. Do not wait for anyone else to ‘allow’ you to express your voice. You are an artist!
Any permission you need must come first from you. If you wait for permission, approval, or validation from others, you will never achieve anything and you will never know what you are capable of.
Give yourself permission to create, to risk, to try, to feel, to mess it up, but most of all permission to shine.
I know you struggle with lack of confidence and your inner critic can be vicious. I also know that when you procrastinate, you are trying to protect yourself from rejection and failure. But you are also preventing yourself from succeeding.
I get it. There is a payoff in self-sabotage. Waiting for someone else to give you the green light feels safe. Because you are afraid that when you start to shine, others may resent your success and may reject or ostracise you.
This is your life. Your opinion of yourself counts most - and even if others abandon you, don’t you dare abandon yourself.
Tatiana Hotere in her early 20s. Photo: Supplied.
You often ask yourself “But what if I don’t shine, what if instead I fail miserably?“
Let me measure you. You will surely fail. Miserably. Several times.
It will hurt and you will feel like giving up. Don’t!
You will feel like it’s the end of your career. It won’t be.
You will feel like you are not enough. You are.
Every failure will show you something new about yourself. Every failure will be a stepping stone propelling you in the direction of the unique path you are meant to follow.
You will discover your true worth, attune to your intuition and learn to validate and celebrate yourself. Nothing apart from facing and embracing failure with can teach you that. So go and fail miserably, boldly, and beautifully.
Tatiana Hotere. Photo: Supplied.
There are no shortcuts. To make good art, you must first make shitty art.
Write that shitty script, create that shitty choreography, perform in that shitty play. And then do it again. And again, and again.
I know it’s scary. I know it’s risky. I know you will feel like you can look like a fool, but you need to give yourself the freedom to make tons of shitty art.
Yes, your art will be judged, it will be criticised and it will fucking hurt. Because everything you create is an extension of yourself so the rejection and criticism will feel extremely personal. But you will survive.
Make peace with being terrible so that you minimise the effect of fear, paralysis, and procrastination. And trust me, when you continue to make art, bravely putting yourself out there and facing the criticism, you will awaken your inner fire and learn to listen to your own instincts.
Before you know, you will begin to thrive and create some amazing shit you are really proud of.
Too many of your ‘friends’ are content to be cruising through life without purpose, and they will happily drag you into a pit and sadly leave you there. Too many of them will make fun of you, dismiss you, even make you doubt yourself.
Eventually, you will discover certain ‘friends’ are toxic for you but you will be afraid and hesitant to let them go. That’s because you mistake being alone with being lonely.
My darling, you deserve to be surrounded by people who love, cherish, and celebrate you.
You deserve to be in the company of those who will support and encourage you. Especially because you will face a lot of rejection, let-downs, and setbacks in your artistic career, and you will need good friends to walk alongside you when the tough gets going.
Choose your friends wisely and carefully. During some seasons of your life, you will have to walk alone. It will be hard but do so with confidence. At the right time, good people will come into your life. Some will become close friends for life.
Befriend yourself first, and become the kind of person you would like to be friends with.
When you get caught up in thinking just about yourself - about what you will gain, about how you ‘need’ that part, that good review, that industry connection… all so that you can feel worthy of calling yourself an artist - you will lose perspective of your purpose and your art loses its meaning.
But when you can balance self-satisfaction with generosity of spirit, your art elevates and expands. You have a gift, a unique way to see life and express yourself. You have something great to share, and as much as it’s about you, it’s also not only about you.
Life will knock you off your high horse a few times and eventually you will be so humbled that you will feel like you are riding a chihuahua. That will be hard for your ego, but it will be the best thing ever for your wairua and for your art.
Don’t harden your heart when grief and suffering arrive - and believe me - they will come many times. Instead make room for them, much like preparing the house to receive old friends who arrive for an extended visit.
Embrace grief and suffering – without wallowing in them or without pushing them aside. From the cracks they will inflict on your broken heart, you will be able to bring forth your light and be of service to others through your art.
Your art will save you. Treasure it, protect it, cherish it, follow it, and allow it to lead you back home to yourself.
Tatiana Hotere performs her award-winning Skin Hunger at Auckland's Q Theatre 7-10 February. Book tickets here.