“Just breathin’ and dreamin’ and passin’ by the time.” ~ Neil Cribbs
For years I’ve worked as a busker, an artist that performs on the streets for tips and donations. In the beginning it was the only venue I had. Street performing and dedication, as well as the ability to tell a good story under pressure on the street landed me my first restaurant gig, and those venues are what laid the foundation for my career. These days I don’t need the money in the hat, and the street act has become a bit more pure in its execution. I still take to the streets when I want to test new material. There’s no better venue to test an act under fire: those audiences have nothing invested in the show. They can and will walk away or give you immediate feedback if you fail to entertain them. Sometimes I just go back to the street because it’s there. It’s also somewhat comforting to know that if I ever have need, I have a stage that’s waiting and a hat to collect the wages.
My street antics attracted the attention of a young talented filmmaker a couple of years ago who was telling the story of street art in Charlotte. The project can be seen at buskmovie.com . The movie is quite fun, informative and worth a couple of viewings.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how the street helped me on my continuing road, and my ‘Why Stop There?’ philosophy. I’m going to share some of these lessons in the next couple of chapters. Let me know what you think: your feedback is not only welcome, it’s desired.
1. To get started, you have to get started. I spent years reading books, practicing alone and performing a few tricks for friends. My ability to spin a story came from my Grandpa Jack, a true fisherman and weaver of yarns. This was all fine and good, but the substance of my growth didn’t begin until I took a chance and stepped onto the stage in front of strangers. My stage was the sidewalk, my audience the people walking by. This venue was born out of necessity: I found myself out of work with a few nice prospects, but they all involved mind-numbing drudgery or underpaid labor. Out of frustration, I took a small table and a deck of cards and went to the corner of Trade & Tryon in my hometown of Charlotte, NC. I told a few jokes and did a few tricks and after a couple of hours there was grocery money in the hat. I earned about $12 an hour. This was 1993 and it was better money than I could make sitting in an office. I was inspired …
I strove to improve my craft. When I wasn’t on the street, I was reading, practicing, writing my stories and jokes down and reciting them. I took care of my family and my responsibilities.
If I hadn’t worked up the nerve to take that initial step, to just put my flag in the ground and say “Let’s give THIS a try!’, I would not be doing it today. I had to start down the road. I found that it had been waiting for me.
Who are you? Where does your talent lie? What excuses are keeping you from reaching your fullest potential? Perhaps it’s time to look at yourself, your talents and your responsibilities and ask yourself: “Why am I here?” You were made for something, you have a talent and a purpose. There’s work to be done, there are people just looking for someone like you to follow. Take your step, get on the road to your success and move forward.