Demi Anter is a spoken word artist, writer and creative whose work explores the light and beauty in our everyday situations. I asked Demi some questions about her role as a spoken word artist and writer. I am honoured to be conducting this interview with Demi. She is just as lovely as she is talented, and I am excited to help our readers learn more about her. Her replies are so refreshing and genuine. Read more about the Berlin-based spoken word artist and writer.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BUSINESS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING EXACTLY?
I am a spoken word artist and writer. That means part of my time is spent on stage performing my work for audiences in Germany, England, Ireland and Scotland. Part of it is spent writing new creative work; I write a lot of poetry “for the page” in addition to my performance pieces, but I also write essays and screenplays. A lot of my time goes into administrative work like planning events and submitting to publications. I recently started teaching two courses in writing and performance.
I also just launched a Patreon in hopes of further connecting with fans and giving myself more freedom to focus on writing. It’s a really cool platform that many artists have turned to, especially in these difficult times. It’s kind of like having a subscription to my work!
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA?
I started performing in college in 2011. Within my first week on campus at UC Santa Barbara, I saw Prof. Kip Fulbeck give a talk and perform some poems, and I thought, “Wow! There’s a class for that??” I joined even though it was the scariest thing I could imagine doing; I was extremely shy and insecure about speaking in front of people. But I had been writing poetry since I was very young, so I knew I liked that aspect of it.
I performed a lot in college, was an assistant teacher for Kip’s course and also organized many workshops and shows. But I stopped performing more or less after graduating and did not pick it up again until 2018. I was already living in Berlin for two years by that point. I had gone through a tough time, and it pushed me to start writing again, and I wrote this piece which I felt like I needed to perform — even if only for friends at a local open mic!
I didn’t think it was something I would end up doing professionally, but a few months later, on a whim, I applied to perform at Glastonbury Festival. They invited me and that launched me into this career, and into taking myself seriously as a writer and performer again.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE THIS, AND IS THIS YOUR FIRST BUSINESS?
I have a huge range of interests and have done many different jobs since leaving college. I was an assistant to a screenwriter/author in California. At the same time, I created a small business called Proxy Shop through Etsy, and it was actually successful. I sold pillows, dolls and other home decor items with celebrity faces on them — but the catch was, they were only celebrities that I really liked!
One of my items, a life-size David Bowie pillow, went viral in 2015 right before I moved to Berlin. I more or less closed the business when I moved here in early 2016, so I could focus on studying film. I freelanced in videography and editing for a while and then eventually got hired by a big company to make videos. I hated it and quit. That was around the same time I started writing again.
WHAT SPECIFIC ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Goals are important, and small goals especially will help you keep moving forward. But don’t think too much about the big goals! For example, if I had the goal of performing at Glastonbury, I probably would have stopped myself from doing anything because the pressure would have been too much. Instead, I just did what felt right to me as an artist and a person; I did what I enjoyed.
Do what you enjoy, and the rest will follow. Life never ends up how we think it will be anyway, so don’t get preoccupied with planning your whole journey. See where things take you and allow for the unexpected.
What I learned from having a product go viral is: You can’t orchestrate this kind of thing (unless you have a huge amount of money and a team like Lana Del Rey). You never know what’s going to “hit,” so you can only create as many opportunities for things to hit as possible. Put your work out there. Make more products. Go to more shows. Publish in more journals. Network with other writers. You never know when (or where) the right person is going to find your work and give you an amazing opportunity. So focus less on, “How do I get this seen?” and more on making, writing, doing your thing. Be prolific, and share that work with the world.
MY GREATEST OBSTACLE AND HOW DID YOU DEALT WITH IT:
My obstacle is often my perfectionism. It blocks me from trying new things because I’m afraid of being bad at something. It also stops me from going after opportunities I think I may not be ready for. I now just try to push myself to apply for things, even if I think they are out of my league. I also started doing a lot of singing lessons and performance, which scares me more than anything. The more you do the scary stuff, the easier it gets!
MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:
My proudest accomplishment doesn’t really have to do with work, though the last year of performing and writing has been full of incredible experiences.
The thing I’m the proudest of is my web of friends. I say web because we’re all spread out, all over the world. I have Paulina in California who I write to every morning and every night when our timelines match up, Elizabeth who is constantly moving and gives the sagest advice, my Laksmi musician friends, my poet friends, and so many others.
They are the ones who helped me survive the worst time in my life, which in turn helped me to get here. And when I perform, I see it both as an extension of their support and as a way that I get to connect with even more people. Meeting people and making friends through performance is probably the coolest part of my job. So yeah: It’s them. I love them and am grateful to be loved by them.
HOW I BLEND LIFE AND WORK TO CREATE THE LIFE I WANT:
It is definitely a struggle as a freelancer because my job does not end at 6 p.m. every day. I could work all day, every day, and there would still be more I could do. Since I know I am inclined towards workaholic behaviour, I have to make sure to give myself time to relax and do things that I like but that aren’t necessarily my job, like singing! I think a lot has to do with being in the present. If I don’t have an urgent deadline, I ask myself what sounds nice to do at that moment and try to really follow my gut.
Moving over to a platform like Patreon is also a big step for me in terms of trying to make art my full-time work. It’s not an easy pursuit for anyone, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but I am committed to seeing this grow, and I am thankful for every “patron” who invests in and believes in me!
I AM INSPIRED BY:
I am inspired by my musician friends who are making such beautiful art and sharing it with the world. I am inspired by my mom, who despite the hands she’s been dealt with has made a beautiful life for herself and is constantly seeking new challenges. I am inspired by Greta Thunberg and reminded I can do better. I am inspired by the multifaceted David Bowie, who remains my favourite artist in all regards.
WHY I CHOSE THIS CAREER:
I was told I was good at writing at a young age so of course, I rebelled against that, haha. I went into visual art. I tried a lot of things. But I keep coming back to writing. It makes me feel good to write. When I’m sad and I write, I feel calm. I feel better. The fact that what I write can take on this life onstage and resonate with other people is an incredible, surreal joy.
HOW I PREPARE FOR SUCCESS:
I check in with myself a lot. I’ve struggled with anxiety for the last couple of years so it’s all the more important I know what’s going on in my brain. “Basic” things like taking good care of myself, eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough rest, spending quality time with friends… These all help to create a solid foundation I can rely on when things get intense in my work life.
DID YOU WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN? WAS IT AN EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR YOU?
I have not written a business plan as a performer, but it’s not a bad idea! I think tools like this can be extremely useful. In general, I am a big planner and any time I’ve gotten ready to launch a new project, like my Etsy store, my Patreon, or my first Kickstarter campaign, I have done a lot of research online first. It has always paid off.
ARE THERE SPECIFIC ADVANTAGES, DISADVANTAGES TO BEING A WOMEN BUSINESS OWNER?
One thing that is true in my industry is that women tend to have a harder time negotiating fees. A friend of mine who ran a successful poetry festival told me she always had to track down female performers to make sure they got paid, whereas male performers would establish the fee immediately!
I just went through the process of planning a tour and I can say, it is really hard to ask for money! But you have to do it. Last year I did a lot of work for free or for experience and the chance to network. I went into this year with the goal of making sure I always get a fair fee for performing. Having this “rule” has really helped; it makes it so I don’t feel so bad saying no to things.
A lot of women I’ve spoken with deal with this guilt about saying no. To combat that, I ask myself what I would be doing with the time if I weren’t at such and such event where I’m not getting paid for my work. How would I spend that time? The answer is usually: being with friends, doing something I really enjoy — and I would often rather do that!
MY FAVOURITE BUSINESS TOOL IS…
I could not survive without my laptop. It’s where I do most of my writing, of course. I also love the Numbers application (like Excel Spreadsheets) because it helps me keep track of all of my writing submissions and tour gigs!
THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE I HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN IS…
I’ve had many amazing teachers, so I can’t say this is the best advice ever, but lately, the advice I come back to again and again is (courtesy of Elise Mireille): “Done is better than perfect.”
For struggling with anxiety, Eckhart Tolle who says, “Ask yourself if you are okay at this moment. The answer is almost always ‘yes.’”
And Cheri Steinkellner and Beau Sia who both told me in different ways, it is okay to have many different interests and take a path that zigzags. Your diverse interests and experiences will only help you. Sometimes you will have to choose to focus on one thing and put the others on the backburner for a while, but you can always come back to them. Life is long.
For more information about the course ‘writing and performance that Demi is teaching hit the link: Workshop