My Friend, The Graph
I have written extensively about Come Bargain With Uncanny Things, which I consider to be quite a success of craft.
However, it’s December now, which means it’s time for everyone arts worker’s favourite time of year: oh no it’s nearly the end of the year and we haven’t sent out rejections yet and therefore we better send them out as quickly as possible before Christmas hits.
As an antidote to my previous happy blogging, and in that festive spirit, please allow me to introduce my friend, The Graph:
I have been recording my applications since 2018. This year, I started turning that data into a visual form, noting both the raw number of applications and successes, and the percentage of successes.
Is this helpful?
Does it allow me to draw any useful insights?
Does it allow me to continually strive to wiggle the percentage line upwards?
So, what can I conclude from The Graph?
First, an accurate(ish) representation of my failings and success rate in applications over the years. It would be better if I included partial successes (such as shortlistings) and scaled successes (e.g. getting Arts Council Funding - never - should outrank an application process with three applicants and a two-sentence form).
Second, what happened in 2019? I assume it’s that, as a recent graduate, I was eligible for a lot of low-hanging fruit, but that year was bizarrely good. And, admittedly, had been able to spend 2018 with some support to develop projects to the point they were ready to go.
Third, a substantial percentage of my work does not come from applications. This graph does not begin to reflect the word-of-mouth work which comprises most of my professional practice. Which is one reason why I’ve shifted focus to that.
Fourth, I succeed on about 13% of applications. That is to say, for 87% of applications, it was time that (frankly) was wasted. I appreciate, therefore, those opportunities that strive to make that time shorter, and also those that strive to make the time more valuable. The best example of that is the JMK Trust, where the shortlisting rounds were designed to also offer training.
Fifth, I really need to add more data for it to be useful - especially for the scale of opportunity, and the time spent applying.
Because I have started getting to the point where I don’t apply for stuff I won’t get. And that’s the thing that recording applications really gives me: a sense that no, I’m probably never going to get the chance to do X, Y, and Z, but at least Q wrote back and said they found some of my work interesting.
So please enjoy meeting my friend, The Graph. And also a cartoon I drew last year, which I think makes the same point more succinctly: