An old friend of mine wrote a great blog post about being frustrated with her career and my answer to her blog post was as usual 1) way too long and 2) more helpful to me than to her. But basically it can be boiled down to this. Every artist has three choices to make in life. A) Do your own art and accept that you might never make a dime doing it or B) Do art for someone else and be unhappy or C) Don’t do art at all and go crazy.
Actually it’s not really a choice, because no one ever makes a firm choice not to pursue their own art. Everyone who dies without trying to make a career out of their own art basically waffles until they expire without making a firm decision.
It’s not a blue pill or red pill situation for artists. Choice A, unlike the pill that makes you forget, is always on the table. Even if we opt via indecision for Choices B or C, Choice A will haunt us until the day we die. In fact, Choice A will probably be what we think of with our dying breaths.
I wish I had better news for you, but those are the grim facts of art.
So I say just choose Choice A. Yes, it’s the hardest choice you’ll ever have to make, but at least you chose. At least you tried. I think everyone (including me) is afraid of taking chances. But those who do never seem to regret taking them on their death beds. I’ve never heard of anyone saying, “I wish I hadn’t written that novel, or tried to sell my art, or pursued my dreams. I really regret doing that.”
Also, there’s something rather practical about deciding to pursue your dreams. When you make a firm decision, then you can make plans. You can start saving money toward your goals. You can figure out how to make things happen and how you might keep yourself in food and shelter if no one agrees to pay you for your art. Plus, it’s entirely possible to pursue Choice A while Choices B or C supply you with day-to-day funds.
Everyone is afraid of failure, but the fact is that trying will make you infinitely happier than not trying. Accepting your fate is the only way to carve out a new one.
If you never decide, then you’re stuck in a dream state, one that only becomes more and more depressing as you age. I have nightmares all the time, but you know what dreams used to upset me the most? The ones where I was at my dayjob, toiling away or trying to meet some impossible deadline. I would wake up from those dreams feeling depressed, because I had just spent additional hours working, hours that I wasn’t compensated for monetarily or emotionally.
Funnily enough, I never dream about writing my novels. And even if I did, I wouldn’t mind.
I decided to abandon my FT radio writer job and seriously pursue novel writing right around this time two years ago. And when I look back on it, actually making that decision was the hardest part. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of it was also hard. It’s just nothing’s as hard as taking that first step.
Photo Credit: Hector Garcia (click on pic for more of his photos)
Oh, and hey, don’t forget, my last book event of the summer is THIS THURSDAY at Esowon Books in LA.