Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Words of Encouragement: About How Hard Art Is, Really

If your dream is to make art, then take heart: NO ONE CAN STOP YOU.

If your dream is to make a living at art, then you probably deserve to fail, you sellout. Your priority is all wrong, from the word go to whenever you throw in the towel.

How hard is art, really? It's exactly that hard.

Now if you're in it for the right reason, quit worrying about the wrong ones! What you do for a living is no excuse not to create. To stop is not an option - you'll weather the indifference. Maybe you'll luck out and have to weather some attention as well, but that won't stop you either. Not if you're for real. You will keep at it on into your dotage, long past the point when anyone else has stopped paying attention. You will keep going because it's in you. And it has to get out.

Don't mistake me, there's no shame in making a living. Anybody who can make a living at any honest work, I salute and bless you. A person who makes money isn't a sellout just for making money. But if you believe your art owes you a living - well, like I said: you're a sellout. Even if you never see a dime.

An artist has to create. An artist isn't discouraged and deterred by concerns of: "people should pay me for this." Art isn't hard to do, it's hard not to do - if you have it in you, that is.

It's impossible not to do.

Those of you who know, know. Those of you who don't know: it's possible you never will. I am sorry, and it is cruel. I have enormous sympathy for all those in this world with a burning dream, but that dream is alas only: to succeed. Everyone wants to be amazing. But the need to make a success is nothing. It has nothing to do with the need to make art. You can't substitute the one for the other, no matter how much of the one you have. And there is precious little point in breaking your heart over it, when your heart's not even in the right place.

Perhaps you're not sure what you're really in it for? Perhaps your resolve has been sore tested, perhaps you've had a crisis of faith and motives. Here is an acid test for you:


If you can quit, quit.

Try it for a while, and see what life looks like, without creating. Let any ambition for making your art pay you go, and just see what life looks like without making art.

If you can't quit - if you're drawn right back into it whether or not you will ever get paid - then there's your answer. And if this whole pep talk rings a bit grim, well, let's let some light in on the picture. I saved the good news for last! Here's the good news. Here's the best news: if you're a true creator, you are going to get way more love, joy, beauty, truth, and good out of making your art than any of those other people could ever have gotten from any degree of world-crushing success. If you're a true creator - no one can stop you. You may never see a dime from what you create, but no one can stop you from creating.

Somebody say hallelujah.

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