Making art for a living is hard.
Hang on, you didn’t think it was supposed to be easy, did you?
‘Go and do what you love, and the money will follow!’ They say.
‘Follow your passion!’ They hoot.
None of these feel-good phrases gets to the truth of what is involved.
Now, don’t get me wrong, they are not wrong.
But, in their simplicity, there is a danger for some of us to set off on a creative career with misguided expectations.
When we expect something different, we more likely veer off the path. That is not a good thing for a career that requires persistence, strength of character and a healthy dose of raw determination.
Any career worth pursuing is made up of moments that we will not enjoy; moments that suck the life out of us; moments of despair.
I have wanted to quit and run away to a cabin in the hills many times. I have stewed through frustration, wondering why I didn’t just accept a real, secure job.
I have spent days immersed in a cloud of negativity, just willing things to be different.
But those are the moments for which I am most grateful.
Sounds weird, doesn’t it?
These moments are the gateways to self-realisation. They were the times I was tested.
By staying with that pain, and not being beaten by those moments, I emerged victoriously. No fibre of my being would remain the same.
Those of us who are always on the hunt for that ideal career or perfect project may find themselves moving from one exciting opportunity to the next, never quite following anything through.
I know people that are in a perpetual cycle of starting new things, being surprised and angered by initial hurdles, losing interest and hope, before aborting, feeling depressed for a while, and then moving on to something new.
With each new loss, their self-worth takes an ever-deeper knock.
Here’s a new perspective:
You don’t have to do what you love to do what you love.
You get it?
Because doing what you love is not the single thread running through your onward journey.
It is not the only thing that determines whether you have made the ‘right’ decision.
All careers, projects and goals are tapestries. They are packages.
Those packages are made up of things you enjoy, and things that you will not enjoy.
The things that test you are the most meaningful.
That’s because challenges, when overcome, will enrich you. And when you stretch and overcome struggles, you will be rewarded, unfailingly, with the raw, natural energy that the world needs.
This is energy that will charge you creatively, but it will also motivate you to extrovert; to get your work in front of people, to inspire, and to be paid well for that offering too.
It’s THAT sense of aliveness that makes all of this worth it.
The art is really a by-product of the growth that comes out of doing what challenges you, whether it is to do the work when you don’t feel like it, or by having the courage to meet potential customers.
The most vital part of ‘doing what you love’ is not the joy, the thrill of creativity or being in flow. Of course, these are important, but they are secondary.
You must be biased to continually stretching, and continuously experiencing expansion in mind and body.
Occasional nerves, asking for money, considered-risk-taking, and moving beyond comfort are not just options. You must see them as regular and consistent necessities for anyone who wants to make an impact.
This determination to continually stretch will elevate you to being a better, more insightful, more confident, and ultimately ingenious artist.
Picasso risked his reputation and his self-worth with every new piece he put out for the world to see. Moreover, he put out tens of thousands of pieces, when others would have slowed down, or been knocked back by criticism. His genius sprang from not only from working hard, but more importantly, from working when it was the hardest.
Your new personal strength will bleed onto the canvas, and seep into the creative work itself.
That is what people need, want, follow and for which they will pay good money. Your value stems from growth, your previous challenges and your experiences.
So do what interests you, seek challenge, and be assertive about money. All of these require that you go out and find them.
Engage with all of the above, do it with a bold force, and leave no time to overthink, stew and second-guess.
Then you will be doing what you love.
I talk about this in more depth in Episode 10 of ‘The Red Lemon Show’ podcast [39 mins], available on all good podcasting networks, including Anchor.fm.
“All of the information shared by Alex is just amazing. He gives it in a way that could motivate and inspire anyone.” ~Kay, iTunes podcast review