"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, August 28, 2023

Having it all

 Author. Singer. Actor. Artist.

We've all heard the response when we said we wanted a career in the arts. "That's great, but you should have a backup plan."

Accountant. Teacher. Nurse. Tech. The Backup Plan.

Not making a living as an artist, needing a day job while you pursue your dreams, sounds like failure. You're supposed to reach for the stars, pour your heart and soul into your desires, knock on every door, chase every opportunity until your book is a bestseller, or your song hits Number One, or your movie is a blockbuster. Anything less than that is a big fat ZERO, and so are you.

BUT...what if the day job isn't the Backup Plan? What if you can be an accountant with a weekly singing gig and be happy?

A podcast I listened to recently made the case for the Parallel Job. As long as artists are creating art, we are not failures. Our day job is not what we've HAD to do to put food on the table--it's a parallel role, an additional plan we put into motion to enhance our lives.

And I might argue, that parallel job is necessary to artists. Even the creative brain needs to take a break now and then. Rest enables the creative ideas to bubble to the top, keeps the heart and mind from burning out. Working with numbers, with people, with objects allows our creativity to wander. And when it wanders, it sometimes picks up pretty rocks, interesting leaves, and a new idea or two.

The podcast also made a case for creating art for art's sake. So many authors are locked into a series or a genre because that's where their readers are so that's what they sell. Singers stay in their country/rock/jazz lane because every song has to reach for the top of the chart. Artists who find a niche (geometric cows, luminescent landscapes, splatter patterns) are encouraged to "paint more of that."

But maybe you don't always need to monetize your creativity. Maybe sometimes write something just for you. Sing a song for your baby. Put on a show for free. Do something that allows you to let go, feel the wind through your soul as you reach inside yourself and hitch it to the breeze. 

Keep the day job and do your art. Your success comes from juggling multiple tasks, from doing things to the best of your abilities, and from feeling the freedom that comes with self-expression.

Art, and life, are to be enjoyed. Get out there and enjoy them!


lcrwriter said...

Thank you for your wisdom, Gayle. This is so true. And I know you exemplify the Rennaisance woman:) I wish I hadn't felt the need to put my longing to write on hold while I spent 32 years on my career as a teacher. In my defense, teaching is exhausting, mentally and emotionally, and even the summers seem like recuperation rather than vacation.
On the other hand, I loved teaching, and teaching history,reading,and writing sharpened my skills in all three. Plus, it rewarded me with a rare farewell gift, a pension, which finally allowed me to dive into writing with gusto.
Now I just have to be sure I live to 100 so I can write all the novels I have in me. Laura

Pam Ripling said...

Sometimes we impose impossible goals upon ourselves. What determines success can vary beyond what we’ve been led to believe. After our lunch in Glendale, I made some decisions I might not have had you not expressed these thoughts to me. What thoughts, you ask? We’d both been discussing the “novel” idea of holding back a ms or two in hopes of attracting that perfect, elusive agent, that gold-ring-New York contract… but you gave a sigh, took a bite of lunch, swallowed and proceeded to say (paraphrasing) “I’m not getting any younger. It occurs to me that even if I should land such a deal, it could be/would be years before X ms would see press. Why should I wait, when I can publish X book myself?” Something like that. I felt absolutely liberated when I returned home. Because I, too, am a woman of a certain age now. I went ahead and finished up and published my new trilogy. Sixteen ladies came to my “Book Shower” today. I sold 25 books, by hand, as they say. I enjoyed sharing my work immensely. And I still have that parallel day job. No regrets. Pam/Anne

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