As a professional artist I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me, “You’re so lucky that you get to do what you love everyday.” It’s in that one statement (and countless others…chase your dreams, follow your passion, etc.) that the unreality of art is born. The implication is that because a creative loves what they do (which, by the way, is usually a huge assumption by the viewer. . .maybe they don’t!) it takes less work, or emotional toil, or it’s not stressful. But, whether you create full-time for a living or manage to fit it in sometime on the weekend, you’re fully aware that working creatively isn’t a fantasy utopian land where passion springs eternal and dreams really do come true.
From the outside, watching someone live a creative life is just like watching a rom-com. You get to see some of the more amusing pitfalls and struggles, but ultimately our often misguided and unusually charming duo ends up together where we assume they live in marital bliss never arguing about dirty dishes, taking the dog out, or who changed the sheets last. But, as anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows, that’s simply not the case. See the thing here is that a vast majority of us have experienced a relationship so we know that rom-com’s are, quite simply, a lie…showing only the best and most endearing parts of love. While there can be great joy in love, there can also be great despair, but the viewer rarely sees the downs or the work that goes on behind the scenes. And that, my friends, is what happens when people observe the creative life from afar, except they think what they see is all there is: unadulterated bliss with a few amusing pitfalls here and there. Or. . .joy, passion, dream-chasing, freedom, and the bliss of doing what you love. Every. Single. Day.
So, I’d like to take this time to outline what kind of work goes into the creative life…
- You have to make something whether you feel like it or not.
- You have to have the skills to make something.
- You have to have the skills to make something that someone else will like.
- You have to make something that someone else will like and potentially want to buy.
- You have to find a way to get that potential buyer to actually buy.
- You have to argue that what you do actually matters even if you think it doesn’t sometimes.
- You have to convince yourself that what you do matters.
- You have to convince yourself to make the thing whether or not you think it matters.
- You have to work alone. A lot.
- You have to work with others. A lot.
- You have to work simultaneously alone and with others.
- You have to get up every day.
- You have to go to work everyday.
- Sometimes you have to work on the weekends and at nights.
- Sometimes you have to work on the weekends and at nights all the time.
- Sometimes you have to work all times of the day all the time.
- Sometimes your work really sucks.
- Sometimes your work is really amazing.
- Sometimes you mess up.
- Sometimes you don’t mess up.
- All the other times you just are.
…and give some alternative facts (but not those kind of alternative facts) as to why people choose to create that go beyond following passions or chasing dreams…
- The job gives them flexibility to manage their time how they’d like
- The job provides a stable and predictable schedule.
- The job has great benefits (can someone find me this one?)
- They have an entrepreneurial calling
- The job allows them to take advantage of some of their strengths
- It’s an opportunity to learn something new
- It’s an opportunity to apply learned skills
- There was an availability or a job opening and they met all the minimum requirements.
- They were recruited for the position.
- They wanted to work in customer service.
- They never wanted to work in customer service again.
- They wanted to work for themselves.
- They wanted to work for someone else.
- They didn’t possess the means or skills to work in a different field.
- They wanted the job because they thought they would like it.
- They wanted the job because it was different than what they’ve done before.
- They wanted the job because it was similar to what they’ve done before.
- They found that they are particularly skilled at this thing they do and feel they could be successful pursuing it.
Art is work. The job is just like any other. It takes commitment, skill, and showing up everyday. Sometimes there is great passion and deep love involved. Sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes the work is the combination of an interest and the ability to put that interest to work. Sometimes it’s only passion. But, let’s let each person tell their own story. That’s what makes us human.
Have a story you want to tell us? We want to hear it. Share it in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.