Most people who know me know that I have been a professional musician for most of my life. I love playing music and try to do it as often as I can. In fact, my dream was always to play music professionally and make enough money to survive through doing it. I tried for several years and even met with some level of success for a while, but wasn’t able to sustain it. I also love to write, but my busy schedule keeps me from doing very much of that, much to my disappointment. This is another pursuit I would love to do full time if only I could make any money doing it. Who knows? Maybe someday I will.
This isn’t a blog about me crying over my disappointments. Rather, it’s about the very common struggle many artists face when trying to make a living by using the very real and wonderful gifts with which they have been blessed. This isn’t a society that particularly respects the arts. Oh, I know, there are a handfull of rich musicians and artists out there that everyone looks up to, but they are a mere drop in the bucket. Much more common is the amazingly talented performer who is working for tips in a bar where his music is merely background for patrons’ conversations. By day he or she pays the bills by working in a convenience store or some other common job.
If you are a serious musician or artist you know exactly what I’m talking about. Every day can be a struggle to balance work, your art, your family, and your other obligations. Too often the art has to take a back seat to more pressing matters. That used to be called “paying your dues”. When you have been doing it for twenty years, I don’t know if that’s a good description of it or not.
What’s an artist to do? Well, you could do what I did and quit playing for 20 years to work at a corporate job. You might make some pretty good money. You might also wake up one morning and realize you had sold your soul for a paycheck. I did that too. I don’t recommend it. For one thing, left brain people don’t always think like our right brain friends. That can actually create problems in the “normal” world of production quotas and assorted rules and regulations. Most of the artists I know are just a little too free spirited to fit well in that environment. So, what should you do? Keep trying. I know you may very well have to work a day job to support yourself, but don’t make it your MAIN thing. Keep playing, painting, writing or whatever it is your gift urges you on to do. Don’t give up. Find a support group of other artists to share your troubles and struggles with. Marry someone who truly appreciates and supports your gift (I did!). Stay at it. Find every opportunity in the day to express your creativity. Embrace the difference that is inside you. to paraphrase an old commercial “A Gift is a terrible thing to waste.” Be who you were made to be. The world would be a dull place indeed without art, music, poetry and books AND the people who create them. Society needs you to be who you are, uncompromisingly different but in a good way. Keep going. Don’t give up.