Friday, October 01, 2010

Do You Have 'Artists Guilt?

...but before answering this question you might be asking yourself "am I an artist?"

And the answer is that if you LOVE what you do, and if you find a passion and a purpose in your work, or other things you do in your life, then of course you are!

Anyone CAN be an fact one of the areas I work on with my clients is recovering the artistry and creativity in what they do in order to live a life of greater purpose and satisfaction.

Becoming an artist (in whatever you do) is a way to not only enjoy life more, but to 'future proof' yourself as well!
If you are simply a 'piece of the machine' providing services or products that are simply procedure based, you may be replaced very easily with a machine or with a lower cost human alternative. But if you are an artist; someone who brings creativity, customization and craftsmanship to what you do, you take yourself out of the crowd and become a unique identity; and a unique identity can't be replaced.

Sometimes doing what we love, and doing things that bring joy to us and others can be seen as frivolous. There is an idea that 'real work' is doing something that is stable and secure...and that gets paid in a steady, ongoing manner. We are constantly told by people to 'get a real job', 'stop chasing dreams' and my favorite -  to 'grow up'.
This is even true when we are working REALLY hard to make a success of our artistic endeavors.

I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with (and for periods live and work with) several friends who are musicians, actors and designers. All of them to a person are incredibly hard working and spend their valuable time honing their craft, doing 'the work' and spreading the word about what they are doing.
It can be a long and arduous process...but one none of them would give up because they absolutely LOVE it with a passion.
I have spent countless nights with these folks working on projects; and at performances, screenings and showings, and I can tell ain't easy.
And in spite of this it is still seen as frivolous, and perhaps that is due to not just a perception that it's not 'real work' but because it is so hard to achieve fame and fortune for the vast majority of people plying their artistic craft.

However we fall into a trap when we see the options available to an artist as only, either hyper-success or failure.
You need not become a rock star. There are many and viable ways in which to ply your trade, do 'the work' and be an artist and have it pay the bills (well) without having to also have extraordinary levels of fame.

Of course those that do achieve fame are seen to be the exceptions to the rule. The people that are seen to have 'made it' have the levels success that are seen to justify their existence as artists.
In other words it is not always acceptable to 'be' an artist unless you are successful. Of course this is a ridiculous circular argument as one cannot become a successful artist without putting in the hard work of 'being' an artist first!

The modern world has many, many opportunities for artists to become 'micro-celebrities' where their art (of whatever form it takes) is uptaken and appreciated by a small sector of  committed fans, and this can be a viable way for an artist in the new world to live by their trade.
But even when an artist is doing what they love and affecting people's lives and making a good living from their art, it is almost as if they still are not 'successful' due to their lack of 'rock-star' status. It's really funny how a 'micro-celebrity' musician or author for example can be derided by saying 'I've never heard of him', but if you were to mention your lawyer, particularly to someone outside your city, it is doubtful whether anyone would have heard of him either.
Ohhh...but he has a 'real' job...
(Note: He might also be an 'artist' of law, heck he might even be a veritable 'rock star' in legal circles!)

I was recently talking to a supposed music industry aficionado about several up and coming bands. She made an offhand comment that their sales were 'nothing' in spite of the fact that several of these bands are living quite comfortably off the proceeds of their albums, along with touring and merchandise and were cultivating their most loyal followers into long term and die hard fans. In short they are working along the lines of the "1000 True Fans" model (except it's more like 10's of thousands of true fans...)
That they are making a living as artists and LOVING doing it is the most important aspect to me, and artists too need to get rid of the outdated notion that they should either be stellar, multi million selling mega rich 'rock-stars' or get out of the biz...It is not 'all or nothing' as the craft itself is the process, and the process (the work) if we love it, should be enough reward, assuming we are making enough to live.

If we aren't making enough to live, then maybe our craft is not our 'job' but it can still be our passion!
The work required to sell millions of copies of a book or sell millions of copies of an album, or become 'known' as a painter may not be any different from selling hundreds or thousands...and the talent required to be the most famous won't necessarily make one so. It is essential to success...but it does not make success a surety.

I had a brief discussion online with a great friend of mine about 'when' someone decides to call themselves a writer, author, musician etc. There seems to be a reticence to call oneself an artist until an arbitrary and unrealistic level of 'success' is achieved. I, for a long time would refer to myself as an 'aspiring' writer or author, in spite of being published in magazines on 3 continents and affecting the lives of many thousands through these and my first book 'Choosing You!'
But I got over it....

"Hi I'm Cliff, and I'm an author!"

Be proud, 
love your work, 
do it with all of your heart
...and leave the guilt behind!

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