Wednesday, November 21, 2007

be brave. make art.

That last post sure gave me a lot to chew on. I really appreciate how many people commented on their obsessions. Worry and fear seem to dominate the theme. I’m always struck by how so many people out there want to be artists but instead choose to work jobs they don’t really like because they think they can’t make it as an artist.

I had a conversation with a long-time client the other day whose whole family loves and collects pottery. His daughter is probably about my age and has been making pottery for a while now and really wants to make it her job. He was relating this story to me and his reaction to her, which was, “Don’t do it! You have a good job, benefits, stay where you are!” While I tried to control my severe annoyance that he would imply my job is not worth pursuing, I very gently told him that working a job his daughter doesn’t like is no life at all, no matter how secure it may make her feel. I always call that kind of comfort as wearing the golden handcuffs.

I contrasted his reaction with my own parents, who have never once discouraged me in becoming an artist or suggested I may want to go after a more conventional line of work for the sake of having a steady paycheck. Partly because they know it’s useless trying to reason with me, but mostly because they have always believed I can do whatever I want to. My mother was telling me about a friend whose son wanted to be a photographer, and her friend was telling his son that he should get educated in something that he could, “fall back on”. My mom basically told him that was bad advice and if his son failed as photographer, that would be the time to find something else.

I don’t have any real answers for people who have put themselves in jobs they dislike when they really want to be artists. I would only say that fear is an uncomfortable emotion, but fear moves people. It can spur one one to be better, try something new, ignite the desire to create a different kind of life. I have all kinds of fears, and I have always forced myself to confront the stuff that scares me because I hate cowards, and I hate myself the most when I am not being brave. I would never tell someone to just quit their day job and become an artist, because being an artist is a job like any other and it takes some time to create that position. But I would tell them to make a plan to quit their job and start working on being an artist. Today.