Career vs. Vocation
It is for these reasons (the difficulty, the unpredictability) that I have always discouraged people from approaching creativity as a career move, and I always will—because, with rare exceptions, creative fields make for crap careers. (They make for crap careers, that is, if you define a “career” as something that provides for you financially in a fair and foreseeable manner, which is a pretty reasonable definition of a career.)
Even if things work out for you in the arts, parts of your career will likely always remain crap. You might not like your publisher, or your gallerist, or your drummer, or your cinematographer. You might hate your tour schedule, or your more aggressive fans, or your critics. You might resent answering the same questions over and over again in interviews. You might be constantly annoyed at yourself for always falling short of your own aspirations. Trust me, if you want to complain, you’ll always find plenty to complain about, even when fortune appears to be shining her favor upon you.
But creative living can be an amazing vocation, if you have the love and courage and persistence to see it that way. I suggest that this may be the only sanity-preserving way to approach creativity. Because nobody ever told us it would be easy, and uncertainty is what we sign up for when we say that we want to live creative lives.
Everyone is panicking these days, for instance, about how much the Internet and digital technology are changing the creative world. Everyone is fretting over whether there will still be jobs and money available for artists going forward into this volatile new age. But allow me to point out that—long before the Internet and digital technology ever existed—the arts were still a crap career. It’s not like back in 1989 anybody was saying to me, “You know where the money is, kid? Writing!” They weren’t saying that to anyone back in 1889, either, or in 1789, and they won’t be saying it in 2089. But people will still try to be writers, because they love the vocation. People will keep being painters, sculptors, musicians, actors, poets, directors, quilters, knitters, potters, glassblowers, metalworkers, ceramicists, calligraphers, collagists, nail artists, clog dancers, and Celtic harpists, as well. Against all sound advice, people will stubbornly keep trying to make pleasing things for no particularly good reason, as we always have done.
Is it sometimes a difficult path? Sure.
Does it make for an interesting life? The most.
Will the inevitable difficulties and obstacles associated with creativity make you suffer? That part—cross my heart—is entirely up to you.