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Artist Painting

There’s an interesting trend right now.  So many memes, self help books, and motivational speakers announce that you can turn your passion into your career.  If you do what you love and can make money at it, then you will be successful.

It’s a beautiful concept but it’s wrong.  It’s terribly naive.  I will admit that some people make a living doing what they love or at least what they loved.  If people who are following their dream are truly happy then there’d be a whole lot less drugs and alcohol being consumed by them.  Honestly, I don’t know why they do it.

I want to share with you my experiences.  There was a time when I would have loved to live the life of a creative person who made money on their creativity.  There were times when I tried.  Now here I am, age 42, reading The Artist’s Way and really wanting to write a letter to the editor (author?).  I don’t want to make money like that.

Here’s the reality – you decide you are going to make money off your creative dream.  There’s a shift that no one tells you about.  You make a quilt for fun and enter it in the fair.  You get a blue ribbon.  Everyone tells you it’s so wonderful.  It’s the most beautiful thing they have ever seen.

Take that same quilt to market, suddenly you are full of yourself.  Your work is not worth the money you ask, which is probably well below what it should be.  People feel very comfortable coming up to you and telling you how to market your quilt.  Some might even tell you that you could get more money for it if you went to a particular market.  Or tell you all about how their great aunt Jane used to make similar quilts and she gave them away.

It beats you down.  It wears you out.  If you have dropped everything to follow your dream, then you feel like a failure.  You come to resent your dream.  Did you really have any talent?  Were you really meant to make quilts?

Want to know why great aunt Jane gave her quilts away?  It was because it was easier.  Perhaps she loved quilt making so much that she had to have somewhere for the quilts to go.  She was following her passion but perhaps her real dream was to be loved and happy, not a professional quilt maker.

For me, I have had periods when I have dropped everything and pursued a life living my dream.  They always ended with me feeling broken.  I had a hard time just liking people and my passion was completely gone.

As I’m reading The Artist’s Way and Julia Cameron talks about how to turn your creativity, your passion, your dreams into your economic status, I find myself asking what makes me happy.  Guess what – I love my job.  I love that I go home and get to be creative.  I love that I get to go to markets for inspiration and shopping.  I love that I am not getting up at 6 am on Saturday to be a vendor at that market.  I love that I don’t count every dollar as a symbol of my self worth.

I love that I can make something that turns out to be crap without worrying how I’m going to get enough inventory.  I don’t have to worry about packaging (I hate packaging).  Oh and the best part – I don’t have to try to sell myself and my art.  I’m really not keen on sales.  I hate promoting myself, especially in person.

I, especially, love that if I do sell something the money is just extra.  I don’t have to stress over prostituting my creativity to keep a roof overhead.  I love that my job provides me security.  It provides me with health insurance for my whole family.  It provides me with retirement.  I love that it allows me to remain creative.

If you told me 20 years ago that this would be my career, I would have cried.  I would have never thought I’d feel fulfilled.  In fact, I have to remind myself sometimes that the reality is – I am happy.  I am fulfilled.  I’m not living “the dream”.  I’m not sucking the life out of my passion.  I don’t have to please anyone but myself with my creativity.  If they don’t like what I make, I don’t care.

I am good at my job.  I have a great work environment.  I don’t make tons of money but it pays all the bills and a little extra.  I don’t live in the perfect house.  I don’t have an expensive wardrobe.  I don’t know designer labels or even care.  Strangely enough, I’m really happy with my life.

I’m constantly told I shouldn’t be happy.  I should want more.  I should follow my dreams.  I’m thinking they are wrong.  Following my dreams won’t make me happy because happiness comes from within.  If I am not happy here, I won’t be happy there.  The worst part is the things that make me happy will be tarnished.

So the next time someone tells you that the secret to happiness is to follow your dreams, remind them that no one ever dreams of collecting trash all day but I’ve known some very happy garbage collectors in my day.

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