As artists, many of us have a variety of talents and creative passions and pursuits. Sometimes this can lead us to run off in all directions at once and feel we’re getting nowhere with any of them. I refer to this as ‘creative ADD’. In some instances, it can even lead one to a ‘jack of all trades’ issue. You are pretty good at many things, but don’t feel very good at anything. It can leave you feeling unfulfilled.
Beyond just the ‘how to do it’, you’ve got to know ‘why to do it’. I believe there are a few important questions that every artist must ask himself on his journey to success.
A while back I bumped into a friend whom I had just learned had been accepted into a highly esteemed film program. We had both been on a director’s path in film school some years back. During our encounter I causally disclosed a decision I’d made to switch career paths to focus instead on writing and producing.
A few days later I received an email from him seeking to learn how I had come to reach this decision. In my response to him, I realized how valuable what I had learned had been. If I had been told earlier what I know now I would have spared myself a lot of stress and a lot of grief.
The first question one should ask himself in looking at the subject of his art is a tough one. I know many people might hate me for a minute for saying it, but stay with me, I promise it’ll work itself out.
The first question to ask is: Hobby or Career?
I’m dead serious. I know it sounds awful, but consider it this way. You may love cooking. I mean LOVE it. Trips to the farmer’s market, specialty spice shops, you’re on first name terms with the local butcher. Love it, right? But if you had to cook for a restaurant full of hungry, demanding customers day-in, day-out you’d wanna stick your head in an oven.
You love the hobby of cooking, but not the career.
The same might be for some of your artistic talents. I directed a project some years ago. It was quite an undertaking and something I feel I wasn’t cut out for. It just wasn’t fun. It was stressful. Where was the rush I was supposed to be getting? It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. I was supposed to be a director! Suddenly all the plans I’d built up for myself came crashing down.
So I quit. Yes. I quit directing. I labeled my self as ‘not a director’. It wasn’t that I just wasn’t a director, I was ‘NOT A DIRECTOR’, and I made it clear that people knew it. If I couldn’t have it as a career, I decided I couldn’t have it at all.
But, not one to be beaten down, I did a lot of soul-searching and asked myself a second question: How am I inspired?
Once I answered that question it all fell into place. An answer came. I’m inspired by words. I think words are the most beautiful, powerful tools to society. Creative minds work differently, some see images, some hear music. I hear words. I feel. Writing is what I would do at any time of the day, for any reason or for no reason at all.
So I had rediscovered my true and most honest passion – writing, and I got back on the path toward rekindling and rebuilding the fire inside me. I was set aflame, blazing a new and better path.
But what of the failure? What of that part of me that I’d let die? The part that strove to be a director all those years ago? That was a lesson that I was much later to learn.
This question of hobby or career. Not meant to be off-putting. Not meant that at all. To me, that is the soul-saving question that allows you to encompass ALL your talents. You may not want to be a Michelin-star chef, but don’t let that ever stop you from cooking. Embrace it all with heart wide open.
And as always, follow your passion, stay hungry and stay Well-Fed.
The Well-Fed Artist – featured in the 9 o’clock hour on Radio Soapbox every Monday night. Listen live or listen to the archives.
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