I received a sincere and kind email recently, asking if I thought his work was good enough to make a go of it as a career, and although my reply has been said a million times before and a million times better I think its sometimes good to be reminded. I was humbled that he's asked me so I did the shortest less long winded and straight forward reply I could give him, a luxury you will not have. Here is my long winded and badly written/though-out reply.
To quote Bukowski "Find something you love and let it kill you", to quote someone I forget "you'll either find a way or you will find a reason". I think these two are the best ways of explaining the situation. His first problem was the problem most X-factor contestants have; they always say "I want to be a rockstar" or "I want to be famous". Its a disease of this world right now. No one ever says "I want to write and sing music" because lets face it, you don't need x-factor for that, I sing all the time, I love to sing. I am a singer by that right. I also make up my own words to TV theme shows constantly to the annoyance of everyone around me. So, I guess I am a song writer too. Amazing huh?
So why did this kid not think he was already an artist? Because we are taught to thing in terms of success by ways of fame and money. Remove those things and you will find you are already the thing you want to be. Obviously not a astronaut etc- I always feel I should include the god damn obvious for the stupid pedants.
So lets take the Alan Watts approach and remove fame and money from the equation and ask "what do you want to do? what does your heart want if money was no object". Now, if you are an artist or want to be one, chances are you are drawing already...you are an artist. Does it really take money to make you feel good about your work? You are sadly in the wrong job. I know loads of successful artists whose work is not great (yeah, me included) and they are making a living from it...why? how? Maybe because if I was working in an office I would still be drawing on every scrap of paper and spending my nights drawing when I got home. Did you know that the wright Brothers didnt tell anyone they finally flew for something like 3 days and when they did tell anyone they told some guy in a bar passingly. Why did they do this? Because fame and fortune was not their goal, flying was. In comparison there was another company with all the money in the world that was competing to fly and they were doing it for money and fame and when they heard that the Brothers flew they gave up, they literally stopped trying. What a terrible way to be. We often hear artists on seeing some wonderful piece of work say "I give up", but they don't, they never could, because they dont do it for anyone but themselves and that little piece of ego that squirms inside every artists :D
One of my favorite poets wrote a piece asking himself 'who am I writing poetry for' and in it he discovers its for the lovers who will never read his work. I can think of not a better reason to work your craft.
I am envious of people like Big Foot hunters. A big foot hunter will spend all his life looking for this animal and will never find it (mainly because it doesn't exist) but he will have a brilliant life. If the big foot was discovered then his passion would come to an end and he would have to find other ways to fill his days and his heart.
Sometimes achieving your goals is not the answer- but rather the hard work and passion that you put in without thinking about goals. Find something you love, work hard, keep your head down and grind your knuckles to the bone with work and passion...and when you look up, finally, people will be throwing money at you and you wont know why, because you'd do this shit for free and you will anyway.
This is my opinion, it changes when I learn and experience more, if it upsets you or makes you mad, maybe you've learned something about yourself more than this rant. Peace.
In My Craft or Sullen Art
By Dylan Thomas
In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.
Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.