I'd like to start with today's resource, a post from the amazing Brain Pickings website, specifically a portion of a talk from Alan Watts, titled What Would You Do If Money was No Object?
I like this talk, mostly because Alan Watts was a genius and anything he had to share was worth listening to. He was an incredibly deep thinker and his ideas on being human, truly human, in contemporary society are very hard to follow. But if you have the stamina to do a good close read of his work, you'll be better for having your world rocked him.
Now, I do enjoy reading a lot of inspirational stuff on writing, creativity and well being. Much of it is pretty good, but over and over I keep running into this theme that if you love what you do, the money will follow. And I don't think that's true. Not entirely and not as simplistically as it's often presented. Let me explain, because this concept doesn't need to be as cynical as it seems at first glance.
To a degree, this idea of going ahead and following your passion with no regard to the bills, the rent, the risk and fear of losing everything is sound. Very sound. Honestly, I think if I was 24 and I had the kind of creative output I have now at 49, I just might have had a chance to quit my job and make it as a writer. Reality, right now is really holding back much of my creative output. At this point I have at least three novels, two novellas and about fifteen short stories in various states of incompletion that if I had the time and the money to just sit and write, would probably be on shelves right now and we'd be listening for my name on Monday's announcement for the Pulitzer Prize. Maybe I'd get the satisfaction of making this my reality if I quit my job and trusted that the money would follow. But like most people, there's bills to pay and college to fund and while I like to think I'm a courageous guy, I'm not willing to gamble my kids' education, shelter and food on my pipe dream.
Collective jaws must be dropping upon reading this, because I've never been an advocate for letting reality get in the way of your dream. And I never will be. What I am saying is this, although the facile, self-helpy idea of following your passion and letting your dream come to fruition sounds easy, the reality is those very few who have been able to do this are just that, very, very very few. J.K. Rowling was dead broke and the Harry Potter thing happened. That's inspiring and wonderful and she is one person on a planet of six billion. Look at that ratio: 1:6,000,000,000. I'm a big fan of well-being psychology, I'm not a fan of self-help psychology. Don't quit your day job until Steven Spielberg has written the check for the rights to your story. Even then, wait a year. Until then quit the enabling thoughts and the dreamy dreams. AND GET TO WORK!!!
By work, I don't mean your job. Just get to work. Take the camera tot he park, take your tools and bend some steel in your workshop, sit by the window with your watercolors, pick up the pen or the laptop and GO CREATE!!!! Make something, channel that passion into your gift, then hone that gift until you surprise yourself with how freaking incredible it is. And join the list of amazing creators who kept their day jobs. Because you can.
Don't stop there.
Make it, finesse it, polish it, build a body of work and then make some money at it. Look at that link above, that's more the reality. People who worked hard at their art and paid their bills with work that sometimes they actually enjoyed (Wallace Stevens actually found his work as an insurance executive almost as fulfilling as his poetry). You can love your job and still create. And you can hate your job and still create. But I will say this, if creating is what you'd rather be doing, then you better dang well be sure to make that opportunity happen. Submit to the journals, send the portfolio to agents, hell, stage your own art show. Get the work out there, even if it means starting a blog that only your closest friends and family follow, sometimes.
To date, I've made $320 from my writing. The money doesn't inspire, nor does it fuel what I try to do with my work. But I do like it and I want to make more. And I will. And I'm going to keep kicking butt at my day job until I do make a living from my art. I'm okay with that because this also keeps my focus where it needs to be, on creating and growing as a writer. I don't have to worry about critics, agents, sales or signing tours. It's me and the notebook every day. I have complete artistic freedom, which is something many writers don't have.
So basically, this long post boils down to the words of the great Casey Kasem. "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars."
Now go make something. The world is waiting for your next gift.
A man who loves to write.