Give up, or carry on?

It’s hard to sugar-coat this topic. However, it’s something that every creative is likely to face during their lives, and this is why I think it’s important to deal with it head on.

At some point we’ll find ourselves sitting alone, wondering if following our art is really worth it. We’re wondering whether to give up and get out, or carry on.

This can happen for many different reasons. Our personal circumstances might have changed. We aren’t earning enough to make it pay. We feel tired or burnt out. We don’t feel we have an audience, or are having trouble finding one. We’ve lost the muse – or we worry that we have.

As for money, there will be times in every creative’s life when the numbers just don’t add up. Perhaps they never have. The artist Grayson Perry has been very open about ‘starving artist’ syndrome and the fact that it took a good 20 years for him to start to make any money.

Famous writers too numerous to mention have churned out articles, short stories and hackwritten to keep body and soul together while producing their great novels. That’s an awful lot of time bumping along the bottom, scraping a living, wondering whether any of it will ever come good.

We need to diversify to survive

Some of us have the luxury of funding or other forms of financial support to follow our art, but many freelance creatives have to find ways of supplementing their artistic work to keep the dream alive and the wolf from the door, whether that’s lecturing, workshops, design, corporate, content milling or doing something completely different.

It’s a tough way to live – it always has been for writers and artists. We need to diversify, and to understand and play the money game, in order to survive.

One thing we can’t put a price on is the gift of creativity. It can be a curse when there are bills to pay and little in the bank, but it’s also such a blessing.

Not everyone is a maker. Not everyone can be so original. And not everyone is naturally honoured with the ability to bring something amazing into the world for others to enjoy, and even love.

I say: follow your heart

What to do? I say: follow your heart. If the work you love, if being an artist is your calling – if what you do speaks to you on a profound level – keep finding a way to do it.

Yes it’s hard, but the road we take as creatives always has been strewn with rocks and stones. The trick is to be smart and negotiate them. To turn that creativity on its head and make it work somehow, so we can keep going.

If you’re feeling blocked, take time out. Do a retreat. Rest, recuperate, recharge.  Just take some time to think.

Serendipity is a funny thing. As I’m writing this I’m listening to Todd Rundgren, and his song ‘Just One Victory‘ came on just as I put hand to keyboard. If that isn’t a rallying cry from a true artist, I don’t know what is.

I suspect the reason you’re reading this right now is because you’re feeling despondent. You really are thinking of giving up.

Don’t become one of the workaday who’ll go to their graves still full of promise. Heed the clarion call. Reconnect with your source. Be practical, crunch the numbers, accept financial reality – but find a way to make it work. Find your way.

How that works will be up to you. I can’t give you a magic solution, but I can encourage you not to give up on what is likely to be the most important thing in your life: your own special gift.

You’ve been given a unique, beautiful talent. Just remember that.

Go to it, and carry on.

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