Hello, good morning, and welcome to the Saturday Morning News Post!
Readers, we all know how much I like to talk about myself, and that mine is a story that simply can’t fail to excite. Every so often however, I feel obliged to talk about something else for a change. (Don’t worry, next week will again be all about me!)
So this post goes out to my friends and readers who are part-time artists, and by “part-time” I simply mean that they’ve chosen other careers to make a living by. As artists, some of them are beginners, some amateurs, and some of them are at a very high and “professional” level, it’s just… not their profession.
I believe this group (which includes a number of good friends of mine) needs a little
wake-up call encouragement every so often from us “full-time” artists. They need to be reminded that we’re not so different from one another and that amidst all of their numerous commitments in life, their art is important.
So allow JD to break it down…
Embracing Your Creative Outlet As A Lifestyle Choice
You see, whether a part-timer or a full-timer, most of us only have only one creative outlet if we’re lucky. It’s our release, the release of something which can’t be put into words. Obviously, full-timers face a lot of challenges on their way to making a living as artists but part-timers face a whole other type of challenge as they carry full-time day jobs (in some cases completely unrelated to their craft), while continuing to try and make time for their art that they love so much.
So when the part-timer’s “real-life” intervenes with a stack of monthly bills, social commitments, excercise routines, cooking, etc., then taking time out for their creative outlet begins to look less necessary/important and more like a self-indulgence. After all, their art can wait, it will always be there to come back to at some point, right?
Maybe. Maybe not. I believe what we’re talking about here is a kind of lifestyle choice. It’s like excercise, excercise for the heart/soul/mind. No, it’s never too late to start jogging either but a 70 year-old guy who’s never laid eyes on a treadmill, well,… the damage has been done, that guy lost a lot of strength. People who see the importance of taking care of their bodies while they’re young are much more likely to continue these habits as they get older. The same is true for your heart/soul/mind! If you wait until retirement to address your creative process, your soul is going to be obese, bitter, and lost with nothing more than a retirement plan, home renovations, and senior discount cruise ship vacations to look forward to.
Now, maybe talking about “the soul” seems a little too abstract for your liking? And perhaps the fact that it’s really enjoyable and interesting for you isn’t justification enough?
Fine, let’s talk about your mind. Creating art is a work out for your mind, a fun and challenging workout which involves many parts of the brain and helps to keep you not only contented but sharp as well. If you don’t believe me, read through some of “This Is Your Brain On Music” written by Dr. Daniel Levitin, neuroscientist and former sound engineer/ record producer, who explains in detail how playing music coordinates more disparate parts of the brain than almost anything else human beings can do. The same, or at least similar, is true of all arts. I know I’ve got at least a few doctors who read the SMNP so back me up in the comments section would ya?! (Paging Dr. Chops Grande? Dr. Vertesi?)
There’s one more connection I’d like to make between excercising and creating art. Even once you’re convinced of how important it is for your well-being (as you no doubt are by now) it will not just happen. You’re aware that excercise is good for you, it even kinda feels good, but you still have to force/push/motivate yourself to be disciplined about it and get your ass back in the gym again the next time, right? Same with your art! You gotta get back into that Soul Gym every goddamn week, throw some weights around with your creative mind until your heart can clean and jerk your body weight. (ps I’ve been waiting a long time for an excuse to use the term “clean and jerk”)
I hear some believers out there who are still thinking: “That’s all well and good JD, but I’ve got a lot on my plate. Taking “me-time” out for drawing a picture seems a bit selfish, no?”
You’re damn right it is. It’s the good kind of selfish. In a nutshell, it’s the kind of selfish that makes you a more independently content person. Your art becomes one more, very important, source of contentment in your life. And the more sources the better.
The Power of Options
I was talking to a friend and “part-timer” the other day whose job has kept her preoccupied and somewhat anxious for quite some time now. I reminded her that she wasn’t committed to staying at that job, that there were other options out there for someone with her talent and skills, “Having options = having power” I said, “the power to change your situation for the better. The moment you forget you have options is the moment you’ll be anxiety ridden because you feel “stuck,” helpless, and frustrated.”
After we talked, I was thinking of that “options = power” idea as it might apply to my part-time artist friends, but more along the lines of “the more healthy, fun things you indulge in (booze = fun indulgence, but doesn’t really = healthy), the more you have to give to other areas of your life” More sources of contentment = balance and freedom.
These sources may include: family, friends/relationships, career, hobbies, interests, and creative outlets.
Career is a source if you’re fortunate enough to like your job. I differentiate between hobbies and interests vs. creative outlet because the hobbies/interests (ie movies, excercise, etc.) are fun of course, but are not offering you a creative outlet, the value of which (as I’m trying to explain) is seriously underestimated.
So, the fewer sources you have, the more pressure remains on whatever’s left. If my creative outlet, music, was the only source of contentment (as occasionally it has been) there would be a lot riding on how I sounded on any given day. If your job is the solitary focus in your life, then you’ll be miserable if it’s not going well. Likewise, if a relationship is what’s keeping you going, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on that. (By the way, ladies, I’m looking at you on this one! Guys do it too but women seem to be way more likely to drop everything and give 110% to their relationship, which is just fucking terrific for the guy who is now walking on egg shells to reciprocate this 110% lest his girlfriend go into a downward spiral of disappointment. I mean come on already!…em,… alright, clearly, I have some issues there,… that’s besides the point.)
Anyways, back on topic. You see where I’m coming from with the whole “sources of contentment = power” thing. The power to find balance and happiness in life.
Again, I’m not saying art = the key to happiness, it works both ways, if a professional artist’s life revolves around their craft and nothing else then he/she will put undue pressure on that element and probably choke it to death.
Part-time Or Full-time,… Not So Different After All
Those friends of mine who play/paint/write on the side, I always try to encourage them to continue on, to stick with it and heed the call of their so-called indulgence. They probably think I’m just being nice, or perhaps they think that their moving on to other careers has cast a shadow of doubt for me on what I’ve chosen to make a career out of.
I’m not, and it hasn’t.
What it is, is that I know that their art really means something special to them. I know that making art/music is something they could spend all day doing while the hours just disappeared without notice, if only they had the time. I see this, and I can relate to it in a way most people can’t because I’m an artist. I can see that the special relationship and sense of release (and unique sense of struggle) that they have with their art is really no different than mine. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not like these people are miserable at all, I mean, you wouldn’t think to meet them that they’re in any way missing something in their lives. But Danderfer knows,…oh yes, Danderfer knows alright.
I also know that some of them have stopped truly considering themselves artists simply because they chose not to pursue it as a full-time career. Now that’s a mistake, I’m sure of it. Why does it have to be so black and white? They have dreams of what they’d like to accomplish artistically some day but more than that they are simply still chipping away at it! And with all the responsibilities that they have in their lives, that fact alone speaks volumes. Again, thinking of several part-time artist friends of mine, I can’t say that my art means any more to me than theirs does to them. The choice to work a different job for better pay can simply be a lifestyle choice, it doesn’t necessarily reflect on one’s passion for creating. Hell, if I could walk into a steady and interesting job tomorrow, well,… I don’t know if I’d take it, but you can be damn sure I’d at least consider it!… Because as much as I love my job, it’s fucking rough out here in the trenches of professional artist-dom people!
Good For Everyone
This is worth mentioning again: indulging in their art (even part-time) is not only good for the people doing it, it’s good for everyone else around them. Working on their craft gives them a deep sense of satisfaction and joy that they will, perhaps unknowingly, share with others. I learned this from my Mother (big aww…), who for as long as I can remember, has always found ways to be artistically active, whether it be painting, drawing, sculpting, or quilting. She too felt that is was a selfish thing to be involved in, and it was, but again, it was the good kind of selfishness, the kind that makes you a better, happier person. (The proof is in the pudding folks, I mean look how good her kids turned out. Please!)
Let me wrap it up with this: Few people have any creative outlet whatsoever, full-time OR part-time. Cherish it. I believe the first step is to realize just how important it is, for you and those around you, for you to “indulge” in this source of contentment. Keep trying to think of new ways to push/motivate yourself to continue, you’re not part of a full-time community anymore so it’s tough and don’t expect non-artists to understand this (I’m not saying non-artists can’t understand, it’s just that they often don’t). And just because you haven’t found the time for it yet doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not committed to it (certainly not for the people I’m thinking of!), it may just mean that you haven’t found the right motivation yet! So step back and come up with some more ideas, maybe you become part of a community of artists, sign up for a class or regular private lessons, or my personal favourite: commit yourself to a goal you can’t back out of like a gig, or a recording, or a show, etc.
There you go part-timers, that’s your JD shout out! Print up this SMNP, and post it on your wall, or better yet, frame it for Christ’s sake. Now come up with a plan (you know I couldn’t write a whole SMNP without the word “plan” in it), make it happen, and kick some ass. When one plan fails, come up with another one until finally you find what works best for you. The world will be a better place for it. If you feel like it, tell me what your plan involves, or just do it and tell me later how it worked out for you.
Wow! Arts counseling, life AND relationship advice from a guy not qualified to offer any of the above! This is how we do it here on the SMNP!
Thanks for reading and have a great week everybody!
*Above artwork by Mrs. Cathy Danderfer