People often question me with details regarding my work as an artist. While most innocently ask from a standpoint of curiosity (for the purpose of finding reason to better appreciate the practice and purpose of art), some ask so as to man their assumed position of superiority. You know, the sort of person who loves to be condescending because they aren’t happy with himself/herself, their partner, their job, blah, blah, blah… And, well, they just think they are better than you.
“So, like, what do you do?”
“Must be a good life, always being on vacation and all.”
“You sing songs for a living. That’s not a job.”
“Why don’t you go to school to learn how to do something?”
Ah, yes. Allow me to address the first question. Today I am sick. So, aside from coughing up neon-yellow mucus from my lungs, sipping on a bottle of Mucinex, sleeping in between sneezes, and avoiding phone calls, I am writing this blog. It is my way of rehearsing my journalistic abilities when not feeling pressure from deadlines for a piece that must soon be published for the masses via a world-renowned publication! When I am not doing either of those things, I am writing small thoughts in a journal so as to exercise my brain in its formation and delivery of thought, or reading to expand my comprehension of ideas, scenarios, or written directions.
Nope, I do not always get paid for the time I put into my love for consuming and creating literary content, but I am preparing myself for those important pieces I do have to write and get paid for, for my J-O-B as a journalist. In everything I do for my title as a writer, I am getting better, and thus… I am working. Kind of like when those who paid to go to school weren’t getting paid to learn their trade.
When I purchase a record and sit at the kitchen table listening with my friends and sipping wine, or lounging in bed with headphones on listening alone, it’s a time of study! Like a hunter-gatherer, I’m collecting my inspirations to hoard away for a later feasting, when I can sit at the piano and create an incredible composition that I know will make people feel good.
If I had never heard the incredible chord progressions of Yann Tiersen in anything he has written, or the changes in Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel,” or been moved by the violin track in Linda Ronstadt’s “Long Long Time,” it’s so very possible I would have never decided I could (and wanted to) be a musician who could conjure positive inspiration in others through music.
Of course, the condescending questioners would remark, “You’re just making excuses.” In response to this I laugh, and I am reminded that there is no reason to waste my time explaining myself. Hurray! Got out of that one. Instead, let me put it this way:
I am an artist because I was born wired to use my imagination. I was born as a creative individual. I like to write, read, paint, dance, sing, play the piano, take photographs… I like to enjoy the simple things when I don’t have any money, and I like to treat myself to an expensive dinner at a fine restaurant when I do have money. And for those of you who are the condescending ones I am talking about, no, that does not mean I do not enjoy the simple thing when I do have money.
I like representing the underdog.
I like that in my journey on the road less traveled I have learned valuable life lessons which have helped me in helping my friends and family look at life in a positive light when they are going through tough times. I like to do whatever I want to do, and I like the rewards I receive in the work I do for free (for myself or for others) so that I can eventually get paid to do just that… WHATEVER I WANT TO. Don’t you see the catch here?
My reward is doing whatever it is I want to do and getting paid to do it! I get to be a creative person for a living. The rewards outweigh the grief.
Speaking of the grief, I haven’t seen my family in a year. I miss them. My mother calls to tell me she misses me, and I always tell her the same thing, “I know. I’ll try to visit soon.” But, I’ve been traveling for my work. I’ve been traveling to network. I’ve been traveling for experiences to write about. I’ve been traveling for paid gigs, auditions, and for rehearsals to make money to facilitate a lifestyle that supports my creative goals.
By the way, I did go to school. About seven years after my peers did, and I went to the greatest university in the world! OXFORD. I studied creative writing; and even still some people say, “You should go back to school to learn something you can utilize as a career.” Gah! What? I’m confused. Didn’t I just describe how it is we artists make our living and why? Alas, some just don’t get it, and they continue to ask questions in order to dumb down the artists position on earth.
Personally, I am thankful for doctors and dentists and social workers and teachers. THANK YOU, to those who have nine-to-fives, for punching in, punching out, planning your day around lunch break and happy hour, and going to bed knowing you get up to do it all over again. Nope, that’s not a jab. I truly mean it when I say THANK YOU for being that person. But… I cannot be that person. To me, doing anything other than being artistic is plain CRAZY.
I know that some are happy with their non-artistic career choices, and good for them. Happiness is important. I know that some are not happy with their non-artistic career choices. Yet? I thank them for doing it. The world does need all sorts of people. Everyone should be different. If you’re not happy with the generic “grind” you chose, I encourage you to take a chance and move yourself on over to the wild side.
There is a girl I once knew who claimed musicians do not have real jobs, yet she is one of the biggest music fans I have ever met. She wakes up at 4AM to stand in line at venues to buy tickets for shows months in advance. She is the kind of music fan who needs to have an autograph, who has to stand in the front row, who thinks she is having a fling with the lead singer after he shakes her hand during “nice to meet you” at a meet and greet.
Well, honey. You’re a machinist. And at the end of the day I appreciate the people in your line of work who aren’t moronic or hypocritical the way you are. Because how can you criticize an artist when you openly “appreciate” them?
I’m an ARTIST, it’s true! In a week I will be setting flight for Denver to partake in several paid photo shoots, a video shoot, and heading back to Chicago soon after for an intense rehearsal before headlining another venue with Superbig. Yesterday I was broke, and today I got paid. Maybe I’ll buy myself a new wardrobe, or just sleep tomorrow before having to head to a vocal lesson or draft the eighth chapter of my second book.
Whatever tomorrow brings, I’m still living the good life, even with the amount of sacrifices I have to make.
Because as an artist, that is what I do.