A Focused Career for Artists

I have been often called a dilletant, and perhaps that’s true. My resume certainly looks that way. I a degree in Chemistry and in Nursing. I have half a degree in Medicine, which is actually not a degree at all, just a big waste of time and money. They don’t give out consolation prizes to wanna be doctors.

When I was a Senior in college, I read in a Zen book the advice that one should done one thing, only. I agree. However, how is it possible for an artist to only do one job? That is, unless one has parents who really believes in one’s art. I didn’t have that.

I was told that I should major in something that made big money. To do otherwise would be foolish. I wasn’t even “allowed” to major in something I enjoyed like history because I was told that my father had a history degree, and that just got one purgatory in retail.

Why didn’t I just disobey them? I don’t know, I was used to always doing what I was told. It took me a long time to learn that this is an express train to misery.

When I was about twenty-four, and I had lived by myself for a year–I lived at home during college, another mistake–I realized that all my life, I had really wanted to be a writer of fiction. So in between cramming for Microbiology, I wrote fiction. Surprisingly, my first stories were actually stories. I liked them, but I only had one friend who would read them. He encouraged me to write more which I did.

In the meantime, the people in my Medical School kind of looked weird when I talked about fiction. They were doing one thing and that was medicine. I needed to focus.

So I quit medicine. This was a mistake because I had no plans for a job. I had also just gotten married. So I did what people do in these cases. I took the first job I could get which was a bus boy at a resturant. This job really depressed me becaus I didn’t see the big picture. I thought that by dropping out of school, I had dropped out of any chance to get a good job.

Then I a friend helped me get a job in a lab. I hated that, too, but it was better than clearing tables for Ivy League students who’s conversations I could hear, but could not join in. No matter how clever I was, I’d be the loser who cleared tables, and they’d be above me.

I really sucked at research mostly, I guess because I didn’t want to be there, much like the fact that I didn’t want to be a doctor nor a table clearer. I wanted to be a writer.

At this point, I was twenty-five, and I had no education in writing. I was miserable, and I couldn’t figure out why. My counselor was no help either. What a mystery. You spend your life doing what you hate with people who treat you like shit, and you think you are depressed? Now I realize that was a response of a normal person who could pay attention. You do things you hate, you get upset.

So why didn’t I get a job as a writer? I had no clue on how to do that. I still don’t. Also, I didn’t even believe in myself. I felt I needed some education and practice in writing. How could I get that when I had to work?

In retrospect, there are much better moves that I could make, but that’s not the point. The point is, that in many ways, I really was stuck.

I had to work eight hours a day, five days a week to make ends meet. That left me with little time and energy in which to write. Compare that with someone who spends 40 hours a week writing. I’d never catch up unless I was one of those people who didn’t need sleep or something, which I wasn’t.

So here’s the dilemma. I still don’t know the answer to this; I’m just posing it as a puzzle. How does one go about focusing all their time on art when they have bills to pay? How does one start to believe in oneself when one’s friends and family think that art is a dead end?

Unlike medicine and engineering, writers can’t just take out a loan and get a degree in writing. Oh, you can get an English Major or something, but when you are writing papers, you aren’t working on your art which is a waste of time. Worse, at the end of college, what do you have? A degree and debt. Now you need money to eat everyday, but you don’t get paid for a novel until you have written it.

If you really believed in yourself, you could get a non-novelist job right out of highschool like a hotel clerk position. Then you could write while on the job. Still, you are spending part of your time as a hotel clerk and not as a writer.

I have accepted the fact that I’m going to be spending a lot of my time not pursuing my dream, and I’m happier because of it. I figure if you can’t do anything about it, you need to accept it.

My new problem is coming up with my second biggest dream job. I all ready have my dream, and I can’t pursue it right now until I get some rent paid. Worse, once I figure out my second biggest dream, I have to convince some employer that it’s actually my _biggest_ dream.

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