Doing my taxes this week, I sat surrounded by a sea of expense receipts, all glaring reminders that far more cash went out in 2011 than came in. I’ll be honest — sometimes in those moments, it’s hard not to ask myself, “Exactly why am I an artist?” and I romanticize about my days as a consultant when income was plentiful. I wonder briefly why I stopped doing that work and then I remember: Oh, yeah. I was miserable.
They say everything in life is material, and my transition from corporate consultant to contemporary artist made a good story. When I first started writing my one-woman show, I Will Be Good, a little over three years ago, I had no idea what was ahead. I simply knew without question I was called to write down my experiences, just as I had been called to become an artist 20 years before. As it turns out, there’s now interest in turning I Will Be Good into a book (renamed How to Draw a Nekkid Man), which is both very exciting and a monumental task. After three years of self-producing the show — also a monumental task — I was hoping I could get off easy and say something like, “Hi, I’m cute. Would you please publish my book?” Sadly, this was not to be.
Instead, I’ve spent the last two months intensely working on a book proposal that’s designed to dazzle a literary agent, then a publisher into accepting my book. One of the proposal’s sections, “About the Competition,” requires enormous research, particularly if you’re penning a memoir. I’ve read memoirs until my eyes have crossed, and books about how to write memoirs, as well as books by folks who’ve pursued the creative life or who’ve followed a call. Along the way I’ve discovered some very interesting reads, among them The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week, by Summer Pierre.
Comments on the book’s back cover intrigued me: “This ingenious little book isn’t about throwing over your day job. It’s about integrating the work you have to do with the work you want to do.” I’d spent years trying to do just that and not always successfully. After reading the first page, I promptly bought the book. The page featured an amazing quote from e.e. cummings:
To be nobody but yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.
I’m not a book reviewer, but I do know what I like and need, and anyone that motivates me to continue following my call gets my support, particularly on those discouraging days when I idealize consulting or consider toll collecting on New Hampshire’s Rte. 3. (I told my mother once that I was considering toll collecting instead of art making, and she said very matter-of-factly, “Doll baby, I don’t think that’s an option any more. They have those express lanes now where you have a sticker on your windshield and just drive through.”)
Much Needed Support
Happily, each page of The Artist in the Office offers inspiration and practical advice about balance, gratitude and even debt (see my opening paragraph), and many other aspects related to living an artist’s life or whatever life you feel called to live. And while I don’t currently work in an office (or a toll booth), I am always in search of more conventional work that supplements my artist’s income. When I find that work, it’s good to know I don’t have to bury my artist self under my business self since I’ve spent the past 20 years trying to integrate the two.
Newly inspired, I’m off to my studio to follow my call, fight the good fight, and finish my taxes. Got any books that help you on your journey? Please let me know!
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