I have this friend. An actor friend. Really I have many friends like this but there's one in particular who has been popping up in my mind lately.
This friend (who I will call Aloysius from here on out… Al for short… no that’s not his real name…) has been an actor for many many years. With just one problem…
He's not... like... doing much of it.
You see, Al was fed this lie, like all theater people are, that in order to “make it” you must LIVE, BREATHE, and EAT theater. Everything you do must be in service to your art. Every choice you make MUST leave room for you to keep performing.
Which, considering how poorly the arts are frequently funded in this country, meant that he had two choices:
He did the thing that MANY theater artists do. He got a low paying job, just enough to pay the bills, that allows him all the time in the world to head out to auditions.
In theory… this is great! And if you have access to the perfect opportunities, exactly the right people referring you to exactly the right other people, literally ONLY do theater related activities, have exactly the right kind of job that can let you off at a moments notice to attend that audition that you just HAVE to be at (because it might be your big break)... You can totally make this work.
However... that whole paragraph I just wrote...
NEVER works out that way.
Because it doesn’t take a few things into account:
It takes a special kind of person to live that life.
And honestly, during my 10 years in NYC, I knew one, ONE person who could happily live that way. Now, he’s jet-setting around the world originating the titular role in a musical. That’s his “made it” point. He’s having a great time! But he’s left a slew of jobs in his time to go to auditions and made all sorts of sacrifices for his art. And again… 10 years in NYC… ONE person who made it work well…
The rest have realized something else. Something Al is just coming to terms with.
THE STARVING ARTIST MENTALITY IS BULL$#!T!
It’s great and all if you honest to god want to give up everything just so you can make it to another audition, buy another canvas, or do whatever you need for your chosen art form. But artists have to remember that that’s not ALL we are.
We also, like, humans? And as such we have certain physical, emotional, and mental needs that frequently think we can live without nourishing for WAAAAAAAY longer than we actually can.
I mean… really… do you want to be surviving on ramen and 2 Buck Chuck when you’re 30? There’s something fun and bohemian about it when you’re just out of college, but eventually it catches up to you.
Not to mention the PRESSURE you’re putting on your passion! Do you really expect to make the smartest career choices for your art when all you can think about is how you’re going to pay next month’s rent?
Elizabeth Gilbert puts it well in her book Big Magic (required reading for ALL artists!):
“...to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that."
Stop yelling at the cat.
Go get a job. One that pays you well. Not as a Plan B, but so you can live your Plan A. So you can go to the classes you need, take the voice or dance or acting lessons, go on a vacation once in a while, buy food that’s actually good for you, get a gym membership, LIVE SOME FREAKING LIFE!
AND be an artist.
Just... ya know... one with enough money to pay your rent.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.