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Even Artists Have to Figure Out How to Make a Living

Posted on the 12 August 2011 by Shrinkingthecamel

Even Artists Have to Figure Out How to Make a Living

Last week I attended a function where a friend’s daughter was the featured performer. For years I had heard about this girl’s passion for music, the special performing arts school her parents had afforded, and her brave attempts to make it as a musician in New York City.

“Your daughter was wonderful!” I said to her mom afterwards, keeping to myself the fact that the performance was nice, but certainly not the powerhouse talent I had been led to believe.

Her mom went on to tell me about their family struggle around the daughter’s expectations that the parents foot the bills while she waited around to get discovered and eventually make a living from her awesome talent.

Apparently this girl is so dedicated that she resists doing any other kind of work. “She literally throws up if she can’t do her music!” her mom whispered to me, exasperated.

Isn’t that what they call a panic attack?  At 22, the poor girl has a phobia against having to make a living in the real world. I mean, the non-musical performing world.

(Delusion? Meet fear. Hello!)

“We made her get a job,” her mother finally confessed with a conflicted sigh. “She needs to pay some of her expenses, and her health insurance, too.”

“Good for you,” I told her. The girl will be grateful later on. There’s nothing more pathetic than a forty-year old “artist” telling you their next big break is just around the corner.

I heard Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, professor and poet, put it like this:

“You know, you can be an artist, but you got to do something practical alongside it. You’ve got to figure out how you’re gonna take care of yourself in the world.”

There’s something to be said for taking care of yourself in this world, finding out how to make your own way, figuring it out with all its complications and breakthroughs and disillusions. There’s a kind of nobility, even, to the slogging through the less-than-what-you-expected parts of life in order to become self-sufficient, and to still show up for yourself every day.

I think it’s called growing up.

Beautiful artwork courtesy of Nance, the real deal.

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