At the Synergy conference in Baltimore I taught a class called "Should I, or Shouldn't I?" The premise of the class was to help people decide whether or not they should take the leap into making their craft into a business. Now, you might think since the name of this blog is Artrepreneur, I think everyone should make that leap. But that is not the case.
I started out that class with two questions:
"What would you be doing in your life if you knew you absolutely could not fail?"
"What do you need to think about differently to
have the life your desire?"
I found these questions in a post on Tammy Vitale's blog. I was in the middle of preparing for the class, and these two jumped out at me as being the perfect way to launch my class. What is you dream? And what is in the way? In order to really decide what is right for you, these are questions you need to answer. I can tell you what my answer is, but it has nothing to do with your dreams, and your life. These questions, by the way, come from a book by Ken D. Foster, called, Ask and You Will Succeed: 1001 Ordinary Questions to Create Extraordinary Results
I wasn't always so clear on this idea that everyone needs to choose the right path for them, and where they are in their life. I guess you could say I was a little bit evangelical in my desire to have others experience how wonderful it is to be able to be in business as an artist. I was projecting my own enthusiasm on others. For someone who needed a nudge in that direction, and wanted to know that it was possible and worth the risk, I might have been on target in my encouragement. But for people who did not have that dream, I was completely misguided. If I subjected you to this, I can only apologize.
What I have come to understand, particularly as I began to explore this question of Should I or Shouldn't I, is that if it is not something you passionately or deeply desire, you should probably not travel down this rocky path. It ain't easy. To quote one of the artists who responded to a survey I did to prepare for this class:
“…, be realistic about what you'll earn. It's probably never going to be as much as you'd like. You should have a passion for what you're doing and the feeling that you'd shrivel up and die if you COULDN'T do it!”
There is more wisdom there than I could possibly express in a million blog posts. It is a struggle. But if you have to do it, you should! And if you feel like you can't, then it is matter of figuring out your particular roadblocks, and whether or not you can work around them.
So why did I decide I should? When I was a little girl, I spent hours upon hours drawing, and making things. I would sit on the front step with a friend, and we would draw. I would take classes as often as my parents would sign me up for one. I went through magazines that my mother bought, looking for craft projects I could do. I had to make things. I had to draw. Nobody ever had to compell me to do it.
But, when I was a deciding on where to go to college, and what to study, I found myself putting all that away. It was put in the hobby box, and it was time to get serious and pursue a career that would provide me with a paycheck. I was good in math and science, so I studied chemistry. Was I passionate about math and science. No. By my junior year, I knew I was going down the wrong path, but I was so used to doing what was expected of me, that I continued on. When I graduated, I knew I was not a chemist. Not in my heart at least. So, I went into sales, selling industrial gases. I was not necessarily drawn to sales either, but I knew it was going to be a better fit than the lab.
I went on to get my MBA, which I actually really enjoyed. Marketing has lots of room for creativity, and I enjoyed the math of finance and accounting. I went on to various marketing jobs. Always believing that I was going to find the job that was the right fit for me. I had thought the idea of starting my own business was attractive....but doing what??
I never did find the job that was the perfect fit. I wanted to fit it. I tried to make myself fit in. But I didn't. Sunday night became a time of dread. Back to work on Monday. Pretty soon it was Sunday afternoon, or Sunday morning. I would start buying the occasional lottery ticket when the misery index climbed. It was my way out. My path to my dream. If I win the lottery, I can go to art school, and be an artist!
Eventually, I was taking a career planning class at one of my jobs,....a particularly miserable job....and the main question we had to ask was, what is your ideal job. My answer, Artist. As if,.... But I could identify what it was about being an artist that I wanted in my job. Creative. Independent. Self-directed. Maybe I could find those things in another job?
I went on to one more job earning a regular paycheck. This time with a small start-up company. I ran marketing department, and had several people reporting to me. It wasn't too long before I found this job did not fit either. I also found myself pregnant soon after I started this job. A job that had me on the road often, and frequently over the weekend as well as during the week. I envisioned myself traveling all the time, and having a nanny to take care of my soon to be baby. I then thought about how I was away on weekends. How I was often working ten or twelve hours per day. Was this kid even going to know me? How much of an influence would I even be in their life? That was when things shifted for me. That was when I finally gave myself permission to step off the path that I was on, which I never really wanted to be on.
After this, it took me nearly ten years, and lots of false starts to find out what I wanted to be doing the rest of my life. But I did find it. I don't have the big paycheck or title anymore. But I also have never been happier. I am living my dream. One day I realized it had been years since I had bought a lottery ticket. I didn't need the escape hatch anymore. I was where I wanted to be.
So, are you living your dream? If not, what is in the way? What can you do to make your dream a reality? Even if you decide to pursue the dream it may take many years to get to the point that you realize that you are finally doing exactly what you want to be doing with your life. But, it does not mean that you shouldn't take that first step.