Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a significant number of artists on a somewhat personal level. As one might expect, these young men and women spend countless hours pining over their creations, obsessed with unattainable perfection so long as they remain their own toughest critics. Their work is fuelled by their passion and their passion is fuelled by their work, keeping them “in the zone” for what seems to be inhuman durations of time, allowing creativity to ooze all over the studio floor. Weeks of late nights and early mornings culminate into what typically amounts to a “finished-for-the-time-being” piece that will likely captivate audiences while never ceasing to withstand criticism from its creator. When the storm is over, a calm comes over the artist for a week or two and then he or she gets the bug again, and it’s back to the races.
But these are not the only artists out there. Indeed, there is a world full of artists sitting behind desks, crunching numbers, selling life insurance and paying off loans for degrees they may never use. For some, they are well aware of their talents but are overwhelmed by the opposition reality has to offer. For others, money was needed before the fulfillment of a dream could begin, and now they are in the artistic circle of doom, unable to get away from the 9-5 and drop thousands of dollars per year in pay. Even harder yet may be those Christian artists who simply did not hear God’s call for them until it seemed too far out of reach to even consider giving an answer.
Society’s passive opposition to artistic success and opportunity may be the most discouraging problem to face artists today, but it is by no means the most likely obstacle to their creative pursuits. Artists have a natural tendency to go against the grain, and if steady income could be guaranteed, you would likely see the entire 100 percent of artists who currently work in other fields drop their suits and calculators and indulge their creativity for at least eight hours a day.
Ironically, many artists who have bravely chosen to pursue their passions as careers tend to live in places like New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world. These artists get by on minimal diets (if they eat at all), cheap deli coffee (the only thing available in Manhattan for under $1) and second and third jobs, making sure that any opportunity for sleep has no door on which to knock. This is not only unhealthy, but it is also not an option for many people who abound with artistic vision and creativity but still need at least six hours of sleep and one complete meal a day.
But let’s say that you’ve defied the odds, and you have successfully avoided either scenario above. Good work. So what’s the problem?
What if you didn’t recognize your calling to the arts until life had already started?
Over the last three months or so, I’ve found myself increasingly less satisfied doing office work. As a result, my performance has dwindled to just a nose ahead of pathetic. I can’t focus. I’m apathetic; I’m actually writing this article while on the clock. About a week ago it dawned on me (like it hadn’t been obvious for years) that I’m just not passionate about what I’m doing. There is nothing fulfilling to me about sitting behind a desk and processing sales contracts. I want to create. I want to express. I want to be abstract. More important is that I know that God wants me to do all of these things. But the prospect of having unstable income, low wages and an inability to treat myself to fine wines and overpriced espresso drinks at my will instills significant fear in my heart.
Fortunately, God is patient with me. He is happy that I’ve finally been reconciled to His purpose for me, and He will find a way to make it work financially. However, I am not so patient with God. At the present time, I have no idea where to begin, where to end or where the road between the two places lies. Doesn’t He know that this kind of waiting in the lurch will escalate my anxieties and the likelihood of a stomach ulcer? I need answers, not questions.
The bad news is that I’m not going to get them, at least not so simply. The good news is that God is the greatest artist to ever exist. If there is one living thing that understands the need to create, it is Him. Such sympathy gives me the comfort of knowing that He will certainly find a way for me to express myself and, in doing so, glorify His name.
Tonight I am going to stay up until 2 a.m. playing with my guitar, processor and digital mixing board. I will write song lyrics that may never be sung. I will write guitar riffs that may never be played. I will record musical ramblings that will likely never see the light of day. I will sate my thirst to create and when tomorrow comes, I will find every opportunity I can to do it all again.