David, by You Know Who
What many people outside the arts donâ€™t understand, is that succeeding in thisÂ gig takes as much discipline as it does for the CEO, Athlete, Lawyer, Doctor. In many cases it takes more, since you already have the day job, and for your night job your calling happens to be to aÂ calling that we almost never feel equal to, in which we regularly disappoint ourselves, and from which the check isÂ normally lateâ€“often by a decade or two.Â Sticking with something for which you may never get paid–and doingÂ it with full-blown passion for years on end–takes real discipline.Â
Define â€œsuccessâ€ how you want, but to me it means succeeding aesthetically first, and financially laterâ€“which for most artists simply means turning some form of profit.Â However you do define it, this kind of discipline is no screwing around. You donâ€™t get there by going to all the parties, hanging out in all the bars, and talking about all the great work you want to do. If you believe in yourself, if your goals are realistic, and if youâ€™re driven, then you clamp your mouth shut and work your butt off. Why? Because youâ€™re giving something to the world that is bigger than you, and more important than you. In a sense you are serving others, and that requires great discipline. The end result will speak for you. Then you can go to all the parties and bars, at least until you start the next piece.
The misconception is that artists indulge in substance abuse, are hopelessly idealistic, and devoid of discipline. This is hogwash. Some of the most disciplined people I’ve known have been sculptors, painters, andÂ glass-blowers. Not only did they work very hard, but man they had guts, laying everything on the line in a risky profession: their finances, their dreams, their futures. Some realized the dream, most did not, but every one of them lived with courage and dignity and often a self-effacing humor. Itâ€™s that last quality that will often save your sanity when all else is failing. Oddly, itâ€™s also a quality that can allow you to laugh off your failures, and persevere through to success.
Sure this is a tough life, full of sacrifices and hardship (although not like those of a Vietnamese rice farmer). But I wouldnâ€™t trade it for a million bucks–though I might for two.