I’m not going to name names on a personal level, but I’ve seen my share of people that inherit for a living. They’re the ones that get to follow their dreams unconditionally. I’ve got a number of students that are working as hard as they can to end the nightmares for them and their families. They don’t have the luxury of dreaming, not yet.
I’ve got plenty of friends that made a run at making the big time in the music industry. You have no idea how happy I am when I track down one of these late-80’s dreamers and find out he’s off the drugs and is making a living playing in bars all weekend long. Of all the bright young guys with Texas-sized hopes I knew back then, Robert Earl Keen’s made it the furthest up the music biz ladder, and he’ll be the first to admit there are a lot of others every bit as good as he is that the music business shot apart. You take every person with talent and big dreams born in a given year, line ’em up, and luck will choose one to rise up out of them all. Luck chooses maybe a baker’s dozen to never have to get their lives wrecked by alcohol or drugs, and the rest… the rest become casualties if they don’t stop dreaming.
Then you have the no-to-low-talents that become big names simply because they’re connected to pots of cash and/or a famous parent. Maybe they had no moral standards and managed to exploit that amorality to its fullest potential… whatever. Be it a stage mom that never quit or a pile of cash that kept talking, there they are, on top of the world. The worst are the ones that are famous for being famous. Paris Hilton is perhaps the most egregious in that area. So much of success in any artistic field is not in mastering the creative process, but in dealing with the business side of things. If you don’t have connections to lawyers that can run amazing deals because of who they’re connected to, you got little to nothing left to go on.
Follow your dreams? How about taking a good, hard look at those dreams, hmm?
First of all, if you say you want to make a living with your art, ask which is more important, the living or the art? If it’s the living, you will likely wind up making that living, but you’ll compromise your art. The art is more important? Don’t quit your day job, buddy. And you better make darn sure you like that day job, because you’re going to make your living that way and your art’s going to remain a hobby.
Next, ask yourself, what is success? If it’s a pot of cash left over after you pay bills, then become a white-collar criminal. That’s the fastest, most effective way to make that money and chances are you won’t even go to jail. If you can’t stomach that, then you better consider success is dying with your soul intact. Success is in helping the weak and bringing smiles to the faces of people left broken by the guys that think success and money are connected.
I like to draw. Nothing wrong with that. I have friends that will ask me to draw a little something for them and I’ll dash off a pretty picture that isn’t really print-quality, but it looks nice. They say they like it, I get my audience, and everyone’s happy. Should they have to pay for that smile? Not if I’m having fun making the picture. That’s how I reason it and it works for me. In exchange for doing things for free whenever I have the time and feel like it, I don’t have to make a living with my art. The pressure’s off and I can enjoy the experience.
So have I given up on my dreams?
I don’t think so. I love teaching. That’s what I do. I love my family. That’s who I live with. I am satisfied with the spiritual side of my life and I can find plenty of intellectual stimulation. I’m doing fine. I’m 42 and I’ve got my life in a pretty decent balance. Not being hung up on material things is probably an important part of that balance, as is a feeling that I’ve found answers to a lot of The Big Questions and know that I’m finding answers to the rest.
I like drawing, but I don’t have to be hanging in a gallery. I like writing, but I don’t need to be on a display at a Borders. Because my life isn’t sucked into running after money, I have time to enjoy it. I’m free to follow my dreams, but that doesn’t mean I follow them irresponsibly.