I was talking
to my mother on the phone the other day and I was listing off the things I had
done all week: Networking to attract sponsors; Landing an interview with the
owner of Paul Mitchell; Transcribing interviews and editing photos for American Hair to be
submitted to the Library of Congress; Sending out book proposals...blah, blah,
blah, blah...Mom said, "You are so disciplined. Not everyone can do what
you do." I said, "Well if you needed to eat, you would." She
said, "I wouldn't be able to do it. I would have to get a job. It takes a special
person to do what you do." I know she was giving me a compliment but I
chuckled at that word — "special" and said, "Do you mean crazy?
Or maybe irrational?" Most people wouldn't work 70 hours a week without a
paycheck unless they were "special."
In my mind I feel like I don't have any other choice. I just wake up everyday and keep working towards my dream. I love my work and I'm grateful that I'm able to do it. But there have been many days when I've considered quitting, and right when I decide to walk away, something happens — a contract for an exhibit, a grant award, a call from ABC. These things never seem to happen when all is going well and I have money in the bank, it's usually after I've meagerly spent the majority of my savings and I'm leaning on the ropes crying "uncle." That's when the phone rings.
I'm not alone. I don't know any artist who doesn't ride this financial and emotional rollercoaster. It's so relentless that I didn't start saving for my retirement until I was 40 years old. I kept waiting for things to calm down, to gain more stability, only to realize that it would never come. That's not to say that I won't make money being an artist, but it comes in spurts and then nothing will happen for months (in some cases I've waited a year between payments). It's just the way it is. Once I started accepting that, life got easier.
Any artists/writers out there who want to share their thoughts? I'd love to hear your stories.