Monday, June 13, 2011

Am I nuts?

During my first semester at school, I went to the career counseling library with one of my classes. We were instructed to look up our particular chosen field and learn about the job description, requirements, and salary. I found the book on filmmaking and flipped to the pages for Screenwriter. The listed salary was both discouraging and exhilarating: Range... $0 to $1,000,000. Okay, that's a pretty wide gap.

Lately I've been questioning my choices and taking a long look at my chosen profession. Why do I feel driven towards a career so laden with difficulties, stress, uncertainty, rejection.... AAAACCKKK!! (Picture me pulling my hair out here.)

I used to tell my husband that a dream job for me would be crunching numbers--adding columns upon columns of numbers while seated in a cubicle. Seriously. I've had a job like that and absolutely enjoyed it. So why don't I feel driven to pursue that career? Why does the very thought of getting a degree in, say, accounting, make me want to upchuck?

Why screenwriting? Why filmmaking? Why writing? Why any career in The Arts? Why can't I feel a passion for a job that actually pays, or even one that sounds like a real job? I've been driving myself crazy, questioning.

I'm not alone in my craziness. I started reading Staying Sane in the Arts by Eric Maisel, Ph.D., a psychotherapist who works exclusively with creative and performing artists. I've had the book for several years, but finally drug it off the shelf. Like the salary range for a screenwriter, the first chapter of this book was both discouraging and exhilarating.

First the discouragement. Right away in the introduction he describes the "real artist in the real world" as "often uncertain about his own talent, wants to do art his own way, but must also do business, is hard-pressed to make a living, posses a personality that sometimes serves him well and sometimes does not, frequently has bouts of depression, and in general faces the toughest uphill battle one can imagine."


Oh. It continues.

"I believe that the artist in contemporary Western society is guaranteed a life of grave difficulty because of his personality, because of the inevitable challenges he encounters..."  (italics added)

That's just the introduction. If that's not a big enough dose of discouragement, then the first chapter brings another punch. He writes of income--or the lack thereof.  He states, "A quarter of all working visual artists earn no money from their arts, and another quarter earn less than $1,000 a year. Almost 90 percent earn less than $5,000 a year. ... Similarly disturbing figures can be quoted for...all groups of creative and performing artists."

Then he poses the same question I keep asking myself: "Why would a smart, ambitious, talented person choose to live such a life?"

Because I feel alive when I create. I feel joy when I create. Author Maisel quotes the sculptor Louise Nevelson, "In my studio I'm as happy as a cow in her stall."

I'm not alone in my craziness, and there's hope that I can learn to work with the anxieties and discouragement. That's the exhilarating part of the book so far. Tomorrow... chapter two.

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