I am betting a lot of you, our readers, view this blog because you’re interested in art, creativity, etc. or maybe you want to be employed as a working artist. Perhaps you’ve gone to school for something creative, like I did for acting and later for film production. Something I’ve thought about, and I’m wondering if it’s crossed your mind, is “Should I worry about my long-term prospects?”
When I was deciding where to go to school, I knew I wanted to study something I was passionate about and worry about job prospects later. But was that the right approach? I mean, I had a great time at acting school and I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything – but I’d also gone to post-secondary for five years before going to acting school, and for another year after that. If I’d only gotten an acting diploma I’d be worried about my employment prospects. Heck, I’m still worried!
Sorry, didn’t mean to make this personal. This is a blog, after all, not my journal. Sometimes I make things personal to highlight something I feel is universal. There’s no way that most people attending schools for art, drama, music, and dance aren’t a little worried about where this is all going. Their passion supersedes their concern, but eventually reality has to catch up. You graduate and… well, it’s a bit like that moment in the 1972 Robert Redford film “The Candidate”, when Redford’s character, having just won a senate seat, asks his political consultant “What do we do now?”
Now maybe you’re not a “fly by the seat of your pants” type of artist. And that’s great. Maybe you’re business-savvy, you know how to market yourself, you know the right gallery to contact if you want your work displayed and what type of work they like to display. Maybe you know how to get yourself off the ground and how to (as much as circumstances allow) stay afloat, or how to make a proper business plan and all that good stuff. Awesome. More power to you. But many artists like myself just don’t have access to this.
So what of those artists who aren’t business-savvy? They can learn, certainly, but what of those who are, even? Being business-savvy doesn’t entail controlling the way the wind is blowing in the industry. Acting by its very nature leaves people out of work; a gallery displaying your artwork is awesome but probably not a permanent financial fix. So if you choose to pursue this type of path, should you be more worried about what life will be like around the corner?
I’ve talked about these types of issues many times. Why? Well, they’re on my mind, but I believe lots of people think about this: it’s an inevitable conflict that comes up for working artists. While I don’t have a straightforward, foolproof answer to questions like “Should you worry about long-term prospects?”, I have come up with an exercise that I think will help. Picture yourself, right now, in a career where you don’t think long-term prospects would be a problem. You probably think along the lines of doctor, lawyer, or business person. After having pictured yourself in that life, answer me this: Did you feel happy? Did you feel twinges of regret, even though you were only imagining a certain type of life?
If the answer to any of the above questions was: “No, I didn’t feel happy” or “I felt regret” or “I wasn’t sure”, then you’re probably doing the right thing following this path. As I’ve said before I’m sure following your dreams may not lead in exactly the direction you want, but if you keep plugging away at it it will surely lead somewhere interesting. If you, however, pursue a life that you don’t really want but that you think is practical, I encourage you to reflect on if that truly works for you, your happiness, and overall satisfaction.
So consider the long-term prospects, by all means. But don’t let the possibility of things going wrong dictate the decisions you make in life. After all, they may go right. And even if they don’t, you’ll have had a great time along the way doing what you love.