Credit: Nikita Kachanovsky

So I’m betting a lot of you read this blog because you’re interested in art, creativity, etc. – 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. But something I’ve thought about which I’m sure has crossed your mind too is “Should I worry about my long-term prospects?”

Should I be worried?

I remember being worried and consciously thinking “I’m going to put that worry aside”, but much like “the cat” in that infamous song, certain worries always come back. I wanted to go to school for something I really wanted to do and worry about the consequences later. But was that the right approach? Sure, I had a great time at acting school: 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. But sometimes I make things personal to highlight something I know is universal. There’s no way 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?”

There are different types of artists

A wall with post-its mapping out the long-term prospects of the career of an artist.
Credit: Patrick Perkins

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, you know how to get yourself off the ground and how to (as much as circumstances allow) stay afloat, you know how to make a proper business plan and all that good stuff. Awesome. More power to you. But many artists are not like 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 worry about what life will be like around the corner?

So, should you worry about long-term prospects?

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. And 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. Doctor, lawyer, businessman. Therapist. Hairdresser. Stock broker. Customer service person. Whatever floats your boat. Can be anything.

An artist sitting at their desk job hunting and seeking long-term prospects.
Credit: Karolina Grabowska

Now, 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?

What did you feel?

If the answer to any of the above questions was something like “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, it’s going to be doomed to failure on some level because your heart’s not really going to be in it. You might ironically find that it’s not that practical after all!

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.

(Credit for featured image: Artem Kovalev.)

A professional cast of ballerinas, enjoying some long-term prospects as members of a dance company.
Credit: Pixabay

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