Life as an artist is wonderful and challenging at the same time. We love what we do, but we often struggle to make a living at it. Sometimes it feels like everyone loves our work. Other times we feel like nobody likes our work, or even notices it exists. We might even question if we are on the right path.
Here are four signs you are meant to be an artist:
You have always been an artist.
Singing, acting, dancing, painting, creative writing, comedy, drawing, sculpting, or playing your instrument has always been a passion of yours. It may have faded or temporarily waned due to life circumstances, or interests shifting to other art forms, but you do not remember a time in your life when you did not have a passion for some type of art.
I remember singing as young as five, entertaining anyone who would listen with covers of Johnny Cash songs. I wanted to be a professional singer until I was ten and discovered I could write stories. I then began to write more than I sang, but I still loved to sing. I studied piano. I majored in Theater in college, where writing plays was my focus. I played guitar, horribly. I went on to earn a graduate degree in Creative Writing. I cannot remember a time in my life that didn’t involve creative writing or singing or both.
You were led to the arts or an arts project after praying.
The idea for a website for and about Utica artists came to me after I prayed asking God what I should do to serve Him by serving others. I also pray for guidance as I write my novels.
Many of us feel that our art is something we were meant to do. We feel as though that is our purpose on earth, and that we would not be the people we were created to be without it. That is not an inflated ego or silliness. Each one of us, artist or not, was created to serve in some way. If you are continuously led to work in the arts, you are meant to be an artist.
You feel the most content when involved in the arts.
Most of us feel a sense of contentment and peace when we are doing what we were meant to do in life. This does not mean everything is always perfect. It does not mean every job is the right one. A person who is meant to be a teacher could still wind up at the wrong school. Someone meant to be a doctor might be in the wrong specialty or area of the country. It does not mean you never have a bad day, or encounter a less than savory situation, or that you never feel bored or anxious or sad. It means that you have an overall sense of peace knowing that the work you are doing is the work you are meant to do.
You are willing to undergo the challenges that come with being an artist.
The people who are not meant to be artists, no matter how great of an idea they might have for a painting, song, novel, or other work, are those who only want to produce the work because they think they’re going to be instant millionaires by doing so.
Real artists certainly wouldn’t turn down a multi million dollar contract if it were offered, but we understand that we might not get one, and we are okay with that. We are still willing to practice our art.
And here are three things that feel discouraging, but are not signs you need to abandon the arts:
You aren’t making a lot of money as an artist.
That stereotype about actors waiting tables exists because a lot of actors wait tables in order to pay their bills. It might seem like there are a lot of famous actors, musicians, and painters, but those are only a small percentage of the overall population of artists. In some fields, it’s even common for those at the top of the field or genre to struggle financially. Many Jazz musicians whose names would be common knowledge to almost any fan took any gig they could get, because they needed the money.
Paying your way with your art is a great goal, and it is possible. But just because it isn’t happening right now, does not mean you are not an artist or that you are wasting your time with your art.
Some people don’t like your art work.
When I used to sing, some people would tell me I sound similar to Joan Baez, Melissa Etheridge, or Stevie Nicks. And then there were those times when I would sing and people would say, “That was nice,” and change the subject, or just blink at me and laugh. Or howl. People marvel over the realism in my fiction writing, especially the dialogue. Sometimes they read something I wrote and it launches a discussion on the plot or the topics touched on. And sometimes they ask me if the sentences are supposed to be so short or ask me if somebody was “supposed to be” some real person, because they can’t think of anything nice to say.
Whenever someone doesn’t like something you have consistently done well throughout your life, remember that that much of our reaction to the art is a matter of personal taste. I am not a fan of Elvis. I don’t dislike him, but I do no think he had the best voice ever, or feel particularly moved by most of his music. But he could still sing, and is of course a favorite to many. Brad Pitt is a favorite actor to many. I can’t stand most of his work. At the same time, I meet quite a few people who dislike Rod Stewart and John Denver, and both are favorites of mine.
You feel like nobody pays attention to your art work.
We have all been there. You write a poem, you post it on your art website, the one that normally gets 30 hits per day….and only 5 people log on the day the poem is released. You get up on a stage to perform, and look out over a sea of faces buried in their phones.
Don’t lose heart. You could have posted that poem on a day people stayed away from reading websites because there was a huge news story, or a local event, or even construction that prevented people from taking the extra time on their lunch hour that they usually devoted to reading your site. Maybe people aren’t stopping to enjoy your performance because you’re at an event where the layout is odd, such as a stage off to the side of a lot of activity booths at a fair, or maybe you’re performing at a bar and people are just drunk and there to hook up and they’re being flat out rude. None of this has anything to do with your art.
Keep going. Keep making your art. Try new forms of art, or new paths within your art form. Give teaching or hosting a podcast a try. Never give up what you were meant to do.