Sometimes walking this creative path feels like hiking up a mountain: it’s steep and exhausting, but I can see the top – however distant – and I know I’ll find a way to reach it because it’s worth the blisters and aches. Other times, it feels like I’m scrabbling at the base of a sheer, insurmountable cliff. If I were to look at when I get the latter feeling, it’s usually the days when my goals fall through or just aren’t there or when I hit another roadblock. I don’t have a “path” in the way many other careers do, especially with the state the music industry is currently in.
This gives me a lot of freedom to make my own plans. To a certain extent, I get to cut my own path and decide what the road I pave will look like. But at the same time, I’m battling the bloated, old structures that are still grasping on to life in an economy and technological age that will never support them the way they’re accustomed to. That’s a whole blog in itself, but what it really boils down to is that sometimes it feels like there isn’t truly a place for creative people in our world today.
Don’t get me wrong; we wedge ourselves into the chinks and cracks in society and many of us find a way to live. Some of us transmute our passions into hobbies or part-time affairs because they never quite sustain us. Some of us live on less or paycheck to paycheck in order to get the emotional and spiritual fulfillment we’re seeking.
I’m still trying to figure out how to make my passion my livelihood and decide how much of that livelihood it should be. Ever since I was a child, I have had the urge to create things – beautiful, good things that bring something wonderful into the world around me. It’s what drives me to sing, to play instruments, to draw and knit and cook and write these blogs. It’s the same urge that feeds my desire to be a parent one day. I want to create concentrated reflections of love in my lifetime that can echo down through time to someone else who needs them, the same way other artists who came before me blessed me with their creations – some of which probably saved my life.
I’m not driven by stardom or fortune; I’d like to be able to raise a family one day without worrying how I’m going to feed it, but that’s all I really ask. I’m not concerned with being famous or having people identify me on the street; I’m terribly introverted and talking to people is usually the most exciting (and mildly terrifying) part of day. What I want is to be able to pay forward the gifts I have been blessed with – both my creativity and the impact that the creativity of others has had on my life – without starving on a street corner.
Maybe I have a bit of a flower-child mentality. Perhaps the world just doesn’t operate on words like “love” and “beauty” and “goodness.” We live in a society that runs on words like “profit” and “sales” and “marketability.” I recognize that my set of words doesn’t fit so neatly with our cultural vocabulary, and this means that I will have to work way harder than your average bear to survive on my little piece of poetry. But I’m determined to find a way.
When I get caught up in the numbers and focusing on forcing my art to make money, my art suffers. But when I just make my music (or knitting or writing) because that’s what I was put on this earth to do, it seems to affect people. On those days where I’m climbing a mountain rather than just kicking a brick wall, I can visualize where I want my career to be in 10 years as clearly as if it were happening. It’s almost like a vision. I can see myself on stage, playing music that I wrote to be powerful and emotionally impactful – not marketable – to a crowd of people who are moved by what I create, not how I look or how short my shorts are.
I think this dream might be where the music industry is headed as a whole. Maybe it’s a ways off or maybe it’s only the rosiest possible outcome, but I’d like to think that it’s at least where my little slice of the pie is headed. I have to believe that that vision is the top of the mountain, and that I will find a way to reach it. I firmly believe that I can build a career off of good music rather than good looks, a career founded on truly touching people rather than writing the next scientifically-proven-to-get-stuck-in-your-head flash-in-the-pan.
I just have to keep climbing that mountain.