Keep taking small steps

September 6, 2008

I think one of the things we need to find a solution for is how peoples’ talents are getting wasted.  The society is structured in such a way that only certain channels are honored and rewarded. If you are outside that standard route, it is nearly impossible to connect your abilities to making a living. I see this, most tragically, among creatives. 

I have a  good artist friend who does art with children in such a way that while they are enjoying playing and experimenting, they are receiving deep therapeutic benefits.  She is over 50 and has found her calling, but she is technically unemployed and required by the Dutch government to regularly apply for jobs that she has no affinity for.  In one of her interviews, the young airhead in charge of her reintegration into the work force had heard that M had a degree in textile artforms. She had found a job ‘related to textiles’. Working in a dry cleaners! 

The people responsible for M’s brief keep trying to fit her into a standard job. When M declines or it doesn’t work out, M is made to feel unmotivated and incompetent. But what M needs most is support to start her own practice in helping kids with learning and behaviour problems through the visual arts.

I’ve met so many passionate and talented people who don’t fit into the old ways, who are pioneering in their fields, and for whom there is as yet no place in society  for their gifts.

This goes out to you, the builders of the new;  please don’t lose hope. There are more of us than you can imagine, all working quietly to create healing arts, fair jobs, honest businesses, authentic working lives, responsible energy sources, new ways of educating, innovative ways of building, friendly cities, amazing cross disciplinary collaborations, and more. 

Maybe a period of isolation is needed to strengthen your convictions, then when ready you will start to meet other like-minded people. Keep on your path, step by small step. Don’t try to take on the old systems head on, just go around or dig under those walls. Like Randy Pausch says, those brick walls are there to keep all the other people out!

I’ve been doing this for about 20 years now, and small results show,  more every year. You just keep nibbling away, and finally you’ve opened a way for not only yourself, but for others as well.

12 Responses to “Keep taking small steps”

  1. madsilence Says:

    Ha! A job ‘related to textiles’ working in a dry cleaners. That would make a great joke if not so soberingly familiar. Blessed are those who find their calling and can live by it.

  2. szoutewelle Says:

    Amen, MadSilence.
    Once, in a similar situation here, I told an employment agency that I wanted to work with the elderly in a creative context, since I had graduated University with a BFA.
    I was offered the opportunity to become a cleaning woman for elderly people.

    In a way it was a blessing, since it once and for all got the message home what I was up against here, and I got myself into a career change.
    I won’t say that I lived happily ever after, but getting my coaching certificate was a turning point. It did a lot for my self esteem and my ability to offer workshops to professionals here.

  3. m Says:

    oh sarah did you do the coaching with Eric Maisel like Helen-Anne?

    I’m not so entirely convinced that ones income needs to be earned from creativity in order to be a properly creative person.

    Currently I’m working for a film festial and also do phone surveys for a polling company part time while I do my photography. And actually having a place I must be certain part of the week I think is good for me in actually structuring my time and giving me the money to pratice my art.

  4. szoutewelle Says:

    hi m,
    nice to hear from a fellow awgrad.
    No I didn’t do the coaching with Eric Maisel.

    I agree with you that earning one’s income from one’s art has nothing to do with being a creative person or not. But in this world many people do the dance quite well and do what they love whilst earning from it. Why not me, or my friend?

    What you describe is great, it works for you. I think I am past the point where I could fit into the standard work force. But I, too welcome the structure and income when, for example,commissioned work comes my way: it gets me out and demands results in a given time frame.
    Your life sounds like it is in a good balance at the moment.

  5. m Says:

    it is – sorry I always type my comments on the fly and then notice terrible spolling mistakes….

    There is a vast amount more I could say on the subject. Like yes why did I end up working in TV and getting paid to make programmes? One of the reasons why I didn’t was that I really don’t have the ruthless streak needed to break into the field and keep on top. And no desire to make the hideous programmes which populate TV nowadays anyway. There is part of me which is beoming more like what Carol Lloyd calls the Monoculed Monk who wants to create for its sake only and to hell with ‘monetizing’ which is why I like my jobs beacuse they get me into the world and I dont’ have to angst becuase my pictures are very uncommercial and nobody would buy them. It was Carol Lloyd’s book ‘Creating a life worth living’ which has made me think more about the whole importance of day jobs and not to dismiss the need for a decent life while being creative.

    Ok will stop rambling I’m hoping to go for a walk on the beach this evening.

  6. m Says:

    oh **9! why did I NOT end up working in TV.. of course

  7. szoutewelle Says:

    I like your thoughts on this.
    The Lloyd’s book sounds worthwhile. HTe word ‘monetizing’says so much.

    I’ve finished working through Vein of Gold (Cameron), and must admit there was not much new. Maybe it really isn’t aimed at sesasoned artists. I could use a book for those. (Art& Fear was quite good.
    Maybe I need to write one. About how, once you’ve mastered your skill, to deal with the moeny and marketing quesiton. About what avenues are opening up beyond the galleries and museums, about art as a transformative force and what our responsibility is as guardians of that energy in our society. About the deeper meaning of art in general.

    ps. And of course, yay for day jobs!

  8. szoutewelle Says:

    M, excuse my deplorable typos! talk about your ‘spolling!’ Look at myne!

  9. m Says:

    If you haven’t looked at Carol’s book it might be worth looking at it. Not really about the marketing and money questions but more about making a life which allows your art to develop and take it seriously. Oh now there is a woman who has been recommend to me who has written a book something like ‘I’d rather be in the studio painting’ that is about promotion and marketing for artists. Rhiannon from AWgrads bought the book and thought it quite good she could give you some feedback on it.

  10. helen-anne Says:

    Great thoughts on being creative, doing one’s own work, contributing to society and earning a living, sarah.

  11. szoutewelle Says:

    hi helen-anne,
    long time no see, nice to hear from you. thanks for dropping by and for your kind words.

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