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Selling Out

Updated on July 12, 2015

The Line in the Sand.

It's not easy pursuing a creative career.
There isn't really a blueprint for making it as an artist.
If you're an actor, people say you should go to the big city!
Be it New York or Hollywood, if you go where the action is, you might just get caught up in it!
But then again, people say you should go to the big city.
That means eeeeeveryone is already there!
You could be the best actor in the history of your small town, but in those huge cities, you're just another small fish in a surprisingly crowded ocean. An ocean teeming with sharks looking to eat you up when you're at your most vulnerable.
Another course of action is by taking courses!
Go to school!
...Expensive school.
School you're going to have to bust your ass to afford.
But it does work.
That's how Bradley Cooper got his start, and he makes out with Jennifer Lawrence in bunch of movies!
But there are so many people trying to make it as an actor. Because once you hit the big time, you're on the cover of magazines, you're hanging out with millionaires, you ARE a millionaire.
You never have to work again!
So you work hard.
You decide what kind of actor you're going to be and you own it.
You become that character, you become that gimmick, you work that Soap Opera job, you sell that Campbells Chicken Noodle Soup, you do whatever it takes to be seen.

Being a musician might be even tougher.
Because people will still give you that "Bright Lights, Bright Future" speech that actors get so inspired by, but you don't really have the school option.
And also, you don't get to audition for crappy versions of "Fiddler on the Roof".
You have to come up with your own product. You have to make your music, or your performance special to you in a way that will make people want to give you money.
And that's just to get the door open!
You don't just get to play rock star/DJ/rapper, you've gotta become a business man/woman too!
You've gotta market your sound, market your brand, make connections, whore yourself out on social media.
You have to break your back to make a noise that people want to hear, and then you have to make that noise so loud that everyone hears it.

What about artists and authors?
It's 2015.
The internet exists.
The world is the smallest it has ever been, and yet, as a generation, we have the quietest voice.
It is so easy for everyone to share their work or speak their voice, that actually getting heard isn't easy!
It's like this.
Two armies line up across a river from each other with loaded guns.
You pick a gun at random, and select a bullet. Then you walk across the river and select another gun with another bullet.
Trying to get noticed on the internet is like hoping that the bullet you selected crashes into the other bullet you selected.
You could be an amazing painter, but how do you get work across?
You could be the next Stephen King, but how do you get anyone to read your work?
It doesn't matter where you live, nobody is paying money to hear a guy read his own book or to look at some stranger's painting.
Not when J.K. Rowling is doing a book signing across town and there are rumors of Banksy about.

How do you chase these dreams?
Well as anyone with creative career ambitions knows by now, it's not going to pay for itself early.
There are going to be months and even years when you're slaving away at Starbucks or 7-11 or Walgreens, trying to fund what others label a "hobby" or even a "habit".
There are going to be months and even years when the people who are closest to you mock you or try to cut your dreams down. Some do it because they don't want to see you throw your life away, others do it because they don't think you're good enough, and some even do it because they feel threatened.
So you burn the candle at both ends, you do the crap job to make ends meet, or pay for classes, or to get you to the next gig, and you have to remind yourself day in and day out why you do what you do.

And then, if you're lucky, there comes a time when something breaks, and you start realizing your dream.
You get a gig working off Broadway.
Your band gets to headline a show in the city.
Your prized painting wins a ribbon.
Your blog gets sponsored by a mega-corporation.
You get your big break.

And it's great... For a while.
But just as it is every time money gets involved, life gets complicated.
Lawyers and contracts start showing up, you start seeing cuts of your money disappear for reasons you don't understand, and suddenly the thing you did because you loved it becomes something you do because of meaningless green paper.
It becomes something you have to do as opposed to something you have to do.
People start asking.
"Can you get me an audition"
"Can you do this song for me?"
"Paint a portrait of my daughter"
"Write me a story"
And soon you find yourself in a situation where you have to choose between making money and going back to your habit as a hobby.
Soon the thing you loved is plastic and fake and a shadow of what you created.
Do you work through these times? Do you take the bad with the good so you can eventually reach the point that you can get rid of the corporate "blah blah blah" and Agent "All That Jazz" and comfortably live your life doing what you love?
Or do you say "to hell with this" and go back to making little to no cash doing what you love the way you want it?
Where do you draw the line?

Being creative is a gift.
But it is also a terrible, terrible curse.
Creative people can find success in a structured, soulless work environment, but they'll never feel fulfilled. Especially when they really feel like they're onto something.
When there's a song in your heart that you think people want to hear.
When you fee like you can make people feel things with your acting.
When there's a masterpiece tumbling around your chest and you just wanna vomit it all over the canvas.
You don't do what makes you creative because it's a hobby you enjoy.
You do what makes you creative because you have to.
Because it defines you, and because without an audience to play to or a reader at home, you feel like less. You feel empty. You feel like you have this great gift and it's rotting inside you.
I hope other creative types read this and can understand what I'm saying.
I hope someone else out there knows the struggle of having a gift to give to the world and struggling to just give it.
And I hope that someone else out there is doing things they hate, going through some kind of misery just to keep their dream alive, so that they know they're not alone.
Hell, I know i'd like that.

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