If you want to do whatever you want to do, be it writing or painting or singing or whatevering, the only thing you must do is that thing. Do it. Doooooooo it. I know you don’t want to do it unless you know it’s perfect or it’s good or if someone is going to pay you to do it. However, I can promise you that all of those things will bury you if you first do not do the thing without waiting for permission to do whatever you want to do.
1) You will never be perfect at your thing, so give up on that. 2) Practice makes you better. Natural talent helps, but practice is what does the work, gets the jobs, makes the money, gives you a body of work. 3) Getting paid to do something you love brings a whole host of monsters to your work. It’s a new kind of pressure. It’s a rare kind of frustration and confusion that breeds from commodifying your art. You will want to believe in yourself and your work and be able to show up consistently to it before you start being financially dependent on it. If you cannot consistently do your art and if you fight the part of you that wants to create, I can promise you that money will do anything but help your consistency. It will bring you a completely different kind of fight. When your art becomes a commercial commodity, you will drown without identifying your intrinsic desire(s) to create. If money is the ultimate goal of your art, good luck. You will suffer.
Money does not legitimize your art. Maybe this is what society says, but that is not how the artistic cookie crumbles. In our world, making money from your art is perceived as the ultimate achievement. And, while making money from your art has its incredible moments and it does make you feel like you’re doing at least a couple things right, it also makes you question your value if you do not already have a foundation of self-worth. When your art is your dream, you let yourself create in a more liberal, free manner than when your livelihood depends on it. And, if you do not inherently and steadily believe in your worth and artistic value, adding money into the equation will only make your worthiness issues spotlighted. It will not be fun. It will feel like you are scaling a mountain.
This is why when anyone asks me, for example, how they can “become a writer,” I tell them quite dryly: WRITE. (Replace “writer” with any manner of artistic endeavor.) The only thing to do is…
If you do the thing consistently, chances are, you will land some sort of financial compensation for it. You could not believe how difficult it is to find people who consistently create. Do you think consistency is important enough yet? Have I used the word “consistent” enough for it to be pounding away in your head now? Consistency. Consistency. Consistency.
Here’s another fun thing that will happen when you work consistently at your art: you will find out whether or not you actually want to be paid for it. You will also find out whether or not you actually like the creative process you think you like. Every artist romanticizes the process of creation. This is a fact. I believe it’s a self-preservation process, because if you actually thought about the creation process as it really is, you’d probably not do anything at all. It’s work. It’s hard, vulnerable work to create art which connects with others in a real and authentic way. You can create bullshit art which gives the impression of connection, but you’ll know it isn’t real and that will eat at you. But, when it’s real and it’s honest and you have to extract it from yourself like you’re doing some weird/intense metaphysical open heart surgery, it’s not easy. And it shouldn’t be. If you want to connect to people with your art, you should lay your blood on it. Don’t leave anything left unsaid or unpainted or unsung or unwhatevered.
So, if you create consistently and you show up to your work like a professional even when you’re not technically a professional and when you take yourself and your art very, very, very seriously, then you should pursue financial sustenance. That will be the moment when you will not drown by getting paid to do your art. You might still drown a little, but it won’t be as bad as it could have been. It won’t be as bad as if you had commodified your art when you weren’t even sure if you liked the process or could create consistently or if you even believed in your artistic worth enough to be paid for it. That’s when it gets sticky. When you’re unsteady and unsure and then you have to pay your rent with your unsteady and unsure art, the whole creation process freezes up. Money will not make you believe in yourself. Money will not legitimize or validate your artistic ability. Only you can do that for yourself. Money is a byproduct of that. Money is a symptom.
If you want to do the thing, do the thing. Every day. Show up to it. Show up to yourself. Legitimize yourself. Validate yourself. Give yourself the worth you assume money or a job or anyone or anything else should be giving you. It will all be meaningless if you do not believe first. You have to be the first fan of you. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Good luck. Create beautiful, vulnerable art. There’s never enough of it.