As all prudent artists and authors tend to do, I spent time creating my website and ran it by people I knew would be honest with me about content, layout, design, message, etc. I saved my most trusted critic, Cristina, for last.
After considerable review, I took a depth breath and hit send on the text message with a link to my unborn site. I really should not have been so nervous, but context matters!
Cristina had been a student of mine. In the classroom, I appreciated her quick, insightful thinking. We kept in touch through her college years and became close friends. I dare to hope she would agree that we challenge each other to grow. I deeply respect her as an artist, designer, and author.
She quickly gave me feedback on pictures loading slowly (file size), asked me how I felt about the site, and we started talking about adding a blog. Then she sidelined me asking, "Are you focused on next steps? Is this a side project or THE project?"
This is starting to be a question I get asked alot. So what's next for you? My students, alumni, family, friends, and coworkers know I love my job and the people there, but there are alot of days when I'm just going through the motions.
My father laughing and telling me, "don't quit your day job," when I asked if he liked my road trip singing resonated in my head and I rattled off my reaction to her question.
"I wish, but I don't think so. That's too much pressure to produce and to sell. I like my work and I want it seen even if just by family and friends. I think this is like my dad's car restoration. It makes me happy. I do it when I can and I have something to express. Sure, it costs money, but I'm not going to starve for it."
I did not realize how deeply I meant that statement as I was writing it, but having a few days to reflect on it, I truly mean it. And I think other aspiring artists should reflect on it too.
Art can be an expression of many important things: identity, emotion, political opinion, spirituality, cultural heritage, society, the list goes on. However, it should not become the job you have to set an alarm in the morning and force yourself to go do. Yes, I know there are Michelangelo's in the world who do it that prolifically and make enough money doing it to survive. But that is not the typical artist's experience and trying to sustain that level of work is foolishness guaranteed to ruin the joy you have found in your talent.
So to the budding artists of the world, when your Cristina asks you what your next steps are, perhaps you should first consider:
Don't Quit Your Day Job.
Attending Cristina's graduation from FGCU in May 2013 (before she had a day job).