While I was at FloydFest, a beloved music gathering in rural Southwestern Virginia this past weekend, I ran into one of my good friends. She’s an incredible photographer, someone who has been deeply part of our scene for years. Her work is top tier, so is her intent, too.
And she had this kind of troubled look on her face backstage. I asked what was up. She goes, “I wonder sometimes, what’s the point in all of this? There are so many photographers in the pit these days, why even try?” I was a little taken back, but I knew where she was coming from.
We all put so much time and effort into our work, regardless of artistic medium, and often-times it feels like it falls on deaf ears or the reward is simply, well, peanuts. It is, truly, a labor love and sincere passion.
You don’t get into these artistic gigs and career paths for any sort of real monetary gain, at least initially — the hope early on (and throughout your existence) is being able to create freely and also be able to keep the lights on.
The photographer’s sentiments were in a similar tone to conversations I’ve had — in passing or over a cup of coffee or beer — with musicians, painters, chefs, potters, brewers, other writers, and so forth: if you believe you have something to say through your work, keep at it, keep going. Dig deeper within you and around you to find what really, and honestly, resides within your creative spirit.
Stability, whether creatively or financially, may always seem elusive and “just ‘round the corner.” But, you know, it really is, at least depending on what your idea of “success” is.
And I find many talented and promising bands I’ve known and cherished over the years just simply walked away right when the going got tough, perhaps a pivotal crossroads where they were so close to getting to wherever it is they ultimately wanted to go, and yet merely stepped aside for fear of the unknown.
Truth-be-told? There will always (always) be another level you’re trying to get to once one sealed shut door is finally unlocked for you. Stop worrying about “what’s next” and immerse yourself in the here and now. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to “get there” or somewhere, anywhere in this industry, in these mediums.
Just keep creating, keep chipping away at your hopes and dreams: each and every single damn day. If you’re artist, you’re an artist for life (a “lifer,” as country legend Marty Stuart once told me in conversation). So, don’t look at your craft as some endeavor with an end goal in mind.
The goal is still being able to tap into your creative self and let the juices of your heart and soul pour out into your art until the end of your days: the true and tangible dream to pursue with a reckless abandon.
Heck, we can all get on top of ourselves sometimes, the ole “what does it all mean?” rearing its ugly head through one’s thoughts. But, when that happens, I ask myself one question: what would your 10-years-ago self say and think about where you are today? That query alone tends to silence my doubts and insecurities.
I’d have given anything to be where I am today back in those early days of trying to find a footing in a writing career. And my old self, fresh out of college, would be pissed to hear my thoughts about not being satisfied with whatever level I’m at now in my writing career (don’t confuse ambition with obsession, for ambition is a key ingredient in life).
“This is what weve always wanted and dreamed of,” my old self would say, shaking me back into the reality of being immersed in my dreams in real time.
Sometimes life is like swimming in an ocean, you dive deep and think you’re still in the same spot. But, when you resurface, you realize you’re a lot further and farther away from that spot than you even realized, the currents of time and space (and hard work) shifting you forward.
Thus, stop chasing the next level, for there’s always another level after that. Just make sure the work is good, and of genuine quality. Your reputation is attached to everything you put out into this world. Be thankful and grateful for every opportunity that comes your way to do what you love.
Most importantly? Find balance, in your personal and professional life, for that’s the foundation to not only your sanity, but also your self-worth and true value in this wild, wondrous universe.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1 The Melody Trucks Band will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, at Lazy Hiker Brewing in Franklin.
2 The Concerts on the Creek summer music series continues with Andrew Scotchie & The River Rats (rock/blues) at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, at Bridge Park in Sylva.
3 A production of “A Facility for Living” will hit the stage at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2-3, 9-10, 15-17 and at 2 p.m. Aug. 4, 11 and 18 at the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville.
4 Nantahala Brewing (Sylva) will host Arnold Hill (Americana) at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2.
5 Boojum Brewing Company (Waynesville) will host In Flight (world/jazz) at 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3.