The Risk of An Artist

When you think about a career as an artist– in any form, whether it be writing, painting, playing music, dancing, etc., what is the first thing you think of? ‘Instability’ is the first word that comes to my mind. Financial crises, sacrifice, poverty, imbalanced self-esteem, emotional waves, and other negative concepts closely follow. But what if doing one of these things is what truly makes you happy? Would you be willing to sacrifice your family’s security, or a better lifestyle, to do something that makes you happy? Every artist has to make that decision at some point– whether to just off the cliff into a pool of uncertainty, not knowing whether you’ll drown or stay afloat, or to stay on the edge of the cliff where it’s safe, warm, and dry.

A close friend of mine asked this question today: Why do artists typically have the short end of the stick? He pointed out that it’s not right that artists get the smallest percentage of their own sales. It’s not right that someone else can profit more from a product than the person who created it. It’s not right that the people who have made the sacrifices for their art still have to live with so much uncertainty, and it’s not fair. My friend had a good point: There is something wrong with this picture. Something is off.

To make a dollar in the business associated with almost any art form, selling yourself is a major aspect. You have to draw the line of how much your are willing to sacrifice your personality and Voice for the sake of someone else’s project. Sometimes, to make an album or painting that will sell means that you have to give up a part of what makes that piece unique to you– usually so that it will be applicable to a wider audience. If you don’t have a line somewhere of how far you’re willing to change to make your art sell, you could end up making art that you hate, and its saps the fun out of it. Then, you’re sacrificing even more to live an easy less happy lifestyle, creating art that you hate.

Many artists struggle with the rejection of not being able to sell themselves well. They only sold a few copies of their last album or book. They have stacks of paintings the no one wants to buy, and it’s depressing and heart-wrenching; you’ve made the decision to sacrifice a good job and steady lifestyle for being happy and creating art, and the risk ultimately failed. You made a gamble on yourself, and you lost.

My friend with whom I was discussing this topic also brought up a revelation that he had, that might bring a little scant light onto the subject. He had been asking about the music industry– he has been on the cusp of making the decision to jump in the pool or stand on the safe edge. Did he want to spend a life struggling to sell himself? Did he really want to face all the rejection, the defeat? Did he want to make the sacrifices necessary?

Then he said one thing that he heard in a prayer a few days previously. It was, “Who are you selling to? There is no one left to sell to, because I (God) have already purchased you.” In other words, God bought your product already. He owns it. He paid for it by His own blood, and He has already purchased you. He didn’t buy a version of you that’s changed to fit an applicable genre– as in, He didn’t just buy your cheesy Christian music albums that were designed to sell. He bought all those songs and paintings, drawings and journal entries that you won’t show to anyone. The ones that are full of hatred and anger. The ones full of betrayal and sadness. The ones that expose your doubt, and your biggest fears. God owns those.

You don’t have to worry about selling albums or paintings. You don’t have to worry about getting published or recorded. You don’t have to worry about fitting into a sellable genre.

When you decide to start a career as an artist, it’s a gamble in yourself. When you make that first step, it’s like saying, “I think my abilities are good enough to be sold on a professional level.” You can’t really do that with low self-esteem– it will fail because you won’t draw your lines, because you don’t feel your own Voice and personality is worth it. But when you decide to become a full-time artist, you are placing a bet on yourself, and the odds are against you.

But you don’t have to do that. When you said, “Jesus, come into my heart to stay,” the transaction was complete. He bought all of you, and you belong to Him. You’re not gambling on your own abilities, you’re gambling on God’s ability to take care of you– through thick and thin. If art is your calling, be assured that you will not fail. You’ve placed a gamble on God, and that is a guaranteed win.

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