The Working Artist

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievements, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly …” ~ Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic.”

I have a confession to make and it’s probably not very surprising. I’ve pursued life as a theatre artist, and writer hoping for my big break so I wouldn’t have to split my focus and do some other job on the side just to pay the bills. In fact I’ve been irritated that I’ve had to work at conventional jobs to keep afloat financially. On the other hand, I’ve felt guilty that I wasn’t making much money while I stuck stubbornly to my creative endeavors. My focus has been fractured and I haven’t done a good job of financial planning for the future or promoting my work because of it.

Over the weekend I read an article on Mashable, about a nasty post on social media about actor Geoffrey Owens that made me feel a whole lot better. Owens was one of the children on The Cosby Show. He’s still a working actor, which means there are times when he’s between guest appearances. Last week someone snapped a photo of him bagging groceries in a New Jersey Trader Joe’s. They posted the photo which engendered some pretty nasty comments and even news stories criticizing Owens. However, he got lots of support from fellow actors who Tweeted the various jobs they’ve done to make ends meet between acting gigs. My favorite Tweet was from Patricia Heaton, “Again, why is this news? When I worked on “Thirtysomething” I was also summarizing depositions to pay my rent. Why are you trying to humiliate this honorable hardworking actor? Shame on you! #geoffreyowens – many great blessings are coming your way!”

I once read that George Clooney slept on his Aunt Rosemary’s couch for several months, a year, or longer while he was getting started as an actor, Jim Carrey lived in his car, and Mastin Kipp lived in a friend’s 10 x 10 shed until his blog began to get a huge following.

As the quote above says, if you’re not in the arena, you don’t get to criticize someone else’s choices.

The news story about Geoffrey Owens, and a meme I saw on Facebook not long ago, helped ease my feelings about my struggles to be an artist. The meme pointed out the imbalance in most people’s thinking about the work artists do as compared to more mundane types of jobs that can bring in more money. I wish I’d saved it, but it went something like this: “You resent how much that piece of artwork/book/movie/video game costs, thinking that the artist’s time isn’t valuable. They could make lots more money if they had a “real” job. But try to go without any kind of art for a month, or even a week. That would mean, no radio, TV, music, books, magazines, artwork on your walls, video games, no movies, theatre, or museums. And then come back and tell me art isn’t important.” I would also contend that without artists we wouldn’t have houses or other buildings. There would be no cars, airplanes, computers and all the other machines we use in everyday life that we take so much for granted. All those things have to be “designed” by someone.

The story about Geoffrey Owens, and this meme stirred up deep feelings about the choices I’ve made. Something inside me just couldn’t spend years sitting at a desk, or all my time preparing lesson plans and grading papers. A different kind of life called to me. I haven’t always heard it’s voice very clearly, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that what I’m doing is right for me and no matter what, I’m going to keep my main focus on my art, and work on the side if need be.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much.

P.S. How do you like the new icon my husband designed for this site?

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

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