Embracing Destiny: How I became an Artist

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same

–Stephen Schwartz, “Defying Gravity”

Yesterday, I wrote how, by embarking on a self-publishing venture, I had started a business. As a result of that revelation, I am now approaching my writing career with a very business-like approach.

But there is something else. When I was laid off last August, I was very much a working professional. My professional goals were oriented towards advancing my employer’s brand and increasing my standard of living. I wanted to be an author, but I was very much in the hobbyist mode I described in yesterday’s blog. I was writing a novel, and I hoped to publish it, but it wasn’t my primary goal.

When I was laid off, I was focused at first on trying to find a new job. I was given two months’ notice by my employer (which was really generous of them), and I spent that time and the two months following my release doing almost nothing but looking for work.

As those initial days of unemployment turned into weeks and then months, though, there were only so many hours I could spend scouring job sites looking for opportunities. I needed something else to fill up my time, and that’s when I did the research and decided to attempt to self-publish my novel.

I began splitting my time between looking for work and working on my new business. That’s when something started to happen inside me. It was small at first; I didn’t notice it. But as my unemployment dragged on, I started becoming a different person.

I began a metamorphosis from Business Professional to Artist.

I kept looking for a new job. I didn’t stop searching the want ads and the job sites and sending in applications and occasionally getting an interview. But somewhere along the way I stopped thinking of myself as a business communication guy and started considering myself an artist.

I think this transition was helped in part by the work I could find. Career positions stubbornly refused to become available, but there were odd jobs in the arts. I taught youth theater at two different places around town. When you are helping young people develop their acting skills, you have to think like an actor.

I also volunteered at The Boy’s school, helping fifth-graders edit their persuasive essays. So I had to think like a writer.

Now, it’s been almost nine months since I got laid off, and my brain has changed. I still look for work, but I am thinking of myself as an artist. I am embracing who I want to be.

As I reflect on this change, I realize that I have spent most of my adult life fighting it. I’ve spent so much time trying to handle the business side of my career I’ve forgotten that I’ve wanted to be an artist since I was about eight years old. I keep putting off doing what I love for some commercial reason. But being unemployed and being unable to find work ironically enabled me to embrace what should have been my destiny all along.

Even that required some growth and change. I had the time to self-publish, the time to build a platform, the time to work on my authorial career. But it wasn’t until I’d spent months doing it that the real shift to dedicated artist happened in my mind. It was like I had to do it before I could really do it.

I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen next. If I get lucky and things work out the way I want, my novels will sell well enough for me to earn my living that way. If not, I’m sure the economy will eventually improve to the point where I can get another job as a business writer.

But whatever happens, I’m not going to forget that I’m an artist. The goal — long-term and short- — will always be to make art. I’m through with denying who I am. I’m done with putting off what I want to do with my life.

I am an artist. I write novels, and I teach theater to kids. I express myself creatively. That is my destiny, and it’s time to embrace it.

Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!

–Stephan Schwartz, “Defying Gravity”

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