One of the main reasons I moved to New Mexico was to try and focus on my writing. For ten years I lived in the hustle bustle of Chicago, a city where I did pretty much everything other than write. I needed some peace and quiet, and some time to think.
I moved to the East Mountains in 2010, found a little house at the end of some gravel road, and promised myself I would be a writer from now on. I was in a new place with no friends, no social life, and no job. I was in the middle of the mountains, with nothing but stars and coyotes. There were no bars, no pro sports teams, midnight movie screenings. Hell, I couldn’t even get Internet. And guess what? It worked. I wrote a 40-page zine my first week there. I began doing a monthly newsletter and mailing it to my friends and family. I was writing five or six hours a day. It took me about three months to write my first novel. That’s also approximately how long it took me to run out of money.
In Chicago I had a good job, with health insurance. A great job, actually, working at Uncle Fun, a local novelty shop, the very type of place that draws in and caters to the creative souls of the world. But as great as it was, it wasn’t my dream. My dream was to be a writer.
It’s always hard to find that balance. I feel this is an article that has been written a million times, but is still relevant. How does an artist pursue their dream while also paying rent? For me the answer lies within these three concepts: discipline, routine, and passion.
Discipline: Not an easy thing for most artists. The whole “free spirit” thing allows us to justify our hedonism. “I’ll do what I want, when I want!” That’s all fine, nothing wrong with that. And some people create wonderful things with this mentality. For most of us we have to sit down and work at it. Give yourself some goals, small ones, and achieve them. “Today I will finish the layout on my new zine.” “Today I will re-read the first ten chapters of my new novel.” “I will do a three panel comic every day this week.” Everyone gets ideas, but it takes hard work to turn an idea into something that other people will enjoy. The more often you achieve these little goals, the more it will simply become the way you work. Which brings us to…
Routine: Figure out what works for you. Every great artist, writer, musician, etc has had their own way of doing things. Bukowski was famous for staying up late, drinking and smoking as wrote stories about drinking and smoking. Some people write from the middle of a crowded coffee shop. I’ve found that the first few hours of the day is when I’m at my best, before the world has had a chance to insert thoughts into my brain. For me a good day is one in which I’ve spent at least an hour or two writing before anything else is accomplished. Try different things until you find what works for you, then try and do it that way every day, or at least every week. It may feel forced initially, but will feel normal quickly. Get a routine, get a rhythm, and it will start to feel fun.
Passion: Do what you love, and love what you do. Don’t wait until your day off to work on a project, because that’s like saying you are only an artist 2 or 3 days a week. Be an artist full-time. Work your day job to pay the rent, but live your life when not at work. The passion should be there already, so fan the flame. Lots of people watch TV or do nothing. But if you have passion for what you do, you will find time to do it. Let those around you know that your art has to take priority some times, they’ll understand and respect you. Never apologize for the art you make, and never apologize for the time it takes to make it. Pour yourself into it, and enjoy yourself! Feel it, and feed it, and remember that your passion for your art is what will make people love what you do. Happy creating!