There’s a line in Dire Straits’ famous song “Sultans of Swing” that I really like. If you don’t know the song or haven’t listened to the lyrics, you can watch the video below:
The song is about a band of musicians who play on the weekends in a less-frequented venue in London. The lyrics suggest that the musicians are all very dedicated and skilled, even though they are not fully appreciated for it: There is mention of low attendance at the venue and that some of the patrons don’t even like The Sultans’ style of music. No, this is not a post about people not appreciating an artist’s hard work :D. I am actually bringing up this song because of the line below. It describes one of the band’s members who is not a full-time musician:
“And Harry doesn’t mind, if he doesn’t, make the scene / He’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright”from “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits
I love this. It comes up a lot when I think about art and people who are artists. I made a decision early in my life that I wouldn’t be a professional artist. Even though I have always enjoyed drawing, I was averse to the idea of being a “starving artist”. Instead, I decided that I would get a career that would pay the bills and give me the cash flow I wanted. If I had any energy left after my work – if my art was worth doing – I would do it then.
The thing about art, in all its forms, is that there really is a lot of luck involved. Just because you love your art doesn’t mean that other will. Trying to get people to notice your art can be emotionally harrowing enough; tying one’s living to the same prospect only raises the stakes. It is because of this that I really admire people who have the courage to go through with it and work their craft full-time with no supplemental income. Cheers to those folks!
But this post is more about those who have a trade other than their art. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most artists fall into this category. These are people who have dreams that they don’t pursue full-time because they are too economically risky. Being one of these people, I work my day job diligently and then hope that at the end of the day there’s some willpower left to write or draw.
It can be quite difficult to work at a job if your mind is on your art. I can speak for myself in that, since I have started working on Free Drove in earnest, the project has occupied more and more of my mind. Back when I was just kicking the idea around, coming up with the story, or fantasizing about what it would be like to post my work online, it was easy to compartmentalize it and stow it away while I was at work. But now with the blog up-and-running, and the need for actual concrete plans and preparations, it takes on a life of its own.
The idea that my project, or at least my posts about my project, are out there for others to see, naturally raises the hopes that they will like it. The seduction of the dream that others might enjoy your work enough to make it a viable full-time occupation is very strong. But the likelihood of it happening is not very high for now. So, I must temper my dreams with realism and instead resolve to enjoy the trade for what it is right now: me sharing a creative journey with others.
Does Harry think about playing with the Sultans when he’s at work? There is an inherent comfort in knowing that he can fall back on his daytime job. He also doesn’t have to worry about the band’s success to pay his bills: He can simply save his creative energy for Friday night when he plays with them. But does he dream that one day the band would become popular? That the crowds would build up and their act catch on? That one day, all the attention would attract a denizen of the recording industry that would sweep them into lucrative and fulfilling fame? I bet he does.
So cheers to all you part-time artists, too!