He is a true craftsman. He smoothes clay into bowls and sinks and cups. He hollows out the mud and fires them in a kiln. He paints and glazes and creates beauty.
As a potter, my friend has some beautiful work. I don’t know pottery. I don’t know all that goes into the craft. I don’t what it’s like to spin a bowl, only to have it come it misshapen. I don’t know what it’s like to burn my fingers or see a crack after a cup has cooled. But I do know beauty and I can appreciate what he does.
William was a potter by night. During the day he worked at a small operation that made dentures. That’s right. Someone has to craft Grandma’s chompers and my friend might have been the one to do it. He would use his artistry to create teeth, making them realistic so people could chew, and eat, and smile again. It was righteous work and he was compensated for his skills.
At night he would fire up the kiln and spin the lathe. He would dab paints on hardened clay. On the weekends he would sell his goods at craft fairs and community gatherings. Groups of old women would gasp to each other at the bright colors and unique designs. Wives would tug at their husbands sleeves to slow down. He sold enough to support his hobby and he had great joy.
How to grow to despise your art
But someone planted the idea in his head that should quit his job making teeth and pursue pottery as a full-time job. He could pursue his dream.
He finally did it and made the plunge. William borrowed money against his credit cards, bought a bigger kiln, a trailer to haul more of his work to shows, and paid entry fees to more prestigious shows.
He worked hard, putting in 70 hour weeks, enlisting his wife to help, and pushing every creative envelope. But the credit card bills came calling. The orders were there, but they didn’t quite pay for everything. He had to sell his car. Then move to a smaller home. The burden of paying the bills became paramount.
His great love for pottery became a burdensome beast. Instead of pursuing his art for the love of it, he had to produce. William confessed to me that the joy he once felt from creation suddenly felt like a job, because the love was replaced with need. He grew to despise his gift.
I come into contact with a great many artists – lovers of words, of dance, of painting, of theater, of music. Many of them are trying to find a way to convert their passion into their vocation. I don’t begrudge my friends who are making a go of it full-time. I applaud those who can make it happen.
Unfortunately, in this economy, it seems external market forces often trump true artist expression. So artists start bending their message to make it appealing. The passion gives way to the need to make money.
Confusious said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I say, “balderdash.” Sometimes, you have to work to pay the bills. That’s the way life is. No one ever said artists or creatives should be compensated for their work. We do it for love and if money comes our way, then that’s just an added blessing.
There is some creativity in all of us – from the accountant to the executive, from the day care provider to the customer service rep. Many of us have dreams of chucking the 9-5 and doing what we love full-time. But I have this message I so desperately want to give you. Don’t quit your day job.
If you want to keep your art passionate, and pure, and lovely, and innocent, keep it your hobby. If you are paid for your efforts, then praise be to God and use that money for something that brings you joy and the world some good.
To keep your passion, give it away
Write until midnight, working on your novel. Offer to help write letters for those who are looking for jobs. Strum your guitar on the couch. Offer to play at a friend’s wedding. Sing at church for worship. Paint on the weekends and you’ll have the best presents you can ever give. Try out for Community Theater and make others laugh. Give your gifts away because God gave them to you.
Just whatever you do, unless you are so gifted and so good that money just finds you, don’t quit your day job. Because if you do, you will despise the gift because it is no longer free.
Do you have a gift and aren’t compensated for it? Will you be happy the rest of your life if no one ever pays you a nickle for it? What do you think?