Facing The Challenges of a Creative Mini-Retirement

Creativity as a Priority

About a year ago when I initially started to tell people about my plan to quit my job and focus full time on music, there was a variety of reactions.

I wonder if everyone agrees that in an ideal world everyone would be excited and supported if a friend or relative told them this. Is it a failure of our society that a decision like this is sometimes met with fear, resentment and/or disapproval? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I think it is worth asking.

It seems that we have been very effectively conditioned to believe in a fairly narrow view of what one should pursue in life. Raising a family is considered very important. But, possibly exceeding that is financial stability. Financial stability trumps most everything else. So, putting financial stability at risk is something that among many, is never considered.

I am not passing judgment here. I am not criticizing how anyone chooses to live their life. It’s just an observation that I don’t hear talked about much. Maybe this is due to my upbringing and/or the people I have known my whole life. Perhaps there are large colonies of artists somewhere who are of a totally different mindset. It must at least be different for those whose parents worked in a creative capacity. This isn’t me and I don’t think it’s the majority of people.

The challenge has been to simply overcome the beliefs and conditioning that lead one to believe that we should not seriously pursue creativity at the expense of financial stability.

Often we are wrongly shamed as creatives. From this shaming we learn that we are wrong to create. Once we learn this lesson, we forget it instantly. Buried under it doesn’t matter, the shame lives on, waiting to attach itself to our new efforts. The very act of attempting to make art creates shame. – Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way


I am pretty old to be doing this. I have very little experience with music as anything other than a hobby. I have very little experience writing music. I have very little experience recording and mixing, none really. Most importantly, I have never created anything of my own and publicized it.

Plenty to fuel self-doubt.

I hear this stuff a lot in my head: “You’re average at best”, “You’re wasting your time”, “You’re going to end up worse off than when you started”. Etc.

I think I have made some progress in this area, but it remains a constant struggle. There are a variety of good strategies out there for dealing with it. I continually try to focus on the improvement and the enjoyment of the process.

Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Singer-Songerwriter, Josh Ritter, on the PBS NewsHour talking about self-doubt.

Fear, Judgment, and Failure

I want to make music, but I don’t want to promote myself in any way. I don’t want to make videos and post them on YouTube. I don’t want to make a website. I don’t want to have photos taken. I don’t want to engage in social media. But, I am doing it anyway.

It has taken an enormous amount of courage on my part to release both the music and this writing to the world. It has been laden with a lot of anxiety all along the way. The release of the album has probably been the most challenging in this regard. Writing a bio, an album description, etc. was also extremely challenging.

I could have avoided all this hassle by just remaining at my office job and living a safe and comfortable life. That option eventually became a non-option when I realized I would hate myself and regret never trying.

It has become increasingly clear that failure is a necessary step towards success. The word itself is becoming less negative. There are just an abundance of stories out there from successful people across many disciplines saying the same thing.

When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them. And if abilities can be expanded—if change and growth are possible—then there are still many paths to success. – Carol Dweck, Mindset

As they say, artistic endeavors are a marathon, not a sprint.

To summarize this post, I have a feeling that I should not be doing this. It results from the combination of what I describe above. I should be working and earning a paycheck. That’s the biggest challenge. I believe I have made it this far mostly because I love the work. I take it one day at a time and try to make progress and do quality work. It’s a leap of faith for sure.

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