A few years ago I was introduced to this legendary book called 'Zen and the Art of Making a Living" by Laurence G. Boldt. It quickly became my mentor as far as continuing on the path of an artist. It is my foundation for never giving up and strictly encourages artists to push forward with our creative practice. Art is not only paintings and sculptures. Creativity is not only for the literal artist. In the early pages of the book it highlights four challenges we have to overcome in our "never-ending journey filled with challenges and obstacles", to find or create a career. (Boldt, Page XXVII)
Every challenge also has a 'detour' showing just how hard it is to follow your path, no matter what it may be. This book is for everyone, not just creatives. Please if you love your work or are passionate about anything and want to build a paying career out of it, read this book. To me - everything we do has an Art to it - from math to science, philanthropy to owning a business, if there is no passion, skill, knowledge, or experience behind the idea, what the hell are you doing it for? Our lives are sacred. How miraculous that we are alive and achieved this level of consciousness?
Back to my original point and reference of this particular book. The Four Challenges and their Detours are:
"Challenge I: Know Who You Are - Detour I: The Denial Trap
Challenge II: Be Yourself In This World - Detour II: The Approval Trap
Challenge III: Organize Your Efforts For Maximum Results - Detour III: The Availability Trap
Challenge IIII: Make The Changes Necessary To Make It Happen - Detour IIII: The Lack Of Self-Confidence Trap"
(Boldt, Page XXVII)
In previous years I don't think I knew how to say 'no'. I was so energized to make my goals happen that I'd accept nearly every offer that would come my way. Not even pausing to make sure I really wanted to do it! In other times I had no idea how to get paid for the work I was doing. I was just SO eager to make my dreams of being an artist come true after graduating from University of Michigan with a BFA. For experience sake, it was not the worst route but as I've gotten older and refined my organizational skills, I can see how this caused me a lot of trouble. Lost connections. Inability to see other's true intentions. Burn out. Among many other things... It was exhausting to always search for validation from working with others or working for hire. There is no denying that all the challenges and detours go hand in hand in relation to one another. The Challenge and Detour/Trap I'd like to focus on today is the Third: Organize Your Efforts For Maximum Results - The Availability Trap.
If you're stepping out of the work force, like many of us have and many of you inevitably will, you have to work on yourself. At some point you aren't going to want to accept every offer you get - even if offers are slim to none, even if offers are pouring into your life. Why? Because your life is yours! Often times you have priorities that aren't aligned with what other people or businesses have going on. That is the trap of availability. Just because something is available to you, does not mean you should take it! Just because you're accepted into a position, doesn't mean you should take it just because it's a job. You have to know yourself, be yourself, make your plans, and stick to that strategy. Accepting everything or anything will likely leave you distracted, over worked, uninspired, or taken advantage of. Don't take the easy way out! Don't 'settle for taking what is easily available', 'persist until you get what you really want'. (Boldt, XXVII) If you're going to create your journey and truly nourish your soul with what you want to do, you have to dig deeper than the surface level of any industry or occupation. A lot of what we need and want to do for work needs to be created by us! The time for change is now.
I am not suggesting that we be too arrogant to work with others or that there is no one in your field than you. What I am saying is be self assured that who you are, what you want, is valid and you can create or find the career you want - even IF it does not exist yet. We need big change in our lives and how we center it around an occupation but it takes ambition to do that.
"If you can't find the job you are looking for (and are qualified for), there are only a few possibilities. It doesn't exist, you don't know how to find it, or you have given up too soon." (Boldt, Pg. 307)
Don't be afraid to learn from others before you. There are so many incredible people who are alive today who are willing to help or even have a conversation with you about their life. Don't be mad at them if they don't want to speak with you. Read books, watch movies, go to confrences. We must dedicate ourselves to the cause, find the right people to assist or organize with, then never give up on the vision. One mistake I've made was being so sure that my vision was SO unique that I'd neglected learning from other people who accomplished things before me. I'd tricked myself into believing that learning about how another person accomplished something would take away the joy of accomplishing something myself. Now I know my life and experience is unique but so is everyone else's. Everyone's experience adds up to where we are today. Our connections to one another can create incredible paths for new ideas and spaces.
The trick in my experience is to work with people who you admire or aspire to be like while organizing to take steps in the direction you are looking to create. Being conscious of what it is you are working toward but being open to change is most of the battle. I say all of this to announce that I've FINALLY reached a significant milestone in my career. After many many years of trying to figure out who I am and what I want to accomplish, with many blanks still open to new information/opportunities. I've found a studio space. This is growth and a step in the direction I've always dreamed of. Sure, I thought this would happen sooner, and probably could have.. I am so glad it is happening now and I did it my way. I got what I want. I got it because I did not give up and I learned from my mistakes.
When we head off to college, or even go through K-12, we dream of and are centered around finding and making a career. Many times I was told that being an artist would never work for me. People would suggest becoming something, ANYTHING else because that path is easier. Even after going to college to get my BFA, folks in the workplace would speak openly about how much of a joke or impossibility my career choice is. It would not be easy for me to be anyone else in any other career. In my opinion I'd be miserable trying to fit in or trying to hide who I am. It was never my destiny to take an easy path or direction. You shouldn't go that route either if you're strong enough! (and I believe you are!) No it is not easy to stand alone or not feel validated by anyone but yourself.. BUT you will eventually find what it is you are looking for or create it if you NEVER GIVE UP!
Truthfully art is the backbone of everything we know, see and desire. Creative elements are inside of everything we do. I MEAN EVERYTHING. There is NO FUTURE without creative ingenuity. There is no innovation without creativity. There is no true expression with out art. It is an incredibly valid field of work, research, and profession. Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise. If your intentions are pure, full of heart, and truly for the sake of expression, your success is inevitable. NEVER GIVE UP. When something we feel or experience can not be said or told with words, we draw, play instruments, move, WE EXPRESS. That way our emotions and feelings are not pent up. This is an essential aspect of our mental health and the health of our minds is of utmost importance. We cannot afford to let our imaginations be chained to what already is, or was. We must dare to dream.
The other day I was sitting outside working on a custom piece when a wave of worry and fear washed over my being. The sun was shining and wind blowing ferociously. It seemed I was having a hard time relating to the environment at the moment. I took a deep breath, reminded myself of the present, and sang some calming affirmations internally as well as audibly. These were the words that came to mind and I'd like to share them with you.
I am exactly where I need to be.
About the Author
Megan LaCroix also known as Citrine is the daughter of a Navy Veteran. She’s lived all over the US but has roots in Michigan where her family is from. Spending summers in Northern Michigan exploring nature inspired her to create art work starting with jewelry and photography. She’d spend hours looking for rocks and creating assorted beaded jewelry with her sisters. In 2014 She graduated from University of Michigan School of Art & Design with a BFA then moved to Detroit where she is currently living and working. She is a multi-media artist with ever expanding skills but is best known for her jewelry, screen printing, photography, and paintings. Detroit Graffiti has a significant influence on her painting and drawing style. She’s participated in ArtPrize 2015 & 2021 and currently has a studio in the Village Arts Factory of Canton, MI.