THE BLOG
09/24/2012 03:02 pm ET | Updated Nov 24, 2012

The Pragmatic Artist: Ask Noah

Q: I got my MFA in creative writing -- all I ever wanted to do was write. After grad school I continued to pursue writing while working for my father's business. Essentially, he was okay financing my creative education, as long as I "paid my dues" by supporting myself.

I've now been paying said dues for six years, while loyally continuing to submit my writing. Exhausted, overworked and underachieving in both areas, I can no longer do this dance. I find myself so depressed at the thought of abandoning my goals, but recognize how self-indulgent that sounds.

I like your practicality. How would you go about solving my conflict here?

A: It doesn't sound self-indulgent to feel sad, and maybe even angry, over the possibility of no longer pursuing what you love.

You are being very pragmatic, and this is a skill I feel artists often lack.

The need to support oneself financially through a "regular job" is simply the reality of trying to pursue a creative line of work and simultaneously being a responsible person.

It is important to recognize (as you have by your continuing to earn money in your father's business) that the creation of art doesn't exist in a vacuum.

As an artist pursues their creative endeavor, whether to make a career of it to sustain themselves or as a personal outlet, their pursuit must happen within the confines/parameters of the "real" world.

In your circumstances, I don't think having more time to write would mean greater success. Financial realities and the struggle involved in personal pursuits frequently work to fuel creativity, and without it we would all have less raw material to draw from.

You have reached a sound arrangement with your father, which speaks to his immense faith in you. He probably appreciates your inherent understanding and acknowledgement in the fact that we must all pay our dues, in one form or another.

What you need now is some honest reality testing! Being exhausted and overworked is often the price of admission for trying to achieve success in a very competitive creative profession.

Frankly, my chief suggestion for you would be in strengthening your threshold for emotional discomfort. Especially as you keep pursuing your non-traditional career.

However, this topic begs a few more significant questions, which only you can answer...

A) Is this type of lifestyle worth the sacrifices you're making?

B) Do you need to achieve professional success as a writer to feel fulfilled?

The great thing about art is it exists unto itself! A writer, visual artist, actor, musician, painter or dancer who doesn't getting paid for their art is still an artist.

Presumably it is in your bones, your DNA, and even if you were not given a single paycheck, that doesn't negate the validity or significance of what you're creating.

Your issue is not black or white. Yet, I'm confident that if you focus on your gut instincts and don't judge yourself so harshly, you'll clearly come to your next course of action, charting your way to smoother waters.

Thank you so much for taking the time to write.

As always, please send questions and comments to Ask Noah at nskass@gmail.com.

Have a profitable and peaceful week,

Noah

Originally posted on thestreet.com -- 9/21/12

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