There’s something fantastic about being an amatuer.
Being clueless puts you in a constant state of awareness. Learning. Paying attention. Absorbing knowledge like a grade-school spongue.
Keith Walker referred to this just last week as ‘beginner’s mind’, when I interviewed him for our Storm the Perfict podcast. His was the latest in a long line of revelations this podcast has wrapped up and dropped on my doorstep.
When I decided to start a podcast this year I didn’t know much. I’d never recorded interviews with people. That’s the part that scared me. Still does. Having the right questions. Knowing how to steer a conversation and when to take my hands off the wheel.
I had no idea how much I was about to learn, sitting across the table from other creatives.
I’m just 4 artists in, but here, in no particular order, are some of the best lessons so far.
1. There is no dream life for the artist.
Keith Walker is a glass blower who is ‘living the dream’ in many ways. He works from ‘home’ in a studio just yards from his house. A studio he built just the way he wants it. He sets his own hours. His wife works just on the other side of the wall as a fashion designer. He works with glass full time.
But Keith is still thirsty. There are still creative itches Keith cannot scratch. And that studio that represented freedom in many ways has now become a weight that must be carried every day. A debt that must be paid.
It’s fulfilling, and Keith won't go back, but it is also stressful and full of second guesses.
The wrestle I hear in Keith’s voice has become so familiar by now. It’s a struggle we often think will be solved with the right working situation. The dream life. If we could just get paid to do this thing–this passionate thing–full time. If we could just be left alone by interruptions.
But it’s not clear to me that any of this is the answer.
The glass is always greener on the other side.
2. Everyone has something to say (if we just listen).
Wenda Salomons is quiet. Soft spoken. Thoughtful. Spend an afternoon with her and you may not think she has much to say. That she leaves the speaking to her pinhole photographs. But the more I know Wenda, the more I appreciate what she has to say.
I’m finding great, untapped value in shutting up. Listening. Absorbing.
3. Art is all the same.
Or, at least, art is reaching for similar things. Tapping into similar parts of the makers. Similar parts of those receiving the work.
Of course there are vast differences between Marcie Rohr’s Inner Core paintings and the music of Karla Adolphe, but when you peel away the medium, you find the same clockwork inside, driving the thing. The same desire to witness and to share. That same struggle to capture. To transmute and transmit imagination. To speak. To listen. There are so many common threads behind the microphone or the lens. Those same longings. Misunderstandings. Fears.
4. Fear and doubt are universal.
We are, all of us, afraid. This I know for sure.
‘Art scares me’ declares Keith Walker over curried lamb just last week. I tell him that would make a great T-shirt. I’d wear it.
I get it.
We all feel like we’re faking it. Like we don’t quite measure up. Like we’re not quite there yet. Imposters. Frauds waiting to be found out.
We all look at the risky edge and pull our foot back.
And because we share this, there is no shame in fear.
There is no shame in doubt.
Some of us are different, it is true. By some alchemy of grace and faith, some of us jump anyways.
Some of us tally up the cost and pay up.
5. Art takes sacrifice.
There is nothing worth much that you don’t pay for.
We all pay in different ways. Time. Money. Space in the basement. Less time for Netflix. A steady income. A good dental plan. Less travel.
We can often choose where we cut back, and some choices are much better than others. Better for our lives and relationships. Better where it counts. But cut back we must, to make our art.
We lose our mornings or our nights. We keep a smaller circle of deep friends. We don’t have many hobbies.
But we know that the sowing is worth it and we take joy in what we reap.
These lessons are part of the deal. And I’m learning more every day.
I’m paying attention.