I was recently challenged by a wonderful public speaker and motivator, Marshal Gillen. The challenge? Come up with a WHY. WHY am I doing what I’m doing? What is the purpose? In my case, Why am I doing what I’m doing, writing and music-wise.
It used to be an easy answer—“For my kids.” And it always entailed sacrifice, artistically speaking. “I will take the secure gigs. I will take requests and play what everyone wants to hear. I will people-please and make money and put a roof over my head. I will be formulaic and study what gets me the best gigs.”
I was proud of being a musician AND a responsible breadwinner. I bought a home with musician’s wages, I bought a car with musician’s wages. I didn’t do the artist thing, not properly—I couldn’t afford to take risks.
But now that my kids are grown and on their own paths, I am embracing the artist. The uncompromising one. And the WHY has changed.
Here comes my new WHY:
- I am the only one who can write the stories and songs in my head. They are important. I was given a gift and I need to honor that.
- I have the potential to break the glass ceiling with my writing. If I don’t try I have zero chance of doing that. If I succeed, then I can make a living doing what I love most—CREATING. I am a creator. And with that comes the responsibility to create.
Lets say there is a God who created all that we know. Regardless of your belief, just go with me on this one. What if God made the universe and the stars, but before he made the planets he got frustrated and said “What’s the use?” and stopped? No earth, no people.
But the earth does exist. We exist. And artists exist. Why? Specifically, why do artists exist? To create. It is that simple. Everyone has their gift, their purpose. Some people heal. Some are wonderful listeners. Some are educators, some are protectors. Some quietly hold the world up with good thoughts. Some lead, some follow. Some protect the world from moving forward too quickly, some catapult the world toward a better tomorrow. And still the artist—creates.
Why? What’s the use?
Remember that God out there who could have stopped with the stars, but didn’t? Maybe God didn’t even know what would happen, but felt compelled to create for some reason. And there was a reason. It was us! I think all in all, humans are pretty cool.
We artists may not know why the hell we spend hours and days writing, painting, playing our instruments and spouting poetry to no one, for no money. But there IS a reason. It is because we are creators. It is what we do. And in the end, we do make a difference.
Did our song, our story, our painting uplift a person or two along the way? Maybe prevent some tragedy by calming just one broken soul? Even if that broken soul may be our own? I think the answer is, YES. I’ve been touched a thousand times by an inspiring word, the lyrics of a song. I stood for hours once at a Van Gogh museum, with tears in my eyes. I had no words. There was no explanation for a bunch of blobs of paint touching my soul, but there it was. Long dead, Van Gogh touched my soul and changed me for the better. His life was a tortured, tragic one, but he has inspired millions.
I have no fame, no fortune. But I have had a few people say they were deeply touched by something I wrote. I have even had people tell me my music or message changed their lives. I am not Van Gogh, I am nobody really, but there it is. I, little me, through my own creation, touched someone’s life for the better. So that is my WHY. I am a creator. It is my responsibility to create.
Marketing it? That’s a whoooooole other subject. It is the other side of the coin. An artist can toss coins all day long, but if you love to shout “Tails!” you will lose 50% of the time. You have to shout “Heads!” now and again and toot your own horn. Yuck. Not my forte. But I owe it to the creator in me, to try.