Perseverance: The Magic Pixie Dust of the Artist’s Life

This morning I woke up early, knowing I had much to do. There’s a book polish to dive into (and rewrites are always hardest), blogs to write, a new website to work on, two paintings to finish in my studio, rehearsals for a music duo performance, a travel article to write, and yoga teaching morning and night.

And asked myself, “What keeps me in all this? What makes me get focused, set aside the email, the phone calls, the neat-nicking around the house, and dial-down into my art mode?”

And the truth is, it’s perseverance. It’s the fact that I have made peace with the voices inside myself that ask me to work, that want to create, and that are ambitious for themselves—meaning, they want to be taken into the professional light of day.

I’ve learned—the hard way, by burying my artistic gifts and suffering the soul-killing consequences—that it is best for me to just show up when I’m called, and do the work I’m asked to do—the stuff that’s pressing the hardest on my heart.

Another way of saying this is, I have learned to obey.

But it wasn’t always that way for me. I have been a fan, for most of my adulthood, of the quick-fix, the fast outcome, the all-or-nothing event. And it nearly laid me out flat for good a number of times—particularly when I let debt enter my artistic picture and tried to fast-track a couple of projects with leveraged money.

I had to learn perseverance the hard way: By falling flat on my face, starting over with nothing, and finding the gift of moving in slow, steady steps. The slow-but-steady walk of my artist’s life has changed my world view a full 180. It means that though I definitely submit my work and professionalize it, I don’t press for outcomes. I let my art-life be about the work, and the pleasure I take in creating, not the results.

I’ve learned to be committed to one thing: Living the life of an artist, for the long term. When I hold that commitment front and center, I can put my whole heart and soul into my creative projects without getting attached to the outcomes of any one effort. And I can obey the calling of my heart, and take great joy in the gift of perseverance, loving each step along the way.

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