It has been cold lately. One of our colder winters people say considering we are on the east coast of South Africa where winter never means frost and such. One of my favorite breakfasts on these chilly mornings is oatmeal porridge - With honey and cinnamon and a bit of milk the way my wife makes it - even my kids like it! As good as those oats smell though you can only eat it one way. That is one small spoon at a time from the top. Dive right in with big spoonfuls like a famished farmhand and you are going to get burned. Every time.
Thing is though after a while the oatmeal cools and you can carry on and chances of burning diminish. So obviously I thought:" Hang on this is like trying to build an art career." Stay with me - I can explain. My former day job meant days at a desk working papers, phone calls, research, consulting and administration. I compare this to a winter's morning, just not the pretty kind, but the dry biting cold and bleached look that makes you think that spring is taking its jolly time getting here. The prospect of spending mornings preparing to paint and then attacking the canvas with bright colours is like the fragrant bowl of oatmeal - comforting and restorative.
Here's the rub though. Many artists dive right into the business of art and get burned. With their hopes up and the joy of painting fueling their spirits they put their work out there and experience the unexpected pain of rejection. It can come in many ways and hurts for longer than an oatmeal burn.
The artist is then at a crossroads. Pack up the easel and brushes and put them in a corner. Kid yourself that you will get back to painting this weekend but conveniently find other tasks to do. After a while painting is no longer a part of your future. There will always be rationalisations to back this up whether from well-meaning people or anecdotes about other artists getting burned.
But you are not one to pack it in so fast. At the back of your mind you know that your day job is a soul-sucking existence. You know that when you get to the final curtain call there is no rewind button like on your satellite TV. This is your one shot at life and you are going to be true to your calling. Your God given nature needs to create. It is the one thing that feels right and true.
The beauty of this decision to follow your creative path is that once made all the naysaying suddenly looks weak and toothless. How did you let other's words hurt you so much? The fact is that truth is always more powerful than lies. Lies get exposed even when you are lying to yourself.
You get on with it then, but this time you take a more considered approach. You read the books, practice, learn from others who have walked the path of their calling and create with increased assuredness.
Your confidence grows and your art responds. You rebuild and then try again. This time you have some success. It only takes a moment to fuel your calling. You will know it even if others are blind to it. This is for you alone. Savour it and move forward one moment at a time.
Will there be more painful moments? Maybe - rejection certainly, but will rejection hurt you? Unlikely because you have seen the enemy and defeated him once before. You know what to do.
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