There is No Field of Dreams
Life in the arts is not the field of dreams. The “If you build it, they will come” mentality is not a strategy. It’s a pipe dream. But millions of aspiring artists sit around waiting to be discovered, waiting for a big break, hanging out in a mythical field of dreams.
As you’ve seen throughout this book, prolific creators have a different way of doing things. They take matters into their own hands.
- When a publisher doesn’t want to publish an aspiring author’s book, he self-publishes.
- When two actors are struggling to find work, they write their own script and star in their own movie.
- When the record label won’t sign a musician, she rents a studio, lays down tracks, and ships.
If you’re prolific, if you ship, if you master your craft, and become so good — they can’t ignore you, then they will come.
As a culture, we’re starstruck. We set fame as a standard for accomplishment. Let’s dispel the notion that being famous on the internet means anything.
My barista doesn’t care who I am. My grocery clerk has probably never heard of Seth Godin.
- I’m a brown dude in a town full of white people who wish they were Indian.
- Seth is just a bald dude with glasses.
Most people who are famous didn’t make plans for it. It was a byproduct of doing something they love.
- The Beatles’s fame was a byproduct of 10,000 hours of practice.
- Matt Damon’s fame was a byproduct of hundreds, if not, thousands of auditions.
Fame is a byproduct of being prolific. Better to focus on being prolific instead of being famous. If you never become famous, at least you’ll have the work.
Every artist has a list of dreams that haven’t come true, checkboxes they haven’t crossed off or goals they haven’t achieved:
- The Oscar
- The Grammy
- The Best-seller
The illusion of the “I’ve made it moment” causes people to suffer for years. But the moment an artist “makes it,” he’s confronted with the realization that he’s been chasing false horizons. He becomes aware of the eternal gap between who he is and who he wants to be.
He might move to a nicer house, dress a little better, or drive a nicer car. But the carrot for what success looks like keeps moving. As Josh Radnor brilliantly said, “A successful career in the arts is rigged for dissatisfaction.” The prolific creator sees the only lasting satisfaction will come from making more art.
The Work Doesn’t Stop
The greatest delusion of artists who are not commercially successful is the assumption that work stops when you become successful. That’s when the work begins. If you’re serious about a career in the arts, there’s no moment where you’re going to sit on your ass and watch the money roll in.
This is part of a series about how to become a more prolific creator. You can download the entire book for free here.