Advantages to being a middle-aged artist with a day career

Just a quick observation before I get to bed and awaken tomorrow ready to get back into the woodshed:

It occurs to me that there are more advantages to being an older artist — and having the Dreaded Day Job — than are often stated. Well, a set of advantages in particular that seem to get overlooked, anyhow.

If you are older, and you have had time in business with at least some executive-level responsibilities, you have a better awareness than most starry-eyed kids of what’s needed to get it done. You are aware that in every job, there is the Fun Work and the Crap Work, the exciting visionary stuff and the boring grind part of things. And you don’t get down over the grind — you just do it. You are used to having part of something (at least!) be boring crap that you need to force yourself to look in the face and get over with.

You are used to moving forward despite a distinct lack of Inspiration.

And you are not surprised by this. You don’t regard a bad day — or even a long string of them — as a sign that you should quit. You just gird your loins, put on your Big Person-of-Indeterminate-Gender Pants and get it done.

Voices of insecurity chattering in your head? You set your alarm, get up, and get the hell into work.

Not a morning person? Well too bad, the rest of the world wants you to be one. Set your alarm, and get the hell up.

Feeling stressed? Well, that progress report ain’t gonna write itself. Get the hell to work.

And that sort of don’t-wait-for-inspiration attitude is needed to complete a creative project.

I’m just thinking of how loud the chattering it-won’t-matter-no-one-will-care-anyway voices have gotten in my head lately, the closer I seem to get to things, and how I can still move forward.

Voices chattering telling me that the world won’t give a damn? Well, let them chatter while I buy that sound card.

The Ghost of Garbage Past moaning in my ear? Moan away, I’m going to hook up this thing to my computer in the meantime.

These voices can’t reach out and grab my hand to stop me from clicking on the “place order” link at Amazon to get that shielded cable I need to get a cleaner signal out of the Clav. Let them babble while I get the cable. I’ve spent more than a few nights in sweats worrying about some enormous pile of whatever that I’ve had to get done at work with too little time and too few resources. Compared to that — which sometimes can carry on for quite some time — a niggling voice in my head is effing small potatoes.

And I like my job, and I’ve got those voices. I’m not naive enough to imagine that if I have insecurity or fear related to my job, that that means I should get another one. Nor am I naive enough to imagine that if I have insecurity or fear about my music, that it means I shouldn’t do that, either. You get used to ignoring your fear when your paycheck is on the line. It builds a habit of getting to work no matter what.

And there’s the fact that I can bullet-list a project plan in my head at this point, especially one as dog-simple as putting out a collection of music (dog-simple compared to the crap I balance at work, anyhow). I’ve got the strategic and tactical plans for the whole evolution pretty much planned out, and I’m just going through it step by step by step.

There are a lot of ways in which the maturity *snerk* of middle-age and the experience that comes with almost twenty years in corporate life will make me a better artist, or at least one that realizes that:

1) it’s not all sipping ambrosia with the Muse,
2) the negative voices don’t actually mean very much,
3) it doesn’t matter if I don’t ship, and
4) how to bullet-point the shipping process and actually get it done.

This is another big part of why I think the “Get A Job” attitude is a good one for artists to have. It really helps you negotiate the world in which we live, as opposed to the gauzy Artistic Plane we can all too easily get lost on.

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