Knowing When To Stop

Neil Gaiman said in his 2012 Keynote Address at The University of the Arts:

“…the biggest problem of success is that the world conspires to stop you doing the thing that you do, because you are successful. There was a day when I looked up and realised that I had become someone who professionally replied to email, and who wrote as a hobby. I started answering fewer emails, and was relieved to find I was writing much more.”

Similarly, I woke up the other day and realized that I listen to podcasts, post pictures and send newsletters professionally and writing has become a hobby.

As artists in this world of tweets and feeds and photo sharing and messaging, we are given the impression that we are obliged to keep our “audience” warm; that we should be sharing, captivating & tantalizing every day, lest we be forgotten. As if we are struggling daily to stop our physical body from dissipating like some Star Trek malfunction.

This concept of continuous sharing is the new movement of artist as entrepreneur. It’s not enough to be a screenwriter or a choreographer or a kick-ass bassoonist any longer, you’re now expected to be a sales, marketing & financial expert as well.

I don’t really have any criticism of this or of those who find it useful. I just know that in my heart I cringe every time I hear ART and BUSINESS in the same sentence. Maybe I’m an anachronism but it’s just not who I want to be. I’ll leave it to other people for whom it works well, because they are truly better men and women than I am. Those few who juggle it well are people that I respect considerably. But I need to be true to myself, to who I am and how I work best. Pushing out “content” is a great idea until it eats up so much time that it impedes larger projects; until it prevents progress; until it fucks with your creativity. I’d rather write one book every three years than 1000 blogs.

For me, art is about expressing and reaching and trying to understand yourself, the world and how the two clash and congeal. And I know now, from trying, I can’t do any of those things very well while thinking about hitting goals and getting “clients.” I can’t do them while using words like “client” & “audience” & “content.” I can’t do them half-listening to podcasts three hours a day. I can’t do them when drawing becomes an item on my daily to-do list. Or when putting together a newsletter becomes something I have to get done before I can relax on the weekend.

So I’m collecting up all that spent mental energy and focusing it on writing and reading and art projects that take longer than a day. I’m ending my daily drawings. I’m not taking commissions. I’m changing my newsletter from once a week to something that I do when I feel I have something useful to share. After all there’s a novel that I want to write & paintings I want to do. I have scrapbook/sketchbook/art journal/logbook/diaries to fill. So that’s where I’ll be. And when I have things to share, I will. And they’ll be things that I feel damn proud of. Until then, wish me luck. And thanks for being amazing people.

Categorized as Thoughts

By C.A. Hall

Writer / Podcaster I'm a well-written sentence marred by a curse word. In another life I might have been a criminal profiler, a jazz drummer, an architect, an acrobat, an actor, or a children’s book illustrator.