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How survive the holidays as an artist

I am a personal friend of Santa, as shown in this picture.
I am a personal friend of Santa, as shown in this picture.
Taken by Lynn Walraven

So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Oh Beatles, for all your Hare Krishna, acid-eating tomfoolery, sometimes you really knew how to say it. Probably the hardest part about being an artist for many people is getting down to the end of the year and family gatherings and having to explain “what you do”. There are certain times in a person’s life, artistic or not, when the expected answer is something like, “I GOT ENGAGED!!!” (flash ring around) and the real answer is something like, “I DISCOVERED THE DYNAMIC ARC OF MY NOVEL AND MANAGED TO TIE IT ALL TOGETHER, THUS BEING ABLE TO COMPLETE A PROJECT I’VE DEDICATED TWO YEARS OF MY LIFE TO!!!” And those are trying times. So here is my advice for thriving and surviving for anybody who has had a “non-traditional” year in the midst of a deep recession.

1) Enjoy what there is to enjoy. We’re artists, right? We’re trained observers. Use those finely-honed skills to see the little things about a Christmas celebration—Santa Claus enjoying a post-Santaing cocktail. Little brothers enjoying the peeing pooping baby doll more than the little sisters. This is gold, people. GOLD.

2) Remember that if God had put you on this earth to be a Chemical Engineer, he would have made you able to both pass and enjoy Organic Chemistry. There’s a reason why you’re good at what you do, and that reason is not “think longingly of hidden-talents behind desk while attempting, poorly, to formulate a new kind of plastic.” Do what you’re good at. Pay the bills by all means, unless you want to be one of those artists (Jack Kerouac) who live off their hard-working families while spending all your (their) money. “Hard-working artist” does not have to be an oxymoron.

3) Make a plan. Nothing is more comforting than being able to clearly communicate what you’re trying to do. It’s good for you (and very good for your plans), and it keeps the tacky question wolves behind the door.