You Have to Own Your Art

Is it really this simple? You announce to the world you are an artist, a dancer, a singer, and, voila, you are. Yes and no. I was both terrified and exhilarated when I quit my low-paying job 22 years ago to become a writer. I didn’t tell many people at first. I had to figure out what to call myself. Back then, I was writing articles for newspapers and magazines, while also working on my fiction. So, I told people I was a freelance writer. It sounded more like a real job, and less like a lofty dream.

In time, my children were born and my writing workload decreased. Then I told everyone I was a stay-at-home mom who “did some writing on the side,” as if it were a hobby, not my life’s ambition. After a while, in addition to articles, I started getting some literary work published, and now, truly, I could call myself a writer. But I didn’t. Not for a while.

Finally, I decided if I was ever going to see myself as a writer, I needed to own the title. A doctor doesn’t say, “I dabble in medicine.” A teacher doesn’t say, “I spend part of my day helping kids.” So one day someone asked me what I did for a living. I took a deep breath and stuttered, “I’m a writer . . . but also a stay-at-home mom.” Well, it was a step in the right direction.

If you want to succeed in the arts or entrepreneurship, you have to own your calling. You have to declare to the world that this is who you are and this is your work, not a distraction. You need to seek out the company of fellow artists who call themselves artists and count yourself among them. Create a business card. Put up a website. Teach your friends and family to respect your “work” hours by not calling or texting during those times.

As artists, our paths are constantly changing direction. Every time you start a new project or introduce a new product or add a new title to your resume, push your doubts aside and announce your intentions to the universe. We are what we say we are, after all.