Consider this : be a failed artist

By on May 21, 2010 | 10 comments

Emma Shell Go broke, get lost, run out of gas, lose your job, watch your beautiful plan go down the drain…

Jams arched an eyebrow.

“Izzat supposed to make you a better person? Like zen or…just busted. Bobby McGee, as in.”

No. No, man, I don’t think I am any better a person. Or leastways it’s not about becoming any kind of person.

It’s kind of, see, like until you run outta gas that one time the idea of running outta gas is pretty bleak. That little needle dipping below the line is life-and-death for five miles. Forget even thinking about losing a job. in. this e-co-no-my.

It’s all lousy. None of it fun. Those folks who cheer you to fail faster don’t mention that failing sucks. Bigtime.

The thing is, once it happens, it’s happened. You still sleep. Find a way to eat somehow. Are still capable of laughing at the dumb things your friends do. And you get yourself somewhere a little less bad. Start making a new plan.

Heck, even without trying, life will hand you these “opportunities” in abundance…but it won’t make you a failed artist.

I loved being an artist. Breathed it. It’s what I was. But I was always terrified of becoming a failed artist. Couldn’t stand the idea of going broke doing it. No money in it. No way to make a living. Loved it so much I was scared to death to even try to be it.


So I gave it up. Never gave myself a chance to fail at it. Tried to be something more conventional. Something ‘with a future’…and searched twenty years looking for what else I was supposed to be.

I never did find that out. But I did find a lot of ways to be a kind-of, almost-visible, in-cognito artist impersonating something else.

And all that other stuff still happened to me.

How much more fun life can offer if we allow ourselves to be instead of trying to be something. In 37 days or 350 you’ll be what you are. You can’t go too broke remembering that.

-Jeremy Reynolds

And that is why I love Jeremy B.B. Reynolds.

I am gathering wisdom from the far corners of the earth to give my older daughter, Emma, as she graduates from high school. What would you say to her? Or to your own 17-year-old self? What thoughts would you ask her to consider? You can submit your advice (instructions here) and 37 of those will be posted over the next 37 days, one each day, culminating in a free e-book of all the submissions after her graduation on June 14th.

[drawing by Emma Ptak]