Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Barbara Sher's 'Subsidy to the Arts' v All or Nothing fallacy

Dear Barbara
I just saw your television program on PBS and I was really inspired by your speech! I am a 34 year-old woman with a dream(actress). I am 5'-0" tall and avarage looking and a single mother. I am struggling to make a living and when I tell my friends my dream, they just say "it is only a dream, you have to look at the reality!" I am also an artist and tried my dream in art, but all I have achieved is being poor! I am now in a crossroad (my parttime job ended this week) and I am feeling frustrated because of my failure to achieve my dream.I want to change my life for myself and for my son. I already know what I am good at but I just don't know where to start! I am very unhappy and it reflects on my child's behavior....I don't have supportive network of friends and I don't know where to look for the supportive ones. I truly think that what you do is inspirational and is helping many people to reach their goals. But I think that what I am facing is a very challenging one.Would you help me? I am willing to do anything to change my current situation. I am ready!
Hi Patty. First, stop telling your friends (and family, if they're not supportive either) about your dreams. Turn every conversation to recipes or politics, or better yet, ask them about themselves: 'Have you lost weight? You look fantastic!'. They'll forget all about you in no time.
Next, go directly to my Bulletin Board at and take these 4 steps:
1. Look around. Read what people have posted in a number of places so you'll see what an unusual community this is. You'll find that the people on my board are astonishing. They're knowledgeable and generous and supportive. You will be surprised and impressed when you go to my Bulletin Board. I am.
2. If you like what you see, register and spend a few weeks helping other people. Then you won't feel like poor Patty, you'll feel like a smart, helpful person yourself. And that's how you'll be seen by others on the board, too.
3. After a few weeks, go to the forum "Wishes and Obstacles" and start a topic to help you find the right kind of job in your location. You'll get great suggestions every time, usually within a few hours, always within a day or two.
4. Then head over to the forum called "Informal Success Teams" and see if you can locate a free support team in your area or on the phone so you'll have some supportive people to talk to. If you're ready to start taking weekly steps towards your goals, go to where you'll find the local registered Success Team leader and can sign up for an 8 week workshop with a trained leader and about 5 other members who are also ready to get into action.

Okay? Now let's discuss the nemesis of all dreams, the All or Nothing fallacy.The people on my board and in Success Teams understand that there are perfectly realistic ways to get the part you love of any dream, often right away. But they're rare. In this world it's all too common to run into the conviction that going after any dream is always a huge investment, a life changing gamble, do it all the way or don't do it at all.

"You can't make money at what you love!," is the shape it usually takes. "Give up art, acting, or whatever you love and get a job."

If there's one thing I wish I could change it's that automatic, knee-jerk reaction that slams the door on dreams. Why is it still here? Somebody's not paying attention. All around you people are doing what they love most, and they are not starving to death. Go to an art or acting class and get to know the other students and you'll see what I mean.

Everyone must have money to live. Everyone must do what they love. But why do we assume that those two need to be one? Who said you must make money at what you love? Almost all of us have to work and do what we love on our own time, often for years, sometimes forever. There's nothing wrong with that.

You can even create a relatively successful career on the side if you find work doing something you're clever at--programming, organizing, writing, communicating, gardening, selling. Just make sure the people don't drive you crazy and the job doesn't take more than 40 hours a week.
And call it "A Subsidy to the Arts."

Because, even if you eventually succeed at what you love doing most, it won't fall through the window because you had positive thoughts or said the right mantra. It will be the result of having done what you love for a long time, often years, until you're smooth and sure-footed at it. That means you have to start today.

If you just thought something like, "Oh no, I have to wait for years before I'm successful!" think again. Imagine how heavenly it would be to engage in what you love part of every day, to get better and better at it until you are an artist who is worthy of the gifts you were born with.
It's your happy task to develop your gifts. Unless your gifts are in business, you shouldn't subject them to the marketplace. To earn money you have to please the people who could buy from you. Artists aren't supposed to please people, they're supposed to make the best art they can. When you start getting your sea legs, you'll find that you're always way ahead of the fashion of the day, and only a few people will understand what you're doing. If you're an artist, you're exploring and learning and taking new paths. You'd never let a buyer control you. That's a contract with your soul. Don't break it.

Okay, time to swing into action: start searching for a job where the people are reasonably nice and where you're doing something you're good at that's not too boring (but has nothing to do with acting or art). It's worth trying to get the right job.

Just think of how much better your life would be if you had a tolerable, even pleasant job and a happy, creative, exciting life too! No All or Nothing. Just All and Everything.

If your child sees you happily doing your art after work and on weekends it will be very good for him. Set up a nice "studio" in the corner of your room so you can make art whenever you want. Then turn the rest of your space into a little private theater and put on plays with your child as audience--starting tonight! Maybe one day he will be your co-star.

Try going to a park or in front of a museum on Sundays and do wonderful mimes (with your son, if that's an option) and start showing off as soon as possible. Get to love your audiences if you want to be a good actor. Maybe you'll get some money in the hat, at least enough for a nice hot fudge sundae for the two of you and you'll be teaching your great child lessons about how to live a good, fun and productive life.

At the very least, take a minimum of 5 minutes every single day to use one of your talents in a way that makes you very happy--even if it's only to close your eyes and have a perfect fantasy.
Start on that dream at once. Start small. Start now.
That's an order.
"ToughLove" Barbara

From her e-letter

(Barbara's book Wishcraft is excellent and well worth seeking out)

1 comment:

naturallynice said...

Isn't she right! Thanks for sharing that Mary.