A map of one’s heart Book Recommendation: “Real Artists Don’t Starve”

How nice it will be if we can live and earn a living with what we love and are passionate about? Often, we are amidst loud voices that question whether it would be achievable and, instead, try to convince us to study certain subjects and have certain careers so we can be financially secure. What if we adhere to what we are ‘supposed to do’ and become unhappy and insecure internally? What can we do? How can we change our life trajectory?

Journey map

If there is a book which tells stories of how people built their own paths and did what they were passionate about until they could support their living and became successful, Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff coins is that book ( affiliate link) . In this book, the writer uses the word “artists” to encompass a broad definition. It includes entrepreneurs whose innovative creation affects industries and society, film directors, journalists, singers, actors, writers, etc. This book, hence, showcases people from all kinds of careers.

Jeff’s exploration of various case studies is engrossing, and they are used to convince us that a lot of people have actually done it.  The points he made to support the argument or debunked myths surrounding artistic and creative works are intriguing. For example:

Artists must starve. In fact, many artists thrive and are successful by doing creative work.

To become successful, artists must create truly original work. In fact, some successful artists learned by copying from influencers, then gradually creating their own styles.  The book mentions Michelangelo who started from copying, as you can watch in the clip below.

Unlock that voice in your head

An important part is to unlock the voice in your head, the one that is keeping you from thriving as an artist, saying, for example, that acting is not an honoured job or artists are impoverished. Most importantly, the voice that says art is not compatible with money which makes artists struggle to advertise themselves or feel uncomfortable to “sell” their creative work.

This mindset is very crucial as it directs the trajectory of our life. The point is that our mindset shapes us and what we can be. If we believe in “art for the art’s sake”, we will not be able to show our true creative and financial potentials. If we take away money issues, somebody needs to take care of it for us.  That means, our life depends on external factors, and one is lucky if they have a trustworthy partner who can deal with this issue for us.  However, in these days, the middle man’s role has declined: magazines are closing down, and art galleries are struggling. Artists can sell directly to buyers, and writers use blogs to expose their work.  Jeff pointed out that our creative work has cost, be it money, time, or skills. We cannot continue working without financial support. Instead, financial security allows us to create better creative work. The more money we earn, the better work we can do. We must believe that our work is worthwhile and deserves good pay. Nobody sees worthiness in our work, if we cannot see it for ourselves.

Only passion is not enough 

Jeff wrote about following your heart or your passion which seems to be the keyword of this era.   According to him, its meaning is deeper and not about building a castle in the cloud. To following your passion, hard and continuous practice is important. Despite little or no financial reward at the beginning, regular, routine practice will reward you with expertise and the world will eventually reward such expertise with enough income to make a living on what you love. The examples given in the book include a writer who had a fulltime job and squeezed in time to do some writing for years, or a female lawyer who was unhappy with her work, and took evening acting courses until she was given a small part, then earned enough income so she could leave her job and pursue her childhood dream to be an actor.

Of course, these people’s paths were not paved with rose petals. They didn’t become rich in the blink of an eye. Instead, doing what they loved kept them going steadily.

Again, this isn’t about choosing between earning a living and doing what one loves. Instead, it is about finding one’s own path, and continuing with it until it becomes life’s main job. In other words, if one is happy with a routine job or life, opting out of it is not necessary.

A map is just a map

A map is just a map. Similarly, a coach is only a coach. We are the ones who take the journey. Some maps show pretty pictures of destinations, yet do not provide detailed information of the route. They do not tell you how rough the roads are. These maps may be sold in hundreds of copies but people using them are lost. This book, however, provides us with details, how-to advice, and case studies. There are well-organized stories and lessons learned from people who have reached their destinations. The book doesn’t only show positive sides but mentions surrounding factors which can help us reach the goal.

Lastly, despite how good the map is, if we don’t start the journey, we won’t get anywhere. During the journey, we might encounter the unexpected and have to cancel it. That is totally up to us. Nonetheless, a good planning and preparation will help us get through the obstacles.