Exactly two years ago today - on June 11, 2012 - I left my last full time job to become a freelance artist. The goal was to make as much of my art as possible and to make a living at it. I succeeded at both for a while. In those two years I have:
- Written 6 plays (all but one has been produced)
- Written the first draft of my first novel
- Written over 25 songs
- Completed 20 paintings (not including shoes) and 36 custom flasks
- Played music for 7 house parties on my Sing For Your Supper Tour
- Helped create and perform in two full length collaboratively devised pieces
- Designed two sets and about a dozen puppets
- Earned my bartending license
- Read a lot of books (stopped counting but it’s over 200)
- Seen a lot of films and plays (again with the counting, but close to 350).
- Worked with over 20 school aged kids in various theatrical and educational capacities
- Worked on about two dozen other theatre productions in some form or fashion
- Appeared onstage as a king, an old man, a bullfighter, Ursula Andress, and naked except for gold
- Written an adaptation for an opera libretto (which opens in one week)
This summer, the aforementioned Opera will play for two weekends, and an art installation I’m designing will appear on Martha’s Vineyard and then begin a world tour. These are two of the biggest challenges I’ve ever taken on.
The act of leaping into this void of freelance was one of pure faith; not of fearlessness but of looking fear in the eye and going forward anyway. The first year became an experiment: “what scares me more than anything? Great – I’ll do that next.” This led to playing concerts, to being naked on stage, to writing a novel, to take on the opera adaptation (I have now written as many operas as I have seen).
My own fear became the whip that charged me forward.
And yet I have never been more afraid in my life than in the past six months. Because with all that I’ve done, I’m just not making it work. Never in the past two years has it been harder to keep going. Never have I felt more daily pressure and worry.
As I write this on June 11th, I do not know how I’m going to pay rent in 19 days. I’ve tried to sell paintings; find new gigs. Some days I think about declaring bankruptcy so I don’t have to worry about debt. And some days I just want to sell out, churn out a few Hollywood rewrites, or be a rent boy, or find a sugar mama, or do something just so I won’t have to worry about the money anymore.
And that’s what worries me most: Not that this isn’t working. It isn’t, but it was never supposed to be smooth or easy. What worries me is I can now feel fear chasing me.
When I started on this project two years ago, I had not the meerest inkling of the ideas to come. That list above: I couldn’t have told you any of that was going to happen (except for one play, which I’d already started). The world has started new each of these 730 days and each has led to new surprises, new friends, new projects, new fears and challenges, new ideas.
I still believe that anything is possible. That everything is possible.
And so for my second birthday, I’m trying to dig back out of my mind. To believe again.
To feel fear again and greet it as a friend.
So this is a birthday note to myself, reminding me to leap empty-handed into the void.
Reminding me that when you follow your bliss, doors will open where there were no doors before.
Reminding me that the greatest joys come from chasing the greatest fears.
Here’s to another five years. And to finding rent for July.