5 Things You Never Say to an Artist

While working on my next eBook in the series, tentatively titled:  Laughing IS Conceivable: Even When You're at a Dead-End Job, I'm forced to think about all of the dead-end jobs I've had. They are aplenty. There are a lot of very good reasons why during a person's professional life, they've had a dead-end job here and there: You need extra money. You take something while actively searching for something better. But when you've had, as I've had, count 'em... twenty-three dead-end jobs... there's something very wrong with you. If you've read my blog before, you know that I tend to exaggerate. Twenty-three dead- end jobs. Really Lori? Yes. This time I have documentation.

Often normal people take a job that sounds promising and then find out they were told a lot of BS about the job's potential during the interview process and, damn, it turns out to be a dead-end job.  Normal people don't set out to find a job with no future. I, however, do. In fact, the deader the end, the more I like it. And there's an explanation for this besides a simple case of masochism.

From the time I was very little, I knew I was some sort of a... for lack of a better term...an artist. I went from writing cookbooks when I was seven (okay, copying  cookbooks and calling them my own), to writing a novel,  to writing poetry, taking drama classes, singing, stand-up comedy...

And as I'm sure you're aware, people in the arts will often take whatever job we can to support our habit. The job itself doesn't make any difference. They're all pretty much interchangeable: Whatever will buy us paints or get us home early enough to perform in the theater at night or allow us time away to travel for a gig.

The hardest lesson I've had to learn and am still working on is: People who don't understand why "you're so smart" and "so good at so many things" and "you did well in school" and yet you're subjecting yourself to nowhere jobs... never will. It's nobody's fault. Artists are just not wired the same.

My family never got it. I see shows like "So You Think You Can Dance?" where parents have given up careers, sold their house and moved across the country to support their kid's dream. I can hear my father's voice if I'd ever even suggested such a thing: "Yeah, you gotta case. Could you move over? I'm trying to watch the game."

So while it may be impossible for regular people to relate to why we are what we are, I'd like to leave you with some phrases that many of my relatives have oft-used and ones I'd like you, for your own well-being, to avoid: Trust me when I say: Our artistic energy can twist into hostility in a flash.

1) Don't ever refer to an artist's endeavors as "a nice hobby". What am I collecting snow globes here?

2) "You can always go back to it." This means, I think, that you can go to college, get a degree in something that matters not to you, so you have a career doing something you hate just a little bit more with each passing year, so that when you're old and frail and drinking heavily and resenting everyone around you for ruining your life, you can go back to doing what you knew at twelve, you should be doing. Can't argue with that.

3) "If that's what you want to be". I'm going to take a leap and say that being an artist is like being gay. (You can even be both at the same time.) You may or may not want to be either or like being either. Certainly nobody sets out to be either. And both artists and gay people, in being true to themselves, often upset the apple carts around them because it's more convenient for people around them if they were neither. Oh well.

4) "At least you're making ends meet" When singers can't sing and dancers can't dance, what they hear is: "True, you sold your soul to the devil but at least now you have money for rent."

5) "You should have something to fall back on" so that if this life you've been sent here by the Universe to do to enrich humanity doesn't work out, at least you'll know Excel.