I took a job as a choir director last year, so that makes me a professional musician. It’s the one artistic thing that I’m truly good enough to do professionally at this point in my life. I aspired to do this for years, and when the time was right, I did it. It feels good. I enjoy it. And I get paid for it. Dreams come true every day. I also write fiction ($32.50 in sales on Amazon last year…woot!). I play in a community orchestra. I sing an occasional funeral, recital, or benefit. I act in a community theatre, when I have the time (which is hardly ever). I’m an amateur in all of these endeavors and I’m cool with it. I do it for one reason: I love doing it.
I choose my dreams very carefully, and I believe I’m happier for it. Perhaps I should be more of a risk-taker, but it’s just all this business of yearning for, obsessing over, and dreaming of being a professional that just wears me out. Believe me, I’ve been there. But now, I go for it only if I know in my heart that I can do it; otherwise, I choose to accept the reality of my talent. And when I do that, things just seem to fall into place. For example, as soon as I quit trying to be a professional singer, guess what, I became a far better singer. I stopped worrying so much about being a pro and learned to enjoy it.
Are there people who have undiscovered talent? Are there people who have clawed there way to the top? Sure, but I believe that in general, professional talent attracts professional success. I hold no illusions about my skills as an artist. I figure if I was good enough to go pro with any of my amateur art I would know by now. Someone would have told me by now.
Let’s take Josh Groban for instance. He’s a Grammy award winning artist with a multi-platinum album. He wasn’t even trying to be a singer. He was studying acting at an L.A. arts high school (he’s a pretty good at it, too). But as soon as his voice changed and he began singing, things happened. He went from being a student actor one day to a professional singer filling in for Andrea Bocelli with Celine Dion the next. He could have stuck it out with the acting and struggled his way up, but instead he went with his strength and soared. And, bonus, his success as a singer has given him the opportunity to become successful actor. If you’ve got it, then people will do something about it.
The two questions you have to ask yourself are:
1. Do people outside of your friends and family see your talent and want to do something about it?
2. Are you willing to go balls-to-the wall to achieve it?
If either one of these answers is no, then it’s time to accept your amateur status.
It’s ok to be an amateur. We all need art in our lives, and we don’t have to be paid to make it worthwhile. But don’t kid yourself about it. Discover who you are as an artist and who you aren’t. Then embrace it. Be proud of it. Dreams come true. But dreams are dreams, and truth is truth and sometimes they don’t intersect. And I’m cool with that.