Today I ran into a friend from childhood, and upon receiving the question, "What are you doing now?" I answered, "I'm living as an artist."
Just now it is striking me that I can't think of another profession that one declares living as, instead of just saying what it is. "I'm living as a teacher." "I'm living as a social worker." "I'm living as a Zombie Prevention League Investigator" (Live on, friend..)
So now I'm wondering not only why it's a thing that people say, but why I said it without thinking. My guess is that although it is implied that other working people are simultaneously living and earning money doing their job, there is a broad assumption that many artists are making art in addition to "earning a living" doing something else. Art can be a hobby. In the moment, I felt the need to distinguish myself as someone who is making art for a living.
I often hear "How do you make money?" in a genuinely curious, non-offensive way, because many folks are surprised that emerging artists can support themselves just by selling art. WELL IT'S NOT EASY. (Forthcoming blogpost will answer this question!)
Meanwhile, I am living, working, and playing as an artist. As with any part of life, my feelings about it swell and flop by the day. Sometimes I feel so proud to be doing this. Sometimes I feel like it's not valuable to society at all. I always feel incredibly lucky to be in control of my time and energy.
Yes, I babysit on the side to help pay the bills. I am also grateful every day that I have a full-time week, month, and year(s) to make art, to promote my art, to explore my own art-mind and the art-minds of others, and to practice, practice, practice. I can see my art growing in a way that it never would if I also worked in a restaurant or a school or an office, and I am so thankful.