The Heroic Life
Live Your Art: A Primer
The greatest thing I've learned about humanity is this: everyone has an art.
Pursuing your art, you will find your place in the world. You'll own it, because it is the one place you feel completely in your element. To follow your art is to find your purpose.
Your art (your purpose) is the most sacred thing you have. If tomorrow the titans destroyed the gods, and no prayer was ever answered again, you still have your art. Your art isn't decided by gods. It's a choice you make. It is part of who you are.
That means that, potentially, you can take it with you wherever you go, however you live.
There are forces that will try to stop you. One of these is duty. You will owe people money, work, and time. You may have duty to your children, your partner, your sibling and cousins and parents. You may have duty in the form of a contract: yes, I will pay for this house. No good priest will ever tell you to ignore your duty.
So how do you balance between art and duty?
Many authors write about finding your purpose in life, but not many write about what to do when it's found.
If you've found your passion, your art, your purpose, how do you build a life around it?
This is where great tragedy occurs. Many people know, consciously or in their hearts, exactly what it is they wish to spend their life doing. But they become convinced they cannot. "It's not realistic." And they lead a life that is not, as Paulo Coelho says, their personal legend.
So I'd like to talk about how to live your art.
There is no school that offers a degree in living your passion. No one is hiring full-time entry-level employees to live their passion. Instead, most of us have both feet in a career that we use to pay our bills and stay alive.
If you're going to go beyond just staying alive, you'll need to make some changes.
I live a life in pursuit of my art. The song I was born to sing is the heroic life. The core of the heroic life is traveling freely and seeking out challenge. I wouldn't be able to live that life if I worked a normal job and owned a house. So I had to find a way to rid of those things. I had to be the architect of my freedom.
You'll probably have to be your own architect, too. No one else will do it.
So how do you start? It takes tremendous hard work to change the direction of your life. But I discovered strategies that made it practical. You can use these strategies too.
- Talk about what you're doing. When all your friends and family know what your dream is and that you're making plans to actually live it, you'll find support coming from unexpected quarters. (You'll also find resistance, but this can help you hone and refine your idea.)
- Set a deadline. Decide what your life would look like if you were following your art. Now set a date. For some people this can be less than a year away. If you have a family or a lot of debt it might be farther out, but don't go more than two years. My deadline was my thirtieth birthday.
- Start a blog. This is similar to #1, but it serves a different purpose. When you blog about your dream you'll develop a small community of like-minded people. The power of community is significant. These will be the voices who help you brainstorm, develop, and refine your ideas.
- Reduce what you owe. There are many ways to scale down the level of time and money you owe the world. How many cars do you have? Could you do with one less? How much do you spend each month on non-necessities? Consider varying degrees of minimalism, which can help you be happier by owning and spending less.
- Beware the passion business. A lot of people who want to live their art immediately decide to open a business around their passion. It took two years for me to develop a freelance income that let me travel without a job. Only then did I take the next step and open altmagic, my store that sells hand-made magic scrolls.
- Steal time. People often think they don't have the time to do all the work it takes to change their lives. In my case I had a day job, taught on weekends, and spent a lot of evenings working for my temple. I decided it was worth it to stay up late at night working on my writing. If you aren't sure you can steal time, Leo Babauta is the master of making changes in your life. He's also a really nice guy.
- Steal time at work. Many people with office jobs end up with little pockets of dead time. You probably use it kicking around Facebook or chatting with co-workers. What if you used it to write your novel, get a blog post ready, edit your photos, put up a Craigslist ad for your services, school yourself, or any of hundreds of other ways that will help you live your art?
- Don't get discovered. Many people think they can only make a living with their art if they are "discovered" by a publisher, director, gallery, or record label. That's obsolete. Learn how to get published or publish yourself. Learn how to make more money independently than you're ever going to make waiting to get discovered.
- Invest in yourself. Is there training or expertise that would really help you? In my case, I needed a way to make money while traveling. After careful consideration I decided to spend $300 to join Location Rebel. I learned nine different kinds of high-paying freelance work I can do online. With my new income, I quit my job and traveled to Thailand and Mexico City.
These are the strategies and resources I used to do things I thought were impossible. It took time. Bit by bit, I took what had been a youthful dream and turned it into my actual life.
Are there strategies or resources you can recommend? Or, is there something that you feel is preventing you from doing this? Please post a comment and share. How can I help you live your art?
Drew Jacob is a rogue priest, a philosopher and a writer. He follows the Heroic Path: the idea that the highest goal is to live gloriously, to distinguish yourself through your deeds, to be clever and brave and become known for it - to use the moments of your life to leave a lasting and worthy impression on the world.
In the pursuit of that ideal he is walking across two continents from the United States to Brazil. His goal: to meet the gods.