“Enjoy The Journey Folks, This Train Has No Stops, There Will Be No Arrival, There Is No Destination!”

That’s probably the most difficult thing for the artist wannabe to hear, that there is no destination. No arrival to some “made it” place. Some magical place of fame and fortune and the easy life. No all-night celebrity parties on yachts and paparazzi on the chase. That’s not the real artist life.

The artist life is all journey, a constant trek. And then more working to keep moving forward once we make any impact, get any recognition.

The artist life is a rewarding one, but one that takes constant effort. It’s never finished.

Me at the start of my journey, boarding the train.

It’s why Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger and Willie Nelson are still touring at their ages, because there’s no arrival. It’s all journey. If you were to ask any of them if they had had to have chosen between wealth and being able to remain playing their whole life, there’s not one of them that would take the wealth. Money is important, but the artist only needs so much, just enough to be able to keep working to make their art. They obviously have enough yet are still working. Why? Because there is no arrival. There’s just the next performance. New work to make or new arrangements of old work. There’s living for a new day. There are new new corners to turn and explore. New people to meet.

As Salvador Dali said, “When I wake up every day, I say, ‘Hurray, another day to be Dali!'”

It’s why the one-hit wonder band feels cursed. They don’t want one hit, they want a career. I bet there’s not a one-hit wonder musician who would say they wouldn’t trade their hit for a consistent, even if less successful, career. Because they live to make music and release new albums. Not play one song.

The gift we get as artists is the time and availability to make art, and keep making art.

The artist’s goal should be to have just as much money needed to maximize their time making their art. Most of us don’t need millions, just enough to pay the bills, put some food on the table and a roof over our heads. We rarely live for renovating our house into a show home, that’s not what we care about, we have art to make.

Because the reality is we’re often not paid in big money. But we are paid in time. Time to create. Time to work odd hours. Time to create our own schedule that supports our creative lives.

There is no arrival because we are rewarded now. Today. By being on the journey. It’s a marvelous life. We have time the businessman never finds. Free time to write or paint or photograph the IT specialist wishes they had. The time the Wall Street banker dreams of to ride the yacht she owns but never boards.

We, as artists, often works odd hours, and sometimes have wide open free time. In a culture where productivity is highly valued, time off and the ability to be creative is a tremendously undervalued reward.

In Joe Jackson’s autobiography, A Cure For Gravity, he talks about how when he was young, starting out, he’d have rather sleep on a floor with roommates in a small rental apartment than work all day in the bank to pay for a nice house, just so long as he got to play music all night, every night. The house didn’t matter, just the music. Just the performance.

In a surfing movie I once saw, one surfer said, “We’d sleep head to toe, eight on a kitchen floor, it didn’t matter. Just being on the waves, that’s what we lived for. All day, every day.”

So, how much do we really need? What amount of income is enough? What is “enough”? And enough for what? To have the flexibility to choose how to spend our time. To wake up and have the freedom to “Be Dali”. To have the time to work at our art constantly.

Is it worth working a 40-hour corporate job if all it pays for is the new car payment, the pricey mortgage, and gas to travel to and from that job to pay for those things, only to have no energy or time when we get home to make our art? What is enough?

Steven Soderbergh, the film director, talks about “doing one for Hollywood, and one for me.” That’s how he creates enough time to make his art. His own films.

Jim Jarmusch, an indie film director, calls himself an amateur filmmaker, because he explains an amateur is one who does something for love of the thing, and he makes film for love of film, not to please Hollywood. He doesn’t have large budgets for his films, but they suffice for him to make the work the way he wants to make it.

On a constant journey. Because that’s the artist life.

Meryl Streep is a tremendous actor. She has no intention of quitting acting. There is no arrival. She may even doubt that she “made it”. She often says she always wonders, when starting a new film, if this is the one where they find out she’s a sham. The actor’s life is a constant struggle to push forward. To keep making art. “You’re only as good as your last picture,” is what they always say in Hollywood.

An opera singer was being interviewed on NPR. She was 80+ years old. The interviewer asked if she ever planned to retire. She said, “Retire from what? I sing all around the world. Should I give that up and instead travel around the world in a Winnebago and not sing? Why would I do that?” She loves the journey.

I’ve worked as a photographer my whole life. I wake up every morning excited to be alive, to be working on my photography projects. Talking about photography with other photographers. Inspiring photographers with my videos, my blog posts (like this one), my photographs. Shooting photo projects for clients–my paid work (I have wonderful clients that keep me busy). Making photographs. It feels like a privileged life. I wouldn’t trade it for one with a steady workweek. But that said, I have enough to rent a small house–I have no use with a big house. I have no credit card debt or school loans, that’s huge to making this way of living work. I have a couple of older paid-off cars–two so that if one breaks down, there’s still one to make it to a freelance shoot. And I care more about creating my next photograph than getting that bigger house, a newer car. Everything I have works and is dependable and supports my creativity.

I just want to create my art. I have an insatiable desire to make my next photograph.

The artist has no retirement plan because they’re not working a job they want to leave. We’re artists, living our passion. And that’s a tremendous gift to have, that artist life. To be on the journey.

Forget the destination. There is none to reach. No place to settle down. It’s a wonderful journey and be thankful it doesn’t have an end.

From the Train Conductor: “Enjoy The Journey Folks, This Train Has No Stops, There Will Be No Arrival, There Is No Destination!”

Want to support my shows? You can, just visit this link at Paypal, or go to SupportKenneth.com to add your monthly contribution to keep the lights on!

Check out my YouTube Channel of Photography Talks: my 6×6 Portraits Blog (you’re here) and my Daily Photography Podcast. Thanks!

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