Pivotal Event #9 “Keep on keeping on”

A few years into my fledgling career as a painter, I took another artist out for coffee. He was what I considered to be a successful artist—well-known with a well-established track record of sales and shows and accolades. I asked him for career advice. How did he get to the position he was in now? He explained a bit about how he structured his business, but summed it all up by simply saying, “Basically, you just keep working at it.”   I had been hoping for something more unusual, but I nodded as though I understood his words. I tried to put them into practice. However, it’s only in recent years that I really grasped the meaning of his (very good) advice. You just keep working at it. You show up in front of your canvas and you work at your painting. You show up at your desk and you work at your art business. You show up with an inquisitive mind and you keeping learning. And you do it again the next day and the next day and the next day, no matter what the speed of success is.   Talent is not the only determinant for a long-term career. You have to also be okay with slow and steady progress in order to survive. If you need faster progress in your life (and there were many many times I longed for that), there are much more immediately rewarding careers.   If I had taken out my artist friend years later I might have asked, “How do you have the stamina to keep on coming back to your practice? How do you figure out the dance between too little income and your need to create in order to be in it for the long term? How do you develop your own measures for a job well done?”  I can easily imagine his answers to all of my questions, just as relevant now and it was then…”You just keep working at it.”

Photo above: A pause before keeping on, circa 2010

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