Monday, April 2, 2007

Plans or not.

A few years before the end of my career, my partner J. and I read a book, one of those "do this and everything will be fine" books about the music business. I won't mention it by name because of the negative impression I'm going to create. I think it's a fine book and it has been very helpful to a lot of people. In our case, it did a lot more damage than good.

The book sets out a method of structuring a career by making a 10-year plan, then working backwards to a 5-year plan, a 1-year plan, etc. I won't go into why I think this sort of planning is maybe wise for a restaurant or a computer business but not for an artist, except to say that it locked us into thinking about our work (or, to be more accurate, our lives, because there's no difference for an artist) as a series of goals -- goals which we were constantly not meeting, not because of a lack of hard, focused effort, but because of the nature of our work.

Anyway, thank god, it all came tumbling down soon enough. And out of the rubble of what I thought I wanted, I try to create a life as an artist without a business plan. I went from everything being way too planned to nothing being planned at all. This groundlessness is great for my Buddhist practice, but it's not so great for my emotional health.

When J. and I first started talking about what we would do "after," it was terrifying but wonderful that everything was suddenly so wide open, that anything was possible. Opportunities soon fell into place. Producers materialized with money, and I got the chance to create a documentary about our career and be paid for it.

When that was done, I felt pretty insecure as the money ran out and I didn't have other means, but then a random meeting in a bar led me to the owners of the restaurant in Utah where I would go to live and work in the most beautiful place I've ever been for two seasons. Through one of the other cooks there, I met the executive chef at Greens in San Francisco who hired me to work for her. But on a cook's wages, I couldn't afford to live in San Francisco., which is one of the reasons I'm in Austin now.

I grew to believe that when you're not nailed down too firmly, opportunities arise, a path opens. The trouble now is that, yes, a path has opened and I've been free to follow it, but I'm not sure it is the path I want to be on. I got a job cooking in a wonderful restaurant, which led me to another wonderful restaurant, and now I can apply for cooking jobs, but, wait, I thought I was an artist. Why would I want to spend 40 hours a week cooking? That would suck just as much as my old job as a legal secretary and cooks make about a third what legal secretaries make. I don't want to spend 40 hours a week doing anything, if it's just to make money. I gave up the legal secretary gig a long time ago, and not a moment too soon for my sanity.

J. has a part-time job that he doesn't hate. It pays well enough that he can get by on it and still have time and energy for his writing. That would be okay with me.

I'll find out very soon if I have been accepted at U.T. If I'm a full-time student in the fall, everything will change. Even so, I still need to find a source of income that doesn't make me hate myself and my life. Not too much, anyway.

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