"Have you thought about writing your family history, but found yourself stuck from the start? Writing a family narrative can be a daunting task, but Karen Jones Gowen found a way to bring her mother's story to life." (Homespun Magazine)

Monday, August 23, 2010

What is Your Passion? And Can you Make a Living at it?

I had a conversation today with my son who's preparing to go back to college after two years in South Africa. Originally, his plan was to earn money through music-- as a teacher, playing in orchestras, and giving private lessons. His major is music education and his instrument is the viola. But now that he's back in the States, and the talk is about the economy, he's wondering if he should go into science rather than the arts, for more financial stability.

He enjoys science, gets good grades and could do something in that field, yet music is his passion, and he wants to make a living at it. He says, "I can't imagine anything more wonderful than getting paid for playing music."

Meanwhile, I'm reading a blog today and find this quote by Dan Wells, award-winning author of I am Not a Serial Killer:

"Anyone can make a living as an artist. If you put as much time and energy as a doctor does in building a career, you can be just as successful. Unfortunately there are not programs designed to guide an author step by step into the industry as there are in other fields but if you consider yourself a writer and work everyday toward making it a career, you can't lose."

What do you think? In spite of economic issues, do you think it's possible to support a family by pursuing one's passion? Or should artsy people like writers, musicians and actors stick with the sensible majors where high-paying jobs are waiting?


  1. This such a difficult question. I too majored in Music Ed and performed professionally for a while. When decision time came though, I elected to head into the business arena -- and it was the correct choice for me. But there was a difference. Music wasn't so much of a passion as it was simply pursuing something that I was halfway decent at.

    I could envision a good life teaching by day and playing with a symphony by night -- and perhaps evolving into some studio work. This is where passion and practicality go hand in hand. If some of that passion leans toward teaching kids, so much the better.

    It is the rare musician that makes a bunch of money. But then, doing what you really want to do is worth gold.

    I figure that he will be a success whatever he does....even if it is being a scientific guru by day and a musician by night.

    These are hard decisions. My heart says go with the passion no matter what anyone says. My mind keeps saying, "Yea...but..."

    Best of luck to him.

  2. Jerry, excellent comment. I'll show this to him. (None of my boys read my blogs. They think blogging is for sissies LOL.)

  3. Oh good luck to your son! I wish him all the success in the world with whatever he does! I hope hope hope that he pursues his musical passion in whatever form!

    In an ideal world I guess following your desires and making a living out of it would be just perfect but economic reality is something else altogether.

    I guess the middle road would be to get a "steady" job and to be able to fund that passion.

    Take care

  4. Kitty, economic reality can be so annoying can't it? It remains to be seen what his decisions will be, and thanks for your well wishes! He's a great kid so I'm sure whatever he decides will turn out for the best :)

  5. If there's any way to make a living at your passion, I think we should do it. But reality does intrude, doesn't it? One of the women in my singing group studied voice in college, but gave it up because of rejection after rejection. She's really talented and now is getting to do what she's always wanted to do, but of course, we don't get paid for our singing. It's a hard choice your son has to make. Perhaps he can give it a try and see how it goes. He can always change his mind later.

  6. Good question. I think it helps to have a partner/spouse who has a more stable occupation, especially in the beginning. And for a musician, it's nice to have the option of teaching lessons in order to supplement the less lucrative aspects of being a musician. It's all practice, practice, practice. I like the idea that you have to devote as much time as you need to becoming a doctor.

  7. There is no such thing as a place where everyone makes a lot of money. There are writers and musicians who make a lot of money, and many who don't. There are scientists who make a lot of money, and many who don't. The big difference is in the entry level salaries -- but once you get beyond that, hard work and determination prevails.

  8. Colette,

    "There is no such thing as a place where everyone makes a lot of money."

    Thank you for this true & timely reminder! So so true. We're all looking for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and it's not there folks. As much as we want it to be, it just isn't there.

    Theresa, Good point about the spousal support. And yes, don't you love the doctor quote? That really puts it into perspective doesn't it?

    Karen, He's going to continue on with the music ed. for now because he has scholarships to do so. He'll give it 6 months to see how he feels. And after all, he is planning on teaching & supplementing that with private lessons and orchestra work. It's not like he wants to go to Nashville and be a recording artist or go to LA and be a rock star. Or to NY and get into Broadway. I'd probably discourage any of those plans, even tho there are many who do it and succeed!

  9. My son's band teacher is very enthusiastic. She found a good outlet for her passion and it shows. You can't put a price on a life filled with purpose.

  10. Carolyn, "You can't put a price on a life filled with purpose." Awesome! Thank you :)

  11. I think you have to look at your blueprint. What are you willing to live with and without. If you follow passion and it doesn't pay off as planned. Are you willing to be happy, but have less material possessions, less going out to eat, etc.
    I don't know who coined the term, "Starving artists"...I'll go google it. I to think when you are creative, it is in more than one facet.
    You still have to have the toe in the door of your passion...being in a band that plays the local nightclubs, while working in another field.
    I do think it can happen, but it is all about, what you are willing to live with/without~

    I wanted to be an Art Teacher, I was talked out of it. Being married to a sailor, teaching would of been a difficult path. I have moved 17x in 25yrs. The economy cuts the arts first... I think you can have both, but have to be willing to compromise. Reaching for the stars is a risk, but one worth taking!


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