I saw The Wrestler a couple of weeks ago and have been haunted by the images of Mickey Rourke as Randy “The Ram” Robinson the broken down wrestler trying for a comeback. While the gritty nature of the movie was difficult to watch at times I couldn’t help but see similarities between “The Ram” and the difficulties we as artists are facing today…or at least we think we are. There are three major take-aways that Randy “The Ram” left me with…
Giving up vs. sticking with it
On the surface this seems obvious…we never give up, we are taught to always stick with it no matter what. It doesn’t take long watching “The Ram” before we ask “How’s that workin’ for ya?” A couple of months ago I talked about knowing when to give up, when to walk away, and how to recognize when it is time. Seth Godin talks about knowing when to walk away in The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by pointing out that life and business are a series of ups and downs some are short and some are long, we need to know the difference to be successful. Hanging in there to long can turn us into our own version of “The Ram” while giving in to the impulse to give up when things get hard can lead to missed opportunities. Sometimes “staying the course” is good sometimes not so much…we need to be awake to know the difference.
“The Ram” chose to stick with it because of any number of reasons not the least of which was not knowing anything else…he made the mistake of thinking his body and his glory days could last for ever. How many of us felt the same way when we decided to become artists? Did you ever imagine your body would give out and you could no longer throw pots or “break iron”? In the end Randy “The Ram” was left ( he thought) with no choice which brings me to the second take-away.
The one trick pony
As the movie came to an end Bruce Springsteen asked
Have you ever seen a one trick pony in the field so happy and free
If you’ve ever seen a one trick pony then you’ve seen me
Have you ever seen a one legged dog makin’ his way down the street
If you’ve ever seen a one legged dog then you’ve seen me
Bruce Springsteen “The Wrestler”
So I ask …how many artists are one trick ponies? How many of you rely solely on art fair sales or gallery sales to support your art making? For years we could get away with it, because our bodies let us and we were buoyed up by a sense abundance. We stayed in our studios, quite content to remain where we were and smugly told ourselves we were doing just fine we were above the need to sell our work. Until we noticed we were becoming the “one legged dog” and then……….
A recent survey by the NAIA reflected this tunnel vision quoting artists blaming the public when the real problem was their own failure to recognize themselves as businesses and businesses sometimes need to diversify in order to grow and succeed. Many of the artists interviewed voiced a concern that they would have to get a “real job”, that may be true for some but not for all especially for those who have paid attention and did not become one trick ponies locked into their false sense of permanence.
Nothing is permanent, we always have a choice
This brings me to the final take-away, and that is we have a natural tendency to think that our world will always remain in it’s current state. We will always be able to throw pots, heft iron, or work a loom, people will always flock to us ready to buy. So we don’t see a need to anticipate change because everything is great..that is until the trek from the van to our booth site starts hurting, or we have failed to catch a trend change.
So when you start to think about giving up take a look outside your world and inside yourself and try to see if your lens is focused, and ask yourself…
- Are you Randy “The Ram” hanging on because you don’t know anything else?
- Are you that one trick pony?
- Is the world as you see it now going to be the same way next year, or 5,10 years down the line?
These things that have comforted me I drive away (anything more)
This place that is my home I cannot stay (anything more)
My only faith is in the broken bones and bruises I display
Have you ever seen a one legged man tryin’ to dance his way free
If you’ve ever seen a one legged man then you’ve seen me
Lyrics from “The Wrestler” featured in Working on a Dream (Deluxe Version) Bruce Springsteen
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