There is a tipping point of belief that every artist and creative encounters along the route towards realizing their career aspirations. Some careers may start off quickly, with a high level of synchronicity. Others take longer to realize—and in those instances, when there are no palpable gains or returns, the notion of giving up can almost read as the responsible thing to do, particularly after encountering the inevitable challenges and setbacks that come with life. No-one ever expects to have to wait and endure multiple seasons before experiencing a breakthrough, by virtue of their talent. When that wait becomes a part of your story, you eventually face a choice bound by dual messaging: To continue forward with faith and expectation, or settle for a smaller version of your original vision—or cash out on your dreams altogether in the name of stability or normalcy.
The choice to continue forward in faith and expectation is never free of discipline and will always require renewed investment in the form of change, a sharpening of practice or a reinvention to raise the level of artistic performance or engagement. That decision to persevere, with the prospect of additional work on the horizon can render a sense of exhaustion or sometimes hopelessness, when there is no evidence or guarantee ahead that there will be a recouping or reward afterwards. After previously witnessing your plans or goals stalled or expired, like Thomas the Apostle after Christ’s resurrection, you may hear encouragement from peers and experts within your field—that if you believe and do the work, that you will succeed in your goals—but with the memory of previous failures and the cold hart facts of industry odds forming against you, you may still have doubts: You want proof that your continued investments will garner the career and life you hoped for. You want to see the data in support of their optimism. You need to see the receipts, before moving forward.
The Parable of the Talents is a well-known passage within scripture and is regularly cited as an illustration of investment and risk management. The story unfolds with a man departing on a long trip. Prior to leaving he calls in his servants and puts all three in charge of his wealth—assigning each a portion, according to their management ability. One servant received five talents, the next received two talents, and the third received one talent—(a talent being equivalent to a thousand gold coins). The first two servants invested their portion and were able to double their holdings—and the last, who only received one talent, buried his portion in the ground. When the master of the property returned, he sat down with each servant for an accounting of their holdings. The first two servants handed over their returns to the master to his satisfaction and they were rewarded with increased holdings and responsibility. The last was chided for his stagnancy and inactivity, and for not making the least effort towards putting the money into the bank where the currency would still be in circulation, collecting interest over time. His one talent was then taken from him and given to the first servant who had ten, and he was thrown off the property.
One of the most notable aspects of the parable, aside from the fact that there was no instruction provided to the servants on what to do with the talents received, was that they were each expected to hand over the gains to the owner, and that the returns were never regarded as personal income by the two who invested their holdings. In the same way, when gifts are given as an extension of the Creator’s ability to create, it is reflective of his investment and his expectation of a return—similar to an angel investor and/or venture capitalist and the investment made in a start-up. The decisions you make with your life and the short-term or long-term investment strategies and actions you take toward the development of your gift, or start-up, are never meant for your personal benefit or income—regardless of the financial gains or stature it may net externally. The Creator ultimately owns the shares and gains accrued in the impact that you are able to make with your gift towards the betterment of the community locally and/or globally. In the end, he wants to see the receipts on his investment, and there will be an accounting for everyone, regardless of profession or industry. The true gains to be accounted for are made from the circulation of the currency of the gift or talent that you were entrusted with—which reflect his creative ability on earth, as it is in heaven.
It can be a difficult road to travel as an artist with the sacrifices and choices required to develop your talent towards its highest potential. You may hit a wall in terms of acquiring or maintaining a lifestyle in line with your expectations. In those times, it is especially important to keep the currency of your gift in play and stay active, even if you are not clear on strategy or outcome. There is no failure in doing what you know how to do to maintain the building of the interest on your gift—so that when your breakthrough or answer arrives in the form of a new or unexpected creative road of expression, you will be warmed up and ready to engage.
If you are exhausted and need to take a break, it is totally acceptable and par for the course. Life happens, and everyone needs a rest break in certain measures of life in the form of self-care. Not every measure needs to be filled with triplets. At those times, let your currency rest in the bank, until you’re able to untangle yourself out of whatever predicament or challenge—whether it be medical or wellness-related. In the end, impact is realized through action and intent. Stay active and remain open to guidance and constructive criticism from peers and experts, with a heart and mind of discernment of the source and intent, as to whether or not it is constructive or fear-based and shame-driven.
Be diligent. Hold yourself accountable. Be open to experimentation and change. Do what you know--and the gain will show in your receipts.