I’ve been working on a textbook for what seems like forever. Actually, one of my best friends and I have been doing this. Whenever people ask me the topic, which is payroll accounting, their eyes inevitably glaze over and they mumble a sort of “ehrm” sound.
It’s not the sexiest topic in the world. Part of me feels embarrassed that I chose to coauthor a textbook about one of the most nerdy, probably least glamorous topics on the planet. I could go into the practical reasons why the text is important and why we wrote it, but the fact that it is being published at all is enough.
Today I ran across an article about the business of being an artist. As a business professor, I have to admit that I have had trouble understanding why someone would deliberately develop his or her artwork with the intent of making it a career. I’ve probably looked like Mr. Cumberbatch (in the image above) when one of m students had the courage to tell me of their career plans as an artist. I guess I’ve always viewed the art business as being for people who either liked to be poor or had enough familial money to not worry about making a living.
Reading this article changed my perspective — both about my own work and about my students’ ambitions.
In Art, Inc.: A Field Guide to the Psychology and Practicalities of Becoming a Successful Artist, Maria Popova explains how selling your artwork is an investment in your own future. How people who create art are inevitably sought after to help other people understand the world or find meaning in their lives. As I consider the art on my walls, I realize that it simply never occurred to me that my purchase and display of other people’s art was a way to find meaning in my life.
But it is.
Each piece has a special significance for me. The painting of my brother and me when we were very young reminds me of my grandmother’s house, of innocence, and of times before adult cares overtook my life. A print of what I think is a Monet piece that depicts a bridge makes me think of my journey through life and the way I see my purpose in it. Even my old watercolors of WSan Francisco, which reminds me of the house where I grew up, have their place in my life.
Popova’s article mentioned that the artist’s mindset is what defines their perception of their work. For me, writing this textbook has been so much a part of my life that it is as natural as breathing. I don’t see it as anything special because I’ve been writing for so long that the process has become commonplace. When my coauthor and I went to a professional conference a few months ago, it started dawning on me how unique this writing piece is. People I didn’t know were in awe of this work, which I found odd because of my perspective that it was ultra-nerdy but commonplace. And that it was a project on which I have worked without monetary reward that I have become accustomed to it being a labor of love.
What I didn’t realize until today was how much creative talent went into this work. And how much my coauthor and I deserve any material reward that comes. We have labored countless hours on taking a mundane concept for which only one not-so-good textbook existed and have engaged our skills, talents, and unique gifts to make a student’s life — and understanding of this small, but very important, piece of accounting — a little better. And maybe, just maybe, it will enable the student to secure a fruitful career so they may buy a piece of art that lends meaning to their world.
So this tiny part of my life comes full circle. The study, labor, and artistry that went into creating this nerdy book is one of my gifts to the world. I am an artist.