Random thoughts about success.

Posted on Sep 24, 2009

No secret I’ve been getting ready for a big showing of my work. Greyhounds Reach the Beach in Dewey Beach, Delaware. Its a good event. Stressful but good. Getting ready — spending long hours in the studio, trying to get the work that needs to be completed finished, working through new ideas and trying to breathe life into old ones — makes for a lot of time to think.

Now much of the time is spent thinking of nothing. Empty head. I call it “head in a bucket” time – because that is the best way I know of to describe the feeling – but really it’s not thinking. Simply, I’m as non-thinking as possible. This usually happens when I’m working on sculpture.

Then there is a bunch of time when I think. Today my thinking time is centered around a blog post I read this morning. Success. What is success? What is successful? And so on.

I came to the conclusion that I achieved success when I felt like I wanted to be called an artist. As in, “Look there’s Sarah. She’s an artist.” And I didn’t cringe when I heard the word. When I kinda liked it. Not that I think I’m Picasso. Just that it was the best word to describe what I was doing with the majority of my life. And I was okay with it.

So here’s the rub. I have a “day job.” I didn’t always have a day job. For years, I sold my work to pay the bills. Lived off of what I made. It worked okay. Then life changed. I got a part-time job at the public library as the Director of the Public Library. Then I was nominated by the governor of North Dakota to be on the state library board. Soon people started introducing me as a librarian. Huh?

The feeling is like when there is another person in the room with the same name as you — and that person is gregarious and knows everyone — and you’re new to the crowd. They always talk to her first. You hear your name called. React. Then figure out they are talking to her.

This is Sarah Snavely. She’s a librarian.

Actually I make the majority of my income selling my art.

Oh then why are you working at the library?

Because it’s more fun to pay the utility bill with my salary than from the sale of a sculpture. Because I get health insurance as part of the job. Because I need some time out of the studio too. Because I like making a difference in my community. Because I believe in public libraries. Because I like to curate art exhibits for the library. Because it takes me out of my shell and makes me interact with people. Because I grew up in this town and know the creative void that exists for the young people here.

Why does it feel like I’m less successful as a artist because I have another source of income? Stupid head.


  1. Alyson B. Stanfield
    September 24, 2009

    Sarah: Lovely post. And I love your photo here with the dogs. I wonder if you need to correct and train people to introduce you differently. “She’s an artist AND librarian” ??

  2. Kathleen Piercefield
    September 27, 2009

    So many artists, past and present, have had “day jobs” that you’d think we could get past feeling guilty about supplementing the creative work with paying work — but it continues to be an issue. Your beautiful sculptures are testimony that you’ve unquestionably earned the “artist” label; on the other hand, what you write about your library work shows that you are finding a lot of fulfillment in that too. Creativity of another sort is involved there — no less valid, just different.

    Bravo, Sarah: artist/librarian!


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