Ever wake up after a refreshing night’s sleep, stay in bed a little longer than usual, and think about how lucky we are to do what we do? That was this morning for me. My eyes opened and the first thing I saw was a brilliant sun seeping through the edges of the curtains. Then rolling on my side, I glanced at the night-stand next to the bed and noticed the little yellow sticky notes I use to thumbnail sketch the ideas that come to me. And I thought about that. What other vocations would compel someone to do that? And it’s not about money either. It’s about pursuing a passion. When you attend a gathering of friends and talk about your lives, how many light up and become (no pun intended) animated when they describe their work? How many get out of bed some mornings with creative ideas that so excite them, they literally run to get a pen and paper to record them? How fortunate are we to fall into that tiny group of people?
I’m fortunate to have lived a life of varied and, to some, unusual experiences. I was a stockbroker, a Special Warfare operator, a Special Agent with the railroad police and a cartoonist. Throughout those experiences, I’ve had the exceptional good fortune to meet a wide variety of people in an equally wide variety of contexts. I’ve socialized with carpenters, roofers, doctors, lawyers, all ranks of military people, CEOs of corporations, bankers – even a politician or two (after which I thoroughly washed my hands). And not one of them, at least to my observation, had anything resembling the excitement of a cartoonist or illustrator when the moment of inspiration comes.
Here’s an experiment worth trying, if you have an interest in putting our good fortune into its proper perspective. At the next party, social event, or anyplace where there’s a sizable gathering of friends from other backgrounds, pose the quesion: when was the last time you got out of bed and raced past the bathroom, coffee-maker, and tail-wagging dog to jot down an idea for your work that had you so excited you had utter disregard for your own physiological state? Unless there is another cartoonist or artist in the room, I suspect there will be few to none whom, after considerable contemplation, can answer in the affirmative.
Forget (for a moment, anyway) money, forget poularity, forget fame if that’s what you’re pursuing. The greatest reward, to me, in this area of art is to have mornings like this one. There are no drugs that can reproduce this elevating sense, no beverage, and certainly no other vocation I’m aware of. Compensation in the form of immense gratitude, and the clarity which comes from knowing that what I get to do is a gift unto itself, is a treasure so few even know exists. But we do. Now shut up before they find out.