How to Give up a Career in the Arts

Today I am going to write about a subject that is almost too decadent to write about. I have never seen a text written about this, but still people do it all the time. No – this is not anything dirty. This is about giving up a career in the arts. The year 2019 has just begun 1,5 hours ago as I am writing this, and after one day I am about to start a new job that hasn’t got anything to do with the arts. I am steering my career away from the arts, without any hard feelings, disappointment or disillusionment. But before you read this, I want to make clear that if you are looking for good reasons to give up an arts career or someone to talk you out of following your artistic dreams, do not look to me for any of those. If you need that, I am going to put a link at the end of this text for you. But the article is in German, so luckily everybody won’t be able to read that. Ha! Because an arts career is always a good idea if that is what you are really passionate about. But for those who dare to continue reading, I will tell you about the outer and inner circumstances that steered me towards the conclusion that I want to do something else and the theses I have formed after my own experiences.


1 Know yourself

Stepping into considering the matter in the first place and stepping into even reading this text should be like stepping into the temple of the Delphi Oracle. First: know thyself!

I have worked in the arts business in a thousand different roles for almost 20 years. I have lived for the arts, especially for opera. I have really identified myself with everything that belongs in that world.

Two years ago, when I moved from Finland to Germany, I had the chance to think about my life and career again for the first time after I chose my field of study a couple of decades ago. It was never my intention to give up my career in the arts, I just wanted to figure out if the things I had been doing were the right ones. And it turned out that yes, partly, but there was more to me as well, and the ”more” was something that had nothing to do with the arts. It was something I had lived for even longer than I had lived for the arts. That was the mystery of us human beings and our lives, our minds and our stories. And as the arts are of course an excellent way to study that, what I had been doing was organisation, administration, marketing, PR – and singing opera of course. However interesting all that is, it has somehow always been dancing around the subject, not really delving into it.

After some really disciplined self study I came to the conclusion that my ”thing” is, and has always been, the philosophy and psychology of human life, working with people, getting to know their stories, observing groups of them and trying to bring perspective to all kinds of situations, especially those that have something to do with change. That is how I found coaching and now I am a happy and hugely inspired student of systemic coaching in Heidelberg.

Giving up an arts career should never be about letting go. There should always be a getting something else so appealing to you that it can seriously compete with The Arts in the first place. Otherwise the regret and bitterness will probably start to show up at some point.

2 Do NOT give up creative self-expression

If you have started to pursue a career in the arts in the first place, you probably are a person who needs to express yourself creatively. If not, then you should have left the poor arts field alone a long time ago.

Giving up a career in the arts should not mean giving up your art. If you can’t or don’t want to do your original art form anymore, you should have something else in your mind at this point. If not, go back to step one ”know yourself”. Your other career should be an equal form of your creative self-expression, not just something to distract you from your arts passion.

For me, the other form of self-expression is the examining of us humans and our life stories through psychology. For me it is also writing this blog. I also have not given up my art. Since there are very good possibilities in Germany to sing opera semi-professionally, that is what I do now. I sing, I am on stage, I take lessons. But as my day job I will be doing something else that is equally a form of my self-expression. I call this eating the cake and saving it too…

3 Do not listen to anyone telling you to give up a career in the arts

You have to be on your own here, sorry. There are many artists who have been put down by critics, professors, parents, agents, and still they are making art. To listen to anyone else in this is giving up and will probably leave you hungry, disappointed and forever thinking ”what if”.

I don’t want to be too hard on you, though. No one needs pushing forward and other people believing in them like an artist who is in a sense showing themselves naked to the world. That is a lonely and scary path and you certainly have to be either made out of steel or really passionate if you are able to go on without the support of other people.

When I think about my singing, I have had both support and critique. The latter mostly from myself, but yes – from other people as well. And I have tried to give up after such a critique, but that road leaves one broken and forever unsatisfied. You have to walk you own path until the end whether the end comes by retiring after a long career or in a turning point like the one I am at right now. But at this point I am choosing another path because I see something very exciting along that one.

4 There is no common sense behind your decision

This point is short. You are leaving your career in the arts either because of love or because of fear. Any ”reasonable” justifications are initially based on fear.

You should justify your decision with love and with your heart. Love for something else, and a promise to take care of your love for the arts in the future as well.

5 Remember that you might be a Renaissance man

…or woman of course. They did not seize to exist after the 16th century. There are a lot of artists who are great masters of, say, the violin. But what if you are one of those who are great with violin but can also paint a hell of a piece of art? Or write really well. Or create beautiful homes, or have a great scientific mind, or communicate with different people, or [fill in the blank].

Or maybe you are a cat woman like me. No, not the one fighting Batman or the creepy one from The Simpsons. I am talking about a person who wants to live nine lives during one lifetime. I mean – isn’t life interesting? At least I want to experience what it is like to be a singer, a journalist, a teacher, a mother, a lover, a wife,  a daughter, a secretary, a blogger, a leader, a follower, a salesperson, a waiter, an artist, a businesswoman, a housewife, bohemian, bourgeois, Finn, German, rich, poor (that I tried already, so trying to concentrate on the rich from now on), a city person, a nature person… That was more than nine. Oh, well.

Some say that you get more than one lifetime, but who knows? I don’t know – it might be just this one as well and in that case there are some experiences to be had, I’d say. Some of us are born with this restfulness, which probably drove us to the arts in the first place. It’s ok. Express yourself by living nine lives if that is what you need to do.

6 Remember that it is ok to give up a career in the arts

People change career all the time but somehow arts is the only one you need to pursue until the end of times, because that is a calling, a passion, a destiny and what have you.

Every person was born creative, so being creative in an artistic way is just one form of it. And if something should not be put in a box, it’s creativity. It is ok to let your creativity to flow into other directions as well.

After getting some real life results for my career change, like being offered the new job I am starting tomorrow, there have been moments when I have heard music and gotten a small sting in my heart. Am I not going to be surrounded by this every day anymore?

But when I was surrounded by it every day, I did not really have time to enjoy it. And when I got home I did not have any more energy for it. A concert usually meant work. So no, I am not going to be surrounded by it every day anymore, but the love is there and I can enjoy the time with the love of my life whenever I choose and let it be rest, not work.

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon: some people who know me only superficially (and are not usually in the arts business themselves) do not seem to be at all excited for me when I tell them about my new job, but people who are close to me and know me well, almost scream of excitement when I tell them about my new career directions. Pay attention: people do not want to hear that a person involved in the arts would want something else. Maybe people have buried the creative part of themselves and want the arts people to carry on for them as well, I don’t know. I am telling you: it is not your responsibility and it is ok to change your dreams in the course of life as you learn to know yourself better.

7 Priorities change

Art is important, but there are also other things in this world and  some of those are even more important. Arts people seem to be the only ones forgetting this sometimes, though.

Like a friend of mine, an artist to the core, said after recently having a child: suddenly it does not seem that important to perfect the role of some slut (Carmen) and perform it on a random street market somewhere.

She is not leaving her arts career, but is now changing her focus in it. People change, situations change and some things might actually become more important than The Arts.

8 In the end it all comes together

Nothing you have done in your life has been in vain. Your artistic career will be an incredible asset for you in anything you want to pursue in life. I have already seen that my new career move is just one variation of the same theme, just looking at it from a different angle. It is all just investigating this human existence.

After I got to know myself and had a clear intention and took some steps into the new direction myself, life took some steps in my direction. I got offered a job as a human resources expert in a company where I have had a side-job for a few hours a week until now. I do not want to give you an unrealistic picture of the story, though – I did not go from some wannabe opera singer to HR person overnight. I do have a lot of experience in working with people and leading teams during my arts career. This is just a new, more strong focus on people rather than arts projects.

The company has nothing to do with the arts, so it is all becoming reality for me right now. But – because life has a way of being funny – my new boss used to be a classical pianist before leaving his career in the arts.

Oh, and the link… Well, as I said, do not let anyone persuade you out of an arts career. But if you already are in terms with the fact that an arts career might be – well, almost anything, please proceed to read this:

Opernsänger: Die Bühnentiere (Die Zeit 27.12.2017)




2 thoughts on “How to Give up a Career in the Arts

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  1. Thank you very much for writing this article (in English ~ but if you hadn’t I would’ve Google translated it and gleaned what I could ^_^). I’m doing a lot of hard thinking about this subject, so now you’ve given me even more to think about. Thank you so much


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