TRANSCRIPT: Ep. 148 Answer the Call and Commit to Your Art with Miriam Schulman


Miriam Schulman:

Well, hey there. It’s Miriam Schulman, host of The Inspiration Place Podcast. You’re listening to episode number 148. I’m so grateful that you’re here. Today, we’re talking all about commitment. Why? If you want to be successful, you have to be willing to cross that threshold from dabbling to going all in. It’s the basis of every Hollywood movie that the main character makes the hero’s journey. So in this episode, you’ll discover why you have to fully commit in order to succeed, why wanting to get things perfect the first time is keeping you stuck in dabbling mode, and why you need to be willing to be bad in order to be good or even great. Before we get into the meat and potatoes of today’s episode, let’s review the hero’s journey and what it is. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please don’t feel bad. I don’t think I learned it myself when I was in school or even in college, but my kids did. And since I had to sit on both of them when they did their homework, it’s actually now pretty familiar to me.

The hero’s journey is a concept describing a common storytelling pattern, and you will find this pattern across cultures, across time, anything from Gilgamesh to the Odyssey to Star Wars, and of course my beloved Harry Potter. Now it was first described by Joseph Campbell in 1949 in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The reason I’m sharing it with you today is that I want you to start seeing yourself as the hero in your own story, in your art journey. You are the hero in your artistic journey. Now I’m going to be describing the different stages of the hero’s journey and how it relates to you as the artist. We will be spending most of the time today talking about the first main stage, the first main part of it.

So Campbell describes a number of different stages or steps along this journey. The hero starts out in the ordinary world and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events or a call to adventure. If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world, which I guess they always do, they must face tasks and trials, a road of trials usually. Think of Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. They may have to face these trials alone, but more often than not, they get assistance. At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge again with help, which he earns along the way in his journey. If the hero survives, which in most stories they do, but not always, the hero may achieve a great gift, like the ring, which results in the discovery of important self-knowledge. And the hero then must decide whether to return this gift to the world, the ordinary world, which is then there’s the return journey, like the Odyssey. And if the hero is successful returning, this gift may be used to improve the world.

Let’s pause here. So just so you know, I’m mostly focusing today on the first part, the call to adventure and the answer to that call. Let’s retell this story structure as it relates to you. The hero starts in the ordinary world and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events. Everyone’s story is different. For me, I was working on Wall Street. That was my ordinary world. For many of you, this might be a day job, could even be an art teacher job, or you’re juggling other responsibilities along with your art. Your day-to-day life, as you know it, is your ordinary world. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s ordinary world is Kansas. For Harry Potter, it was living with his aunt and uncle. But then what happens? The hero receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events. For Dorothy, that was to go over the rainbow. For Harry, it was to learn to be a wizard. For Luke, it was to become a Jedi.

And for us, well, for us artists and creatives, it’s to become an artist, whatever kind of art you create, artist, author, sculptor, ceramicist, whatever that is. And that’s why I like to say art is a calling. And becoming an artist, well, honestly, it’s not that much different than becoming a wizard. Your wand is your paintbrush, or your pen, or your computer, and creating something just with the power of your imagination is an incredible gift, an incredible superpower. Now, these heroes never have a smooth path. Even the yellow brick road had poisonous poppies, mutinous apple trees, and flying monkeys. Most of what I talk about on this podcast are those flying monkeys of the art world to the trials and tribulations of going down this road. But there’s something important that you need to know. You don’t have to do this alone. Every hero’s journey includes a guide or a mentor. From Dumbledore to Obi-Wan, these successful heroes rarely do it alone.

Now the truth is within Campbell’s hero’s journeys framework, very few stories contain every single one of the stages exactly as it described and all the components. However, the journey is usually organized into three sections. So the three sections are departure, sometimes called separation, initiation and return. And like I said at the beginning of this podcast, I’m mostly focusing on departure because that’s where most of you can relate to that part of the journey. Departure deals with the hero venturing forth on a quest. Initiation deals with the hero’s various adventures along the way. So we also talk about that during this podcast as well, but today, I will be focusing mostly on departure. And the return deals with the hero’s return home with knowledge and powers acquired on that journey.

What I see most artists getting stuck with is in this departure stage. That’s why we’re going to focus on it during this episode. So the hero’s journey begins with their departure from the known world. For me, this is when I quit my hedge fund job. I was pregnant with my second child, and usually I tell the story very simple. My elevator pitch goes something like this. “I was on Wall Street. 9/11 happened, and I decided to become a full-time artist.” And while those three facts are true, that version of the story does skip a bunch of different steps. I was recently asked by one of my Artist Incubator members how I transitioned from working a full-time job to painting, and I knew she wasn’t going to like the answer. The honest answer is not the one that many of you are looking for because the one that I see many people do is that you have a full-time job and you don’t want to give up the full-time job because you’re afraid of making a living as an artist.

That’s not what I did. The truth, I didn’t know actually I was going to be a full time artist, and I wasn’t even painting on the side while I was working on Wall Street. I really wasn’t. Maybe occasionally, but not the way I do now. Now there was a small part of me that thought I could go back to Wall Street someday if I had to, but really I couldn’t. And I don’t mean that in the sense that no one would have hired me, but at a certain point, I evolved into the kind of person that was unemployable, and entrepreneurship was the clear path. I do want to let you know that before I left my job, I had set aside an additional $10,000 in savings. We sold our second car. We refinanced to make the mortgage payment lower, and I presented this austerity budget to my husband, which he wasn’t thrilled about by the way. He was a little bit freaked out that I was quitting my job.

But the idea was that I would figure it out how to make it work, or I would go back to work if when the money ran out. So that’s why when I did start selling my art, I was determined to make it work. And by the way, when I first quit my job and I was teaching Pilates and painting on the side, I was fully committed to the Pilates stuff too. I really was. I mean, I got my personal training license. I was all in on that until I decided that I rather put what I was learning as a Pilates instructor, how to sell personal training packages, when I decided I rather do that completely for myself to full on entrepreneurship, not sort of entrepreneurship. I just wanted to be an artist, and I liked my reasons. All right. Let’s circle back to the hero’s journey.

After the call to adventure, which we can all agree everyone listening to this podcast feels that call. The next phase is often refusal of the call. So what does that look like in mythology? Well, often the hero may at first try to resist the call. “Who am I to bear this ring, take this adventure?” They might feel bound by some obligation to remain at home with Auntie Em. “I’m not a wizard.” Or they may initially be afraid of the perils of the unknown. This, my friend, is the piece you have to be very, very wary of. These ties to your ordinary life that is keeping you from taking action on your dreams. What obligations do you feel are keeping you from venturing into the unknown. Now, hey, I get it. Sometimes these obligations are real, especially for women who traditionally hold the burden for caregiving, but often the biggest burdens we carry are our own indecision, our indecision to commit fully to the call.

Is this the right dream? Is this the right medium? We talked a lot about this in the podcast episode number 145, decision drama. I’ll link to it in the show notes. So we talked about in that episode why it’s so hard to make decisions and this indecisiveness, this dabbling to commit, this not going in, not going all in on one dream. That is the greatest ties that is keeping us stuck to the ordinary world. How do you know if you picked the right dream? By doing it, then go all in. How [inaudible 00:13:33] acrylic or pastel, illustration or portraits? You decide, and you be committed to it. I see a lot of this going on right now with my friend’s kids and my own kids. We have a lot of recent college graduates in my circle of friends, and they want to find that perfect first job. That first job has to be perfect.

And it isn’t going to be perfect. It’s just isn’t. It may not be what you ultimately want to do even if you have it, quote-unquote, all figured out. Hey, what I’m doing now, my perfect job for me now didn’t exist when I graduated college. And guess what? For these college graduates, for a lot of them, what they ultimately will end up doing may not exist yet either. So how do you know? How do you know? Well, you have to be committed to taking that crappy first job, writing that crappy first draft, or heck, even the crappy first book if you must. That was the best advice I got from Eric Maisel. He was a guest on this podcast as well. I’ll link to his episode in the show notes. When I interviewed him, I was in the early days of writing my book proposal, and I was 100% stuck in all of this drama that we’re talking about.

And he told me I have to be willing not only to write a crappy first draft, but a crappy first book. And that advice is what set me free and enabled me to take the next step, and that’s what I want for you also. You have to be willing to be a bad watercolorist if you want to be a good watercolorist. You have to be willing to be a bad writer if you want to be a good writer. You have to be willing to be bad to reach any level of greatness. You have to be willing to fail and make mistakes and not make perfect decisions. All right, the next phase in the hero’s journey is supernatural aide. I love this phase. So the hero often encounters a helper who helps persuade them to take the journey and acts as a guide for much of it, or an aide. Now the mentor can be a fairy godmother, Dumbledore, the good witch, or an artist business coach, like me.

Now throughout my own journey, I’ve always sought the guidance of a mentor or a coach. I recognize that the greatest athletes in the world, from Simone Biles to Tiger Woods, they all have coaches, that I heard that Tiger Woods might have three. And if the greatest in the world gets help, then so should I. Let’s move on to the next phase in the hero’s journey. It’s called crossing the threshold. This is the point in the story during which the hero first ventures into the unknown. The first journey is usually brief, and the hero often has the opportunity to simply return to the comfort of the known, even if it’s that corporate job you hate. Again, I see a lot of artists stuck in this phase as well – drama around what to paint, how much to price their art, getting stuck in decision drama.

One of the easiest ways for me to describe to people what I do as a coach is that I help them make decisions. The better you are at making decisions and sticking with them until you see it through, whether that means you succeeded or failed, the faster you will grow. Failure by trying does have strategic byproducts that teach us things. Failure by failing and advance by not trying teaches us nothing. In Hollywood movies, the greatest character growth always occurs when the hero cannot return to the ordinary world – the house lands in Oz, Luke’s home planet is destroyed, or in book seven when Harry leaves the Dursleys for the last time.

The last phase of this first part… So remember the three parts are departure, initiation, and return, and we’re mostly talking about departure. So the last part of the departure phase is belly of the whale. Finally, the hero sets off on the journey separating himself from the known world and committing to the unknown. Quitting your job, committing to be an artist, sending out that email, putting on an art show, hosting an open studio, selling your art, asking people to buy it, all those things, separating yourself from the known and fully committing to the unknown, to the uncertainty that it may not work out. In nearly all the Harry Potter books, the journey into the unknown takes the form, the metaphor if you will, of a trip on the Hogwarts Express. The train travels from the everyday world to the magical world of Hogwarts.

Now we make these micro trips each time we enter the studio, each time we put on an art show, each time we write a book, each time we meet with a client, each time we create a mural, each time we create a sculpture. How can you make this a regular part of your daily life so your art practice no longer seems like dabbling? In what ways are you bound to the ordinary world and not fully committed to the magical realm of art? If you enjoyed what we talked about today and you’re ready to answer the call to sell your art and take that journey, I have something special just for you. I’m listing a live masterclass called How to Sell More of Your Art (Without Being Insta-Famous) so that you can discover why your success isn’t measured by your social media following, and what’s really going to move the needle when it comes to sales, how to break free from the social media chains and get more of your studio time back, and dig deep and go be on the starving artist mindset to uncover what’s really sabotaging your success.

We’ll go over the five most reasons artists get stuck when they’re trying to sell their art and my fixes for what to do about them. You’ll hear the five P’s of how to profit from your art, the five things you do need, and inspiring stories of artists who have done them and built a sustainable income selling their art. You want to see how they did it. So if you’re listening to this when it goes live, head on over to to save your spot and I’ll see you there. We’ve included links to all these places, including the sign up for the masterclass, in the show notes. You can find that at Make sure you hit the Subscribe or the Follow button in your podcast app. All right, my passion maker, thanks so much for being on this journey with me here today. I’ll see you the same time, same place next week. Stay inspired.

Thank you for listening to The Inspiration Place Podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at, on Instagram, @schulmanart, and of course on


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