Have You Sacrificed To Be A Writer or Artist?

After writing a recent blog post about not having it all, I started to wonder about the rather old-fashioned romantic view of the artist as having to sacrifice something for that art. This might include ordinary life, financial security, even health or mental well-being. It’s an idea that held some sway with me when young—and I’ve always loved La Boheme. However, when I asked a group of contemporary writers and artists this question, most hardly saw any dilemma at all.

What did you sacrifice?

Some noted that one choice excludes another:

Isabel Winson-Sagan Other life plans

Yehudis Fishman really every choice that is chosen sacrifices the choices not chosen; most of us have multi and often conflicting interests that we have to navigate between.

A few did note the sacrifice:

Larry Goodell A huge sacrifice. No moneyed career. Poverty as a result of priority being the demand of creativity. Consequently very little travel and almost a daily penny pinching. But creative life has its incomparable surprises.

But a lot of the response focused on the purely positive:

Audrey Erin Wiggins I see writing as a gift not a sacrifice. It’s special.

Rod Scott I think it is a sacrifice to ignore the muse. Ignoring the muse has led to decreased empathy and frustration. My challenge has always been to make the effort to embrace the creative muse as it attempts to envelope my consciousness.

Reverie Escobedo When I was writing more, sacrificed on all fronts but was so glad to be writing and it allowed me to be home with my kids.

Holly Baldwin I sacrifice time daily as a parent for my children’s art, but that is very important to me as a member of the human family. More than anything, I sacrifice sleep and exercise, although I have become much better with that studying art/writing than I ever was as a pre-nursing student. I think we all sacrifice something in our pursuits, but it has to be for something extraordinary to our heart for it to be worth the trade off. Do what you love.

Jan Marquart I sacrifice nothing. Writing is first, everything else falls behind that.

Michael Smith No sacrifice at all, except TV. And that is no big loss! But perhaps I am in a unique position.

And some continue to contemplate the muse:

Russell Miller I don’t think I’ve offered up to the gods anything I wanted to keep for myself. But I admit I ask myself that question almost every day.

Guy Nickson Threading the different imperatives of life may not be a matter of volition or sacrifice. Maybe it’s karma or the puppet master that makes us dance our feverish jigs? Only Regret invites the question.


Thanks to all participants—a wonderfully varied and thoughtful cohort.

Obsession – Craig’s List by Mark Sloan Thacker

More from Terry Wilson’s writing class below!


Obsession – Craig’s List

The other day my buddy Duane asked if I had joined the 12 step Craig’s list program yet. I said,” I’m not a Craigaholic, I just buy too much stuff”. Whatever, anyhow, as I tell my friends all the time, it’s not Craig’s List, it’s God’s List. Every time I need something it is right there, even though I did not know I needed it till I saw it and bought it. Then it all makes sense. Glad God is looking out for bargains for me; it’s amazing. Almost as much as the cool badly needed stuff I get it’s the people I come in contact with that keep me addicted. They are people that I was supposed to meet, only briefly. It is profound.

My Living room

I treasure the quality, fine, soft, horse dung brown leather couch and recliner with matching coffee and end tables from the melancholy woman off San Eldafanzo Road moving to their dream retirement home in Pagosa Springs. She was so sad to be leaving the hill and home she was accustomed too for decades. The dream home was already furnished. So her furniture replaced my old cloth set with the obnoxious southwestern pattern that was donated to Habitat for Humanity because Good Will won’t do pickups any longer. That stuff by far was the biggest bitch to move of anything I’ve gotten on God’s List. My TV and cable receiver sit on a stand from Eldorado, formerly owned by an artist who airbrushes murals on room walls while in the nude. The behemoth 15 x 12 hand dyed and woven Pakistan rug that looks as if it was made for my living room did not come close to fitting in the retired school teacher’s new condo she bought to be near her son. The stainless steel and copper swirling abstract wall piece caught my eye and my new house called for that visit to Barry Js Santa Fe funk factory that was littered with buddies in town for skiing crashed on every bed and couch, ended up coming along with two incredible outside stainless steel silhouette pieces, a large breasted naked woman and the torso of a male body builder, a 7 foot wrought iron abstract THING he said was an owl, two top quality unused glass exterior doors he needed to toss that are now entrances to my studio, and an old telescope, all because Barry J’s Mama had sold the house in the hills above the plaza and he was moving back to TX I cherish them all.


Every week I thank the tattooed hippie trustafarian in her early 60s from the north end, who was moving with her partner to Canada, for the wonkin tonkin deluxe Weber natural gas grill she practically gave to me. Never mind I had to pay $800 to get the gas line installed; it will last forever and came with BBQ utensils and a split leaf philodendron.

My Bedroom

Literally the day before moving my old ugly outdated “80s” style king size bedroom set from the second floor master in my house in Chama, the exquisitely hand carved Mexican southwestern bedroom set, king mattress and all, came to me from Joan, who was renting her off the grid, collect rain water and bird shit from your roof, rattle your car to death on the dead end road, house up against the cliffs with endless views in Pecos, who needed to dump the set fast. She was really groovy, really, and the next weekend hired my buddies to move the rest of her stuff into her new place in town next to the animal shelter she worked at. She thanked me over and over for taking the time, and later called me to discuss the ins and outs of rental property ownership with her, I have 6 so she thinks I’m an expert.

The Piano

A mentally and physically challenged, much less fortunate man than myself, now daily plays a piano in his living room for free thanks to God’s List calling me and I said I’ll take it. He has played since a child and it is in his own words his “most cherished possession”, it was a mother to move.

My garage

This is the holy grail of Craig’s list for this junky, at least so far. It’s all about transportation. I have always wanted to ride a recumbent and God’s list listened. I just took my 7th journey on the thing and I am as of yet unscarred, but time will tell. A woman recently retired from Los Alamos lab had lovingly let it sit in her garage and collect dust for a decade and gave it to me for a quarter of what she was possessed to pay for it originally. She was now going to try mountain biking. Its candy apple red, super long, has 20-inch wheels and sissy bars and is called a Tailwind. It is easy for me now to understand why you don’t see more of these things on the road; they are a bitch to ride to put it nicely. They are heavy, very unstable, and in general, dangerous. I love it, though a challenge God’s list granted me. I have ridden it up Cumbres Pass and blown my quads up; I have ridden it down Cumbres Pass and scared the livin shit out of myself at 42 mph. I have ridden it here and there and plan on riding it everywhere eventually. For the last 15 years I have ridden tandems on and off, mainly off, since it’s hard to convince anyone to ride with you. Men are homophobic about them and woman just aren’t interested, but thank God’s List for the black 1994 Burley, hand built in Eugene, Oregon, I now have leaning against a wall in my garage. Chuck got it after the 2000 world cup from his son, an ex-Navy Seal and bike racer, so it’s blinged out and built for the long haul. Chuck and his wife did the Santa Fe Century on it a couple times, in days gone by. It is a magnificent steed just waiting to be saddled; I am currently looking for a Stoker (rear passenger) on God’s list to fire it up. Lastly there is “Loydd” my 2000 Mercedes Benz C280; he is silver, solid, and sturdy, very different from the 91 year old Loydd I bought him from, who last drove the car into the side of his garage in 2011. I have fixed the bumper and enjoy driving him immensely usually with one of my many bikes on the back and deafening loud classical music blasting from the Boise stereo out through the sunroom – life is good.

Other gifts from God’s List

There is so much more: the lattice arches from Larry the drunk remodeler who was full, so full of advice, the free office set from the grandparents raising their granddaughter, the Nordic Track from the out of shape guy who hustled me away before his wife found out he was selling it, the patio set from the realtor who sold the house of an old couple who had moved to Florida, just next door to Loydd’s place, and told me I was a nice man, the wrought iron gate that keeps my big dog out of the Zen Sauna garden, the patio fire pit with animal cutouts that came with the best hug from the hippy chick in Tesuque, and the mixed pinon and juniper fire wood from the no-speaka-english guy that will keep the kiva going all winter – thank God.

I Don’t Want To Have It All by Miriam Sagan

Recently, people have been complimenting me on my apparent creative productivity by saying: I don’t know how you do it all. But this is not a compliment I deserve, because I’m actually doing very few things. Yes, my novel (that took decades to write) just came out, and I’m running a writing program, and going on residencies—but this is essentially an integrated whole. I’m good at it, I know what I’m doing, I’m focused—and most important, I want to be doing it, and feel this is my life’s purpose.
I’m a 61 year old woman who right now isn’t doing any primary care taking for someone very aged, sick, or dying. Or, conversely, for small children or crazed teenagers. The periods of my life where this was true were considerably less productive. I also don’t can from my garden, volunteer, belong to any organized religious groups, work out at a gym, or floss. I don’t go to Paris. And I am uninformed on popular culture and not very well informed on world events.
Honestly, I’ve never tried to “have it all” because I’ve never had the stamina, or the skill set. I’m not in the entitled male artist role because I can cook tofu and clean up after myself—but I must admit I lean more in that direction than in the female direction of having it all.
What I really like, besides being a writer and teacher, is hanging around, being with my husband Rich and daughter Isabel and son-in-law Tim, having friends, being pretty places, dancing by myself, taking a bath, Netflix, reading, and going out for coffee. I have my guilty materialistic pleasures—but they aren’t very time consuming. I feel my obituary should read: She divided her time between Tune Up Cafe and Counterculture. Tune-Up is walking distance, Counterculture three minutes by car down Baca Street. Both provide cafe au lait.
Conversely, those who praise me often criticize me too— I don’t go out much to events, I tend to bail quickly from parties. I don’t have a smart phone—or even a workable cell. I may say I live for art but I seem to have a lot of accessories. The truth is—I’m not off the grid, or unmaterialistic. I just want a small but firm wedge between me and consumer culture. I may be femmey, but I also want that wedge between me and feminine expectation. I have what I need, I don’t much mind what I don’t have—and that is ample.