Marc Acito Takes the Artist's Way
I should have been happy, but I wasn't. I mean, after nearly ten years of pursuing
an operatic career, I had finally scratched my way to the middle. Proving that
sheer ambition trumps natural talent, I had parlayed a minor vocal gift into an
occupation playing an odd assortment of singing hunchbacks, drunk sidekicks and
mad scientists. Still, I wasn't satisfied. Directors kept telling me that what
I was doing onstage was certainly, well, original, but I didn't seem to be in
the same opera as everyone else. I looked around and thought, "But my opera
is so much more interesting."
What's more, I had spent thousands of dollars and still hadn't "found
my voice," as if it were hidden under a bush, like an Easter egg. Then
I read The
Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, a book that changed the course of my life.
Cameron's intimidatingly subtitled Course in Discovering and Recovering
Your Creative Self is more fun than it sounds and made me realize that
creativity is born out of enthusiasm, not discipline; that what separates artists
from civilians is our courage to follow seemingly incomprehensible obsessions.
"As an artist," Cameron writes, "I may poke into what other people
might think of as dead ends: a punk band I mysteriously fall for [or] a piece
of red silk I just like and add to a nice outfit, thereby 'ruining it.'"
So I started small, expressing myself in doggerel, Ogden Nash-y verse:
I want to make art
Eighteen months later, I was in Dublin on a gig and using every spare moment
to write an exceedingly mediocre short story, which I nonetheless indulged like
a favored concubine. Looking up from my pad to see the time, I thought to myself,
"Damn. Now I've gotta go to work."
As much as I fart.
Art straight to the heart,
Like Cupid's dart.
It need not be smart
Or avant gart,
I just wish I could start
To make me some art.
The thought chilled me, and not just because my flat lacked central heating.
Here I was on the eve of a career milestone my European operatic debut and
I felt like I had to report to the salt mines. I figured if I was going to hate
my job, it'd be a lot easier to hate it at home.
So, at the age of thirty-two, I cancelled my remaining engagements, got a day job
that I did indeed hate, and started writing in earnest.
Six years later, The
Artist's Way still guides me in my new life as a full-time writer, reminding
me of the importance of restocking the creative pond as it gets diminished.
And after selling my
first novel (as well the movie, audio, and foreign rights), I don't question
my cockamamie compulsions anymore, whether it's wearing a pink tutu in public
or driving to a replica of Stonehenge in the middle of the night. Being silly
is my job.
Most importantly, not only did The Artist's Way give me the freedom
to be my most audacious self, it also allowed me to accomplish as a writer what
I had failed to do as a singer: I finally found my voice.
Marc Acito, 2004
About Marc Acito
Marc Acito's debut novel, How
I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater,
will be published in September by Doubleday/Broadway. Hailed as the "gay Dave
Barry," the Portland-based humorist writes the syndicated column "The Gospel
According to Marc," which appears in nineteen newspapers nationwide. His website