The Price of Membership: Your Career in Entertainment

You hear it all the time… success takes sacrifice. What nobody tells you is that you should pause to reflect on occasion to  ensure that you’re getting a good return on what you’re giving up to get ahead.

I started out in comic books in the early 1990’s, writing and illustrating indie titles like IKE AND KITZI. I worked hard, put out a couple of titles and then, just a few years in, the floor fell out from under me.

My interest suddenly dropped off because I didn’t feel that the time I was investing in my passion was being rewarded. Not only were my titles huge failures financially, the actual process of writing and illustrating — which I’d loved doing for years when nothing was at stake — became draining.   By the time I left comics in the mid-1990’s, the only thing I ever looked back on with real pride was JINX OOPLE: PSYCHIC PERFORMANCE ARTIST, a book I made and distributed for free as my swan song to the business.  Oddly, it’s about the only title of mine that anyone ever remembers.

Writer, actor and director Bobcat Goldthwait has been in the news a great deal lately, preaching the notion that quitting can be the best thing that can ever happen to you.  In one online article, he shares:

“If you want to be happy in showbiz, or any creative field,” he says, “listen to that voice inside you. … Work with your friends. Avoid chasing fame or money. Just do what you want to do, when and how you want to do it. And if it’s not making you happy, quit. Quit hard, and quit often.”

My career has been a series of highs and lows.  I’ve worked hundred-hour-plus weeks on shows that I really cared about and felt good about making.   I’ve also worked on shows where a simple 50 hour week ended with me feeling empty and tired as a man who’d barely survived some kind of death march.  Over the last couple of decades, I’ve learned what makes me happy and what I won’t put up with, and am starting to realize some real balance in my life.  Old side projects are bubbling back to life because my daily work environment is so well-organized and efficient and inspiring that my brain isn’t burnt to a crisp when I get home, allowing me to work on nights and weekends again.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I feel creatively fulfilled by my job?
  • Do I feel as if I am compensated fairly for my work financially and/or emotionally (in the form of satisfaction, thanks or recognition)?
  • What have I set aside to continue my career?  Does it concern me?

People in entertainment can work very long hours under stressful conditions.  If, at the end of it, you can look at the end product and like it, feel good about what you’re doing, or even just sit in the house it bought you with a smile on your face, you’re doing it right.  Otherwise, it’s time to consider the return on your investment.   Sacrifice without reward (keep in mind, I’m not just talking money here) is masochism.


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