He devoted himself to securing a thorough musical education, supporting himself and paying his expenses in the mean-while by playing in churches, musicales, motion picture shows, and other places. He also received a few dollars nearly every week for playing the violin for dances and other functions in a semi-professional orchestra. Truly this was not “art for art’s sake.” Any critical musician could probably tell you that such use of his musical talent forever shut off any hopes of his becoming a true artist. On the other hand, it did fill his stomach and clothe him while he was securing a sufficient musical education to enable him to make a very fair living as teacher on various musical instruments and as a performer at popular concerts, recitals, etc. Best of all, he was happy in his work, felt himself growing in success and, while there were probably heights which he never could scale and to which he may have turned his longing eyes, he doubtless got a considerable amount of satisfaction out of the fact that he was no longer being kicked around from pillar to post in the commercial world.
Herbert Spencer felt that he was a complete and utter failure as a civil engineer, but he made a magnificent success as a scientist, essayist, and philosopher.
The number of great authors, scientists, philosophers, poets, actors, preachers, teachers, lecturers, and musicians who were ludicrously impractical is legion. Literature abounds in stories of their idiosyncrasies. These people deal with abstractions, ideas, with theories, and with emotions. They may be very successful in the spinning of theories, in the working out of clever ideas, and in their appeal to the emotions of their fellow-men. They may write poetry which is the product of genius; they may devise profound philosophy. This is their realm. Here is where they are supreme, and it is in this kind of work they find an expression for all of their talent.
Right here there is need for careful distinction. There is a great difference between the impractical man who has energy, courage, and persistence, and the impractical man who is lazy and cowardly. No matter what a man’s natural talent may be, it takes hard work to be successful in such callings as art, music, the pulpit, the stage, the platform, and the pen. Inspiration may seem to have a great deal to do with success. But even in the writing of a poem inspiration is probably only about five per cent.; hard work constitutes the other ninety-five per cent. It is one thing to have vague, beautiful dreams, to be an admirer of beauty, to enjoy thrills in contemplation of beautiful thoughts or beautiful pictures. It is quite another thing to have the energy, the courage, and the dogged persistence necessary to create that which is beautiful.