Speaking as someone who has spent the entirety of his adult life trying (and mostly failing) to make a living as an artist: it is goddamn hard to make a living as an artist. Because for every book sale or gallery opening or fancy party with fancy shrimp and fancy people who are too polite to tell you to stop eating so much of the fancy shrimp, there are other periods of time, periods of time with no fancy parties or free shrimp of any quantity. Periods of time when nobody wants to buy the art you make, when the people who expect money from you still expect that money, even if you don’t have it. Especially if you don’t have it.
All artists go through these fallow stretches. Some artists quit. Others manage to keep making art through the tough times, despite the fact that nobody wants the art they make, despite the bills that must be paid off, even when those bills can’t be paid with art, even when they are paid from behind the counter at an Avis. Those are the best sort of success stories. Because for struggling artists it’s not the grand victories of other artists that are the most inspirational — tales of J.K. Rowling and her Scottish estate (and that estate’s wikipedia page), or Kanye West and his golden toilet. It’s the smaller triumphs over the larger adversities that give us struggling creative-types the most hope.
It is the stories of people like Ahamefule J. Oluo.