There are two pieces of folk wisdom that run in direct opposition to one another. The first one holds that most unsuccessful people simply gave up just a little too soon. The other is that if you keep doing what you’re doing, the same way and expect a different outcome, you’re not quite sane.
If you’re an artist, you’re on an uphill climb to make a living at it. There is no doubt about it. Everyone will tell you this. Part of you knows that if you give up too soon, in your artistic work, you may be quitting just before your big break arrives. Another part of you knows that the big break may never arrive, unless you change what you are doing. A third part of you is aware that the opportunity to stick with it is influenced by other considerations and you may run out of the ability to keep at it, even if you want to.
What’s an artist to do? I don’t actually know. It seems Micawberish to imagine that you simply need to keep making art and wait and see what happens, yet every story of artistic success has this theme in common: they were struggling and then one day, things turned around, often forever.
Nobody can tell you when you should pack it all in, when you should make changes and when you should stay the course a little longer. Most people can’t figure that out for themselves either, because there is too little information to go on. As your resources dwindle, you might have no choice but to abandon the project and try to succeed at something else. That’s going to be an uphill climb too. Don’t kid yourself.
Finding a way to eke out a little more time to continue to develop your art might be the better answer. Dividing your time between your artistic practice and a day job that buys you the time to continue also divides your attention, focus and energy. The fatigue alone can sabotage your artistic productivity and the quality of the work you make.
Whatever the right answer turns out to be, you won’t know, while you’re in the thick of it and it can be terrifying. For my part, I think all you can do is work as hard as you can, try to make your finest work and try to find a way to stick with it for as long as humanly possible. Meanwhile, don’t abandon having an actual life, keeping body and soul in good health and maintaining your most important relationships. Success that costs you those things isn’t worth having. Changing too soon or too frequently sends you back to base camp, on each successive mountain climb. Maybe the thing that needs to guide you most is what feels right, while you’re doing it.
When it comes down to it, there is a lot of chance involved and a lot of luck. All you can do is to try to be ready and prepared, if luck strikes. Good luck.