When a museum curator gave a talk to my grad school class, she mentioned that in order to become a successful artist, being good at what you do isn't enough. There is luck and timing involved, she said, and I completely agree with her.
I dreamed of becoming a full-time painter - that's like saying "I want to be a musician!" or "I want to be a writer!" - as I used to have a day job and only painted on weekends. But even the successful painters I've met in the past two years have side gigs that sustain them when things are tough: You need to have a savings account for the rainy day.
So going to a grad school was my introduction to painting sort of full-time (between history class and teaching a foundation course) and for two years painting was pretty much all I did. I stopped cleaning the house and cooking. I didn't go out to eat or see movies. I didn't even have a part-time job, and it felt strange, but great. It was also difficult for sure, I mean what do you expect, right?
And I didn't try to sell any of the paintings that I made at school, and that allowed me to have a stock of paintings near graduation. Large and small, some horribly executed, others less. About a week before my thesis show was to open, a friend of mine asked me to hang 3 paintings for a group show set to open in two days. Four days after my thesis show opened, another group show opened on the other side of town that included 6 of my recent paintings. I was also invited to take part in a fundraising group exhibit/sale in that same period with two botanical-themed works. This will never happen again I'm sure. No one can plan on stuff like that and if I knew ahead of time, I probably would have said no to couple of them. But they all came at a great timing, and luckily I had enough paintings to cover them all. (And quite a few of them found new homes!)
Creating luck and timing, by being prepared, is all I can do for now. If you build it, he will come... whoever he is. I don't mean in just making a bunch of paintings. Writing about and promoting your work are also important. Having friends, colleagues and mentors that support you and your work are invaluable, and I'm extremely lucky to have met & studied with so many wonderful human beings in the past two years! I wish I had everyone's headshot...