I think we can all agree that a societal belief exists about “the starving artist”. What’s worse is that many artists have bought into that belief and romanticized it; that somehow art is more legitimate and morally superior if it is created through suffering and sacrifice, even poverty. I strongly disagree. I believe being a conscious human being, in touch with oneself, having accessibility to emotion, an awareness of others, compassion, and a refined solid craft make for great art. Cory Huff of theabundantartist.com says, “Poverty and suffering are distractions that pull us away from being able to do the things we really love doing.” I couldn’t agree more.
How can an artist avoid being sucked into a belief that society has perpetuated for centuries? By giving yourself permission to make money at your craft. First step would be to change your personal beliefs about self-worth and money, that’s an internal job. The next step would be to find out and learn what you need to do in order to make money doing what you love. Yes, that means becoming entrepreneurial, embracing business sense, and engaging the left side of your brain a little more. It will not make you any less creative, in fact it will make you more so. It will not take you away from your art but rather put you in touch with the rest of the world so as to bring the world to your art. What better way to change hearts and minds? To say that business has no place where art is concerned is naive and quite frankly hypocritical. To disregard this and allow others to control the “business side” of your art is foolish.
Change is inevitable in all things. The artist is no exception. Adapt, reinvent if you must, and you will flourish. Like all businesses in order for there to be growth and evolution we need to embrace change. It’s important as an artist to be aware of your industry, how it fits in with the economy, and how it’s reaching people. Because as artists isn’t that one of our driving needs, to reach out and affect others? Isn’t it the responsibility of an artist?
What about value? At what point do you stop working for free? And what about your time? How much is your time worth? I suppose these questions are relative to the individual but if we as artists want to bust the starving artist mentality than consider this point by Cory Huff, “You only have so much time to create. If you take a job that doesn’t pay or pays too little, you won’t have time for the ones that do.” Something else to keep in mind is the value you place on yourself and your work will reflect in the opportunities presented to you.
The responsibility lies with us all artists and producers alike to clarify what is volunteer work, and what is a job. What is for profit and what is non-profit. What is done to benefit the community, and what is done for self-promotion. What constitutes an acting class, a club of like minded artists, or a legitimate business. It’s when these lines are blurred that problems arise. And when artists succumb to desperation or artistic self-importance these lines blur even more. Until artists are ready to stop perpetuating the myth of the starving artist they’ll continue to be treated as such.
• Cory Huff: www.theabundantartist.com
• Ramit Sethi: www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/artists-are-terrible-at-money/