Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find fame from your writing, your art or your music and make a fortune from it? It would vindicate your existence as an artist, you could give up your job and just make art. You would enjoy being interviewed on television and for the weekend supplements of the newspapers and to be famous for the work that you produce. Oh, and you could finally prove all those doubters wrong who said that you would never amount to anything or that you would be foolish to even try.
It can be such a hard slog doing your creative work especially when you aren’t getting money or recognition for it. One part of you knows that you have to do it or you will die of boredom but the other part thinks you are crazy and wishes that you didn’t have these ridiculous creative urges. Life would be so much easier without them.
It is natural to want money in exchange for labour
You are earning money in your day job so why not with your creative work? The problem with this is if the money doesn’t come (and for most people it won’t come or it won’t be very much) you can get hurt and angry and decide that it’s not worth creating anymore.
It is also natural to envy those who have it. If you are a musician, doing gigs in pubs, it can be hard to see some of the people on MTV or the X Factor who are not as good as you. I know plenty of actors whose work is amazing but they are not the people treading the boards in the West End, or Hollywood or at the BBC.
As a writer I have often read books that are crap or seem to break the rules of writing and yet they are for sale in WH Smith and mine aren’t.
When I first started writing I wanted to be a famous author. I wanted to make money, a lot of money, so that I could give up my job as a well-paid computer programmer and live a life of creative reilly. I toiled away at my writing for many years with my eye on the financial ball. Eighteen months in to my new writing life I reduced my hours in my day job from five days a week to three and have spent a lot of time since then calculating my lost earnings and therefore what my writing owes me.
But is it reasonable to expect our creativity to pay the bills?
I love Liz Gilbert and have serious writing envy of both her skills as a writer and her bank balance following the ten million plus sales of Eat Pray Love. In her latest book on creativity called Big Magic she says that we shouldn’t demand money from our fledgling creative efforts. Creativity is about freedom in our spirit, experimentation, expression of our truth. She says that to demand that this expression not only finds a way to manifest but also has to pay the bills is too much for it to bear and will probably crush it.
I know that from my own experience when my writing and business dreams haven’t worked out it is SO painful. However, part of this pain was my own fault – I was the one who had placed the expectation of money and giving me a living on these ventures. That pain can be so big that it can stop you from following your heart again. This is tragic.
How to get rid of this expectation if you have it
I have learned the hard way that the true joy in creativity lies in the act of doing it. Fame and fortune are secondary in this realm. What about the sheer joy of creating? What about the feeling that you will go seriously loony and depressed if you don’t get to create? Aren’t these good enough reasons to just get on and do it?
It has been such a relief to unshackle financial concerns from my creative work. Last year I wrote the first draft of a novel just for the sheer hell of doing it and for the learning experience. No other reason; I certainly don’t expect it to be published.
This Gentle Warrior website also exists just for the act of my expression. If someone enjoys reading it and gets something from the blogs then that’s a fantastic bonus. The main reason it is here is because I HAVE to write it. This is how I currently need to express myself and it is such a delight to do it in this way. Even building the website was an act of my creativity. I got so much joy from learning how to do it and I am so proud of my efforts, imperfect though they probably are.
It isn’t easy to get rid of attachment. If it was we would all be living wonderfully happy lives joyfully embracing each moment no matter what it brings. The key is to realise that it is the act of creation itself which is most important. And it is why by continually doing it that you will get better and improve your craft so maybe, just maybe, it might attract some money.
Don’t let disappointment stop you from creating
If you are attached to making money from your creative endeavours then you are heading for a big disappointment. The majority of creatives don’t make a living from their art.
The crushing defeat of having this expectation and not being able to manifest it can be enough to put you off making the effort anymore. Then you stop because “it didn’t work out”. Then you feel wretched because of this. After a few months and years you feel even worse because you are no longer honouring your creative spirit. You are no longer speaking your creative truth.
And that, my dear reader, is a truly sad state of affairs, much sadder than doing a day job alongside your art so that you can afford to feed, home and clothe yourself!
Over to you
Leave a comment and tell us what drives your creativity. Is it money, joy or an itch that you have to scratch?
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Every month I also share the ups and downs of my own creative journey – but only email subscribers get that insider view.