I think one of the most pragmatic questions a writer has is: How the hell do I pay bills and live my life while being a creative? AKA — How do I make money and create an artist’s life? I won’t lie to you. Nothing that I say here will be new information, but instead reinforcement of common knowledge. As well, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are multiple ways to live a creative life. My way is one and it can be quite empowering.
A few weeks ago, I was looking in the full-length mirror in the bathroom of my 9–5. I stared at my business casual slacks and blouse, plain face, straight hair, and realized two things. 1. This reflection is not a physical manifestation of my true self. 2. I am my own patron. The first point is better saved for a different post, but the second is what I’d like to dig into now.
That second point, “I am my own patron”, was such a simple, but powerful realization. I work a salaried position as a communications specialist in order to support myself alongside my husband, and, equally as important, my writing life. I do that — me! I have (in partnership with my wonderful husband and three cats) created a lifestyle that allows me to meet all basic needs, plus some, and still be able to call myself an artist/writer.
Maybe I’m a “princess” in the literary world, but I don’t romanticize the starving artist. I think that can be toxic and incredibly problematic — see links below. I have a mortgage, two cars, credit cards, student loan debt (oh my god, the student loan debt!) and having a full-time salary job and “midwestern lifestyle” creates space for me to have a vocation as an artist and writer. Day jobs are not uncommon for artists and writers and, frankly, shouldn’t be if they help instead of hinder the creative process.
What I’m saying is there are many ways to be an artist or writer. Starving doesn’t have to (nor should) be one of those ways. For me, and my husband, the “backdrop” of our life needs to be stable so we can be our best selves to each other and share our talents/gifts with the world.
Stability, I know, can also mean many things to many different people. For me (and us) it was really sitting down and figuring out what kind of life we could create that would include my weird little writing self.
That also included things like knowing what I didn’t want to spend my time on, such as teaching as I don’t find that career path enjoyable (but I’m incredibly thankful to every educator, ever). I prefer to be able to put in my time, clock out, and come home to do my real work. And, hey, that’s ok for someone who considers them an artist.
Like I said, this isn’t the only way to live a creative life, but it is my way and it’s (mostly) working. I’d love to know how others have created their life around their creative endeavors. It’s a topic that continues to fascinate me — how we sustain ourselves in a society that, increasingly it seems, undervalues artists and artistic talents. Can’t wait to hear from you.
Some other writings on romanticizing the starving artist:
PS — To be sure, this post is coming from an incredibly privileged point of view. Ultimately, the point I’m trying to get across is: don’t romanticize the starving artist or think that’s the only way to be an artist. Just stop, please.