Why Your Creative Business Has Left You A Starving Artist.
I am a writer and a creative entrepreneur. Somehow, these two aspects of my identity led me into the glorified dead end of the starving artist.
If you look up the meaning of being a starving artist, the internet will likely tell you that this conundrum occurs for creatives due to their mistake of sacrificing their material well-being in order to pursue their art or craft.
This can be the truth, but there is another way that we can find ourselves as a starving artist, and that is by using our talents and passions as a means to an end. By beating our creativity into submission to produce a living for us. And in the process missing the point of our art entirely.
Over the centuries, we creative types have been conditioned to believe that (a) we cannot make money from our passions, or if we do it is likely by some sort of fluke or miracle, and (b) we must make sacrifices if we are to pursue these passions, that it is our choice to live this lifestyle, and that we cannot have both material wealth and creative fulfillment.
Part of me bought into this. With fervor.
Half of me believed that if I was going to be a writer, then I would most likely not make a lot of money, that my words would probably get lost in the ocean of voices that is the internet, and that it would lead to a struggle to keep my head above water.
Because of the power of belief, this is exactly what I experienced. It is important to remember that we can reverse these effects, if we are able to change the way we engage in — and with — our creativity.
Despite the power of these beliefs, I didn’t give up, because the other half of me also saw that it could be done, being a writer could pay my bills. That’s a charming characteristic of most starving artists: we don’t give up. We chip away, we keep at it, keep slogging on even if we feel deflated and disconnected from our work.
We believe that consistency and persistence will make the difference; and yes, it does make a difference, but it doesn’t make the difference.
I wanted desperately to make money from my writing and mentoring. I didn’t want to forsake my dreams and go back to my corporate job that left me feeling bereft of fulfillment.
I decided to make my creativity work for me, I thought that if other people can do it, then so can I, so I made my creativity a slave to my success. Well, yes, I know that if something is humanly possible then I, Fifi, can also achieve it; and so can you. But pimping your creativity, as I found out, was not the way forward.
I started calling myself an entrepreneur, I put revenue before my creative expression, and tried to force my writing and artistry into different types of boxes and styles in order to make it more sell-able.
In other words, I bought myself a one-way ticket to soulless, imitative predictability-town.
Guess what? The money dried up.
And so did my creativity.
Well, of course it would. When you are producing watered-down, insipid work, and playing it safe, you truly do lose your voice. You lose your originality, your ability to stir emotions or evoke a response. And isn’t that what being a creative is about?
I felt increasingly disconnected from the reason I was writing, my message lost definition and intention, and I felt utterly unfulfilled by the one thing that had given me such inspiration — and aspiration — before. Not only that, people who were coming across my work weren’t being inspired either.
My dreams of sending ripples, and then waves, of my message through the ocean of voices was getting lost. That message wasn’t even lost in translation, because the message wasn’t translating at all.
This is the risk we run when our beliefs and our actions don’t align. I lost all hope of making money from my passion because the passion had gone. All because I had used it as a means to an end.
This I see in hindsight. At the time I was confused and frustrated regarding the situation, I pushed, I tried harder, I swapped and switched writing styles, and followed other people’s advice that didn’t resonate with me. Nothing worked.
I then decided to take some time out. Nothing was working anyway, and I still had a trickle of money coming in to support a mini-sabbatical. A holiday from this creative work-house hell-hole.
During this break, I realized that my creativity, my effervescent enthusiasm to produce art, write poetry, sing in the shower and play with new concepts hadn’t diminished. It had just gotten stale, covered over with the dust of life and having to work hard.
Creativity is a stream of consciousness connecting you directly to the Universe. It’s an extension of your essence as a human and as a soul. When we forget this, we constrict the flow, and that is when we feel disconnection, unfulfillment and frustration.
Money, or my desire to make money, was not the problem at all. The problem was that I was abusing my creativity in order to be successful. I had created a slave-labor attitude towards my writing in order to bring home the bacon.
I’d lost all respect for my inner child, my soul essence, and my creative expression.
When I looked at people who were still in love with their artwork and their creative expression, I saw that they gave it a certain space to truly expand and evolve. They treated it with the reverence it deserved, and because of that, they stayed utterly enthralled with their work.
They were present with the creative process, not forcing it or hurrying it along in order to meet paying the bills.
Every high and low of being an artist was cherished, those days when they had writers block was a good excuse to go out and observe the world and garner inspiration.
Times when they felt anger at how a piece wasn’t coming along as they’d hoped was an opportunity to channel this alternative emotion onto another blank canvas.
They embraced the uncertainty of being an artist. They built flexibility and motion into their working world. Those people who manage to do that, to put the creative process and human expression before their need to make money, were the people who were effortlessly making money from their work.
That was the biggest surprise to me: by putting their creative expression first, money flowed into their lives with ease. I’d been putting the cart before the horse this whole time…
We are told that we have to make a choice, to be totally in love with our lives, living for the beauty, the passion, the depth of the human experience. Or we can make money, make a living, support ourselves and our families.
But that choice never really existed. That choice was an illusion.
I’m choosing differently these days, I choose to allow my creativity the space it needs to be at its greatest. I choose to remind myself that when I am immersed in the experience of life, with its highs and its lows, following my heart, that is when the Universe will support me.
I choose to believe that being a starving artist was never the path for me.
And I choose to believe that this is the case for you too. Your creative pursuit, your passions and talents, they can support you financially.
All we need, is to put the love of doing what we do, first.
Fifi Scarlett Mills is a creative writer and intuitive business mentor, and in the last year has been working with women in particular to discover their innate power and then express it out into the world. Having come from a corporate background and then moved into specializing in small businesses, Fifi uses her unique knowledge of the spiritual realm and psychological research to guide her clients to fulfilling their perfect version of success and build a beautiful relationship with their businesses and life’s work. You can contact her on Facebook, Instagram or via her website.