Artist or employee – maybe not an either or

We hear from lots of “starving artists.”  You know the routine – you do a demo for your next album and hope to get a $100 gig at a local restaurant to buy groceries tomorrow.  Sell one painting for $300 then wonder how you’ll pay the rent this month.  Get your book published but then wonder how the $1.50 royalty is just compensation for all the work involved. 

Not everyone tries to make a living from their “art.”

The Story of T.S. Eliot

T S Eliot was a British essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic, and “one of the twentieth century’s major poets.”  He won both the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Order of Merit in 1948. 

As a young ambitious writer in his 20s he wrote reviews and essays, and delivered a lecture series. It was a devouring workload that left him little time for his real passion of writing poetry. And, he barely generated enough money for a meager existence. 

At age 29 he got a “real job.”  He took a job at Lloyds Bank in London, where he worked for the next eight years.  Two days after he started there he wrote his mother, “I am now earning two pounds ten shillings a week for sitting in an office from 9:15 to 5 with an hour for lunch, and tea served in the office…..”  The pressure to pay the rent and buy groceries was gone.  He used his lunch hour to discuss literary projects with friends.  In the evening he had leisure time to work on his poetry and his fame began to grow. 

Did he then leave for the freedom of being an entrepreneur – with no restraints on his time?  No, after eight years at Lloyds he accepted an editorial position at the publishing firm Faber and Gwyer, where he stayed for the rest of his career. 

The Story of Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope demanded of himself that he write 3,000 words every morning before going off to his job at the postal service, a position he kept for 33 years during the writing of more than two dozen books. 

We tend to see creative skills as all or nothing.  Burn the bridges and make it work.  But sometimes forcing your “art” to be the only source of income kills the very creativity you wished to increase. Maybe you should not burden your (music, art, sculpting, writing, inventing, designing) with the responsibility of paying for your life. Tweet This

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