Hey artists, I’m hijacking this blog.
Actually, Cory handed the reins over to me, so it’s not really a hijacking, but since I’m in charge for this post, I’m going to get on my soapbox and talk about something that I don’t think gets enough attention. (Never fear — we’ll return you to your regularly scheduled programming soon.) First, a story…
It was just about 18 years ago that I formed the first inklings of an intention to turn my art into my income source. In 1994 my best friend paid me $25 to create a piece for her, then other friends asked for pieces, then strangers started calling, and within a few years I was creating custom artworks for people from across the country.
For the next decade or so, I worked my butt off to build a profitable business from my art. I was determined to bust the starving artist mindset once and for all. I was determined to be a thriving artist, an abundant artist.
I combined my developing skills as a calligrapher with a variety of media — from collage to gold leaf to watercolor — and found a niche as a ketubah artist, creating custom Jewish marriage contracts for engaged couples on commission. In 2001 I started adding prints to my offerings. This allowed me to sell multiples of my work, and helped even out the “feast or famine” income swings of being a freelancer.
Progress was steady (if slower than I would have liked), and by 2007 I’d realized my dream: I was making a decent living — in expensive Silicon Valley, no less — solely from my creative expression!
Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? I was living the dream of probably every artist who reads this blog, earning a full time income from my art!
And yet I can truthfully say that my life six years ago was not abundant.
Yes, my art business was profitable — enough to pay all my bills — but I did not feel like an abundant artist. Something was missing. Somehow, along the way, I’d lost my footing.
I’d started my art business because I loved making art, loved using my hands, loved playing and exploring and making messes. Over the years of building my business, though, I gradually stopped playing. Creating became “just a job,” the thing I had to do in order to please others, rather than the thing I did for fun, to please myself and feed my creative spirit.
I became paralyzed by perfectionism, self-doubt, and an overactive inner critic. Making art stopped being fun, and unless it was for a specific business purpose, I stopped making art.
It should go without saying that an artist who doesn’t make art is not an abundant artist.
This certainly isn’t the way things have to be, and it isn’t how things are for every working artist. In my work as a creativity instigator, though, I’ve discovered that my story is far from unique. I’m continually surprised to find professional artists and creatives signing up for my programs, sharing their own stories in emails and blog comments and forum posts, thanking me for helping them break through their blocks, fear, and self-doubt, to get creating again.
You might think that professional artists would have no need for my services. After all, working artists are already creating all the time, right?
It’s funny that I still find myself thinking that, even though my own life experience proved it to be a false assumption!
It’s easy to think that abundance is found in money, and that the more money you generate from your art, the more abundant your life will be. Of course money is important! We need it to survive, and learning the tools of business and marketing are essential for any artist who wants to control their own financial destiny.
But money is only part of the equation of a truly abundant life.
So keep reading those posts about how to market your work, how to master WordPress, how to price and sell your art. But don’t forget why you’re here in the first place: because you have a calling to create. You have a hungry creative spirit, and your job is to figure out what nourishes her (or him) best, and give it to her (or him) on a regular basis.
Has that exhilarating groove you were in deepened into a rut? Time to pull yourself out.
If you do custom work, have you noticed any feelings of resentment toward your clients creeping in? Time to rejigger, baby — resentment is a sure sign of burnout.
Is your studio growing cobwebs because you can’t seem to get yourself in there to make stuff? Time to learn some tools for busting through those blocks.
(Hint: a block is not a block to creativity; pushing through the block is the creativity! (Click to tweet this.))
(Hint: the single most important thing you can do is to learn to get comfortable with discomfort. (Click to tweet this.))
If you want to make money from your art, I am the first person who will cheer you on. But in order to be a truly abundant artist, it’s not enough to just put food on the table, you’ve got to feed your spirit, too.
So tell me, how are you going to do that today?
Go get creating!
Melissa Dinwiddie is a creative instigator, good friend and business partner to TAA, and a talented artist/singer/person in her own right. She lives in Palo Alto, California. You can read her blog at MelissaDinwiddie.com.