Why/what/how do you create?

Create for creating sake not to achieve an objective ~ The Minimalists

Don’t you love it when successful writers/artists/performers/whatever tell you not to focus on creativity to earn an income? “Just follow your bliss and you’ll never work a day in your life?”

Yeah, that…

Even though that’s probably exactly what they have done, it feels counter-intuitive to us at the beginning of our career.

In his wonderful Masterclass, David Sedaris talks about how he got his ‘start’ as a performer and writer. Basically, he wrote something then performed it. Then he wrote something else and performed that. Then when he performed the next thing he was approached by an agent. Fast forward a few more write/perform combos and voila! He got a book deal!

Granted, Sedaris is a comic genius but something tells me this kind of career trajectory is just not possible anymore. Am I wrong? These days you need an online presence, you need to hustle! Or maybe if the work is brilliant the world will find it.

By extension, your work will find it’s audience, whatever that looks like. (Edited 21/08/21 I have over 600 blog posts here and I’m still trying to work out what it is I’m doing. I have about 350 followers and I’m grateful to every one of you for reading, commenting and emailing me. I always seem to get an email from a reader when I’m feeling the most frustrated about my progress!)

But I know that trying to force my creativity into making me a living is like forcing someone to love me. I can’t do it. That’s not going to stop me from making my art.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to create a career or a business from your creativity. People have been doing it for centuries. What’s new, I think, is the idea that it shouldn’t create an income, and if it does you’re a sell-out. Or the opposite, that your art is a waste of time if it’s not your day job. To be honest, it can be confusing being an artist.

There are three ways we can look at our art.

  1. As a pastime. My mum loved painting with Hobbytex. Do you remember that stuff? I believe it involved a stencil and velvet. (I remember Elvis on black velvet, but not in my house. Mum probably painted English cottages and Jesus.)hobbytex
  2. Therapy. Write it out. Paint it out. Just bloody get it out. Burn it like medical waste. (Edited 21/08/21 I follow Julia Cameron’s suggestion to write Morning Pages every day and have done since late 2017. Since then I have written 2 full length novels, 600+ blog posts, 35+ short stories, 2 novellas, and 2 50k+ word first drafts. It works. But I would never publish anything in those journals… perish the thought!)

    from a Facebook page called Sarcastic Reality
  3. Aspiration. You want to make out like a bandit from your hard work. And why shouldn’t you? We’re here for more than to pay bills and die. Why shouldn’t your work be gawked at/photographed by tourists in two hundred years time after you’ve moved on? I want to sell books. I want to write a book like the Da Vinci Code that makes people so excited about an artwork they line up like lemmings to photograph it, then walk away saying “It’s not a big as I thought it would be.”alicia-steels-327668-unsplash

Robert McKee asks would-be artists the following question.

Do you see yourself in the art or the art in yourself? Do you see yourself walking the red carpet, opening your new show, selling your work at the best space in town, holding your latest best-seller for the world media to celebrate, being invited to the latest Biennale? This is what he calls seeing yourself in the art.

Or do you see art everywhere you go? Do you have a story or some body of work that is bubbling inside you, distilling and marinating your organs?

It’s fairly easy to guess which one is the quality McKee feels signifies the best course of action and the best indicator of ‘success.’



  1. Janet Mary Cobb

    Ah – another thought-provoking post. I have a son who creates amazing charcoal portraits. When he was considering post-high school life, I thought he might pursue art — but as he explained it, creating a piece is so emotionally draining that he cannot do it for a living, it needs to stay a hobby. I thought of the ‘tortured artist’. As a writer, I’ve always wanted to see myself create the ‘great American novel’ – which I think is very much NOT the same drive and anguish that my son expressed – while my cooking is much more the creative therapy for me.

    1. Christine Betts

      I found painting stressful when I was making money from it – As in when I was making art to a price and a brief. I definitely want to make a living from my writing eventually so I need to make sure that I am writing what I want to write and not giving in to the temptation to write to “market”.

  2. lilianaslopez17

    This is so true, it is ok to think and expect some compensation. After in this world we need money to be able to move through it. I also thought the Mona Lisa was so small the first time I saw her haha. Great post!

    1. Christine Betts

      Haha 😂 reminds me of a blind date I went on once. He got upset because I said “oh I thought you’d be taller.” lol. I don’t even know why I said it but I’d say I dodged a bullet not pursuing that relationship coz he got really sniffy when I said it!! Hahaha

  3. D.A. Donaldson

    Whether it’s writing, a home improvement project, or building an occasional guitar, what drives me is the desire to be able to sit back and say, “I wrote that… I did that… I made that.” I’m not sure if the process itself is therapeutic, but the finished end result just gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that I rarely get from another day at the office (a library). To get paid for it would absolutely be great! But I guess that will happen when it happens, if ever. It seems like there’s no end to the reasons why people create, but I wouldn’t blame anyone if they did it for money. Why not? 🙂

    1. Christine Betts

      I totally agree. It is a dream for so many people. And when you think about what remains of past civilisations it’s always the art, the architecture, the poetry. I feel in my soul that our art is what makes us human but our drive to create perhaps is from something higher. Now exactly what that something higher is… ✌️

  4. melcat76

    Such is my cautious, ever risk-avoidant nature that I can come up compelling reasons why a product, a business or a piece of art shouldn’t find a wide market — even when they are already wildly successful. So I say to you, my beloved artiste: Forget all about ‘the market’. It’s not a thing, it’s a largely unpredictable force that draws in others who are moved by what you’ve created. Remain engaged with the world and all its intricacies as a person, keep letting it touch your soul, then write/paint/create what really moves you. It would be such a shame to never know who might love the art you make solely for that reason.

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