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?”
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.
- 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.)
- 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!)
- 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.”
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.’