When I first started following Laurie Ruettimann’s blog, she wrote a post about how artists should keep their day job and engage in their passion in their spare time. She has written several similar posts since, and her guidance has been pretty consistent. In a recent post, she stated, “I think you should do what you’re good at doing — plumbing, accounting, HR — and keep your hobby as something special that cannot be corrupted by money.”
Although I have not followed it, and although it flies in the face of the recommendations I have received from artist coaches, I do believe it is good advice. Making a living as an artist and mixing your passion with the need for money is not a particularly comfortable career path.
It is possible and it is a valid pursuit, but honestly, it is not a wise choice unless you are made of some pretty tough stuff.
Laurie is a career adviser and consultant. She knows the human resources field better than anyone. She is practical, sometimes blunt, and always very sincere about the realities facing people in today’s workforce. Her advise is simple – don’t give up a good paying job that is unfulfilling at times for a dreamy life as an artist, because that life is no dream. She’s right.
I left a career of 20 years as a clinical counselor and now call creating art my full time job. It is anything but easy.
Why do I do it?
First of all, 20 years of battling bureaucracies that impeded the progress of my counseling clients was more than enough. I was ready to leave the profession, regardless of my artistic impulses.
Second, I am made of tough stuff.
I am willing to make financial and other sacrifices in order to keep doing what I do. I am willing to learn about marketing and business, and I am willing to network with people who can help me go forward. I am willing to be innovative and try things that others could not be bothered with.
But most of all, I am too stubborn about my art to allow it to be completely corrupted by money. It is a very real and constant challenge to sell without “selling out”, but I can honestly say that I have very rarely created things that were not a part of my artistic vision simply to make money.
Indeed, I have found the monetary exchange to be a creative challenge, as it compels me to go one step further to not only please my patron, but also please my own artistic desires.
I rankle at other artists who complain that artists who sell their work are “selling out”. I often think they are just jealous.
Selling out, in my mind, is making things that are below your standards or beyond your true artistic impulses, simply to make money.
Some artists do sell out, but mostly, I think successful artists have simply found a way to connect with people who appreciate their work, and they are unashamed of monetizing their creative talents.
That is me.
So, to an extent, I agree with Laurie. Being a full time artist is no Shanga La, and you may very well find that your crappy well-paid job has more fulfillment than you think.
I have found being an artist a daily struggle, lots and lots of work, and a constant re-examination of my purposes. Yet I cannot imagine myself doing anything else at this point in my life.
And it is what I am good at doing.
(I love ya Laurie for keeping me honest! :))