Most people have no idea what it is like to be a creative person. They think being an artist means wafting around the hollyhocks in your painting smock and knocking out a masterpiece when the mood takes you. They assume that the masterpiece will bring you fame and fortune and you then become a “proper artist”.
When fame and fortune don’t come knocking on your door (because you and I know that this isn’t easy) you’ll then hear comments like:
“Is it worth you doing your art thing?”
“You’ve been at it long enough now and it hasn’t worked out. Should you keep going?”
“Painting. That’s not work, isn’t it something you do for fun? It’s not like you make any money at it.”
So should you have to justify your creative time to others?
In a perfect world the answer would be no, you shouldn’t have to. But we don’t live in a perfect world so the reality is that you will have to educate people on what it means to be a creative person.
In response to questions like the above you find yourself saying, “No, most artists don’t make a living from there art” or “No, when you send a book to a literary agent it is extremely unlikely they’ll publish it because they get three hundred submissions a day and only take on one or two new authors a year” or “No, getting a record played on Radio One doesn’t just happen because you send them a demo CD.”
You need to know the ‘why’
After ascertaining that you are not making any money, the next question from well-meaning friends and family will be, “So why do you do it?”
It is important that you know the ‘why’ not just to answer them but to truly satisfy yourself. The problem with conversations like the above is that they nag away at your own doubts. You know that you’ll go crazy if you don’t do your creative work but there are times when even you wonder if it is worth it.
You need to know the ‘why’. You need to know that you will go crazy if you don’t do it. You need to know that if you don’t play the violin every day, your fingers seize up. You need to know that you’ll keep writing irrespective of whether you are published because you have the stories in your head and you have to get them out.
If you know those things deep in your heart then you can cope with the ignorance of others.
Tips to cope when you have doubts or others’ doubts are very loud
The most important thing is that you keep creating. The best antidote to fear and doubt is action. Other things to bear in mind are:
- Be firm on safe guarding your creative time. Don’t get swayed by the non-creative naysayers.
- You might notice that the dynamics change in some of your friendships. To say yes to creativity you have to say no to other things. It is important for your wellbeing and creativity that you are surrounded by people who nurture you and understand your needs.
- Make sure you spend time with fellow creatives who understand you. This might be online if Facebook groups or reading and commenting on your favourite blogs as well as seeking out meetings for creatives.
- If your spouse is supporting you financially in your creative endeavours then make sure that you are doing the work. Not earning and not doing the thing you said you would do when you left your job can put a lot of pressure on a relationship. If you aren’t getting on with your creative work then go back to your job.
- Be sensible about money. There is no shame in working a day job and doing art in your spare time. You don’t have to buy into the starving artist concept. Having stable finances will help keep the doubters off your back. They’ll be less worried about you if they know you can afford to eat.
- Remember that the people who are most critical or negative about your creative work are probably jealous that you have the courage to express yourself through your art and they don’t.
Be proud of your creative activities
Be proud of your creative activities. You have the discipline to work consistently and produce what your soul wants to create. Many people would love to do this but they don’t seem to have the ability to get on with it. This makes you a long way ahead of them irrespective of whether you make money from your art.
Accept that most non-artistic people know nothing of the creative discipline and process so that’s why they don’t understand why you do it. The most important thing is that you know your ‘why’.
Keep gently plodding. Take care of yourself. Do your art as often as you can and enjoy it.
Over to you
Have you ever had to justify your creative pursuits to other people? How did that feel? Did you convince them, and yourself, that your creativity was worth doing?
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Every month I also share the ups and downs of my own creative journey – but only email subscribers get that insider view.