One of the biggest creativity monsters
There is a blog post that I’ve been wanting to write. It’s come up again, with all this talk of creativity monsters and gremlins. I’m probably not alone in having one big creativity monster.
I haven’t dared write about this as of yet.
But days go by and I hear stories from clients, colleagues and friends. In these times we are living, so many of us are facing the same kinds of situations.
The old structures are crumbling. We have great ideals, we’ve spent time on discerning our values, we want to walk our talk. Do what we love, market with soul, be authentic and ethical. Live!
When the money doesn’t come in, it’s easy to feel you’re on the outside, looking in, and everyone else is doing better. It’s easy to get bogged down by shame. So – deep breath.
The following story is a typical one on my spiritual journey this far.
1) I get frustrated with a recurring phenomenon in my life. (This time it was money.)
2) I say: “It’s time to put this thing in order! Let me learn all I can about this.”
Two days before Christmas 2013, I lost my biggest client.
This was a wonderful, valued, longtime client with meaningful, heartfelt projects that created practical solutions. But the changing economy required tough choices and we had to part ways. In a way, this was the demolition of a bridge between two eras of my life. The era of being an Artist-in-waiting and the era of being a Professional. This time, though, I didn’t take the leap of faith myself, and I sorely felt the sting of that boot, kicking me out of the nest of the relative safety of monthly income.
So, a third of my yearly income was suddenly gone.
My head felt like it was floating a meter above my shoulders and all I could think of was: “Where is the money going to come from?” At the same time everything became very clear, as if lit by lightning and followed by thunder. Instead of going out shopping for Christmas presents with wild abandon, I chose deliberately, carefully, breathing deeply and attempting to find the present that was essential for each child.
Dealing with fear, shame and panic
Every morning during the two weeks our kids were on holiday, I started the day with a cry. Fear of the future, shame for being fired, panic about the overwhelming reality of being utterly broke washed over me. Yet, being on a spiritual path since I was thirteen, I knew, this was happening for me, no matter how much it did not feel like it. I knew, the paradoxical balance between completely accepting what I was feeling and at the same time taking action in my everyday to create change was going to help me.
I started writing down everything I owed, daily. All the bills that needed to be paid, all the actions I had to take and everything I worried about.
I went through the list and marked a star for everything that could be acted upon that day (call creditors, ask for time, write e-mails), a leaf for everything I didn’t yet have an answer to but would give to my creative self to ruminate and a hashtag for everything I was ready to let go of.
During the day, each time I felt a bout of panic clench my belly into an accordion, I would look at the list, remind myself that I was doing everything in my power to solve the situation and then I would watch something that made me feel happy and preferably made me laugh. (Thank you Ylvis.)
Moving through the feelings caused by this involuntary leap of faith took me about two weeks of staying as close as I could to the present moment, just noticing all the fearful scenarios that my mind was producing. Geneen Roth’s book Lost and Found helped me put my situation into perspective.
By the time a wonderful journalist called me for an interview about change, right before New Year, the worst hurricane of survival panic had mellowed.
Having less money to deal with than ever before in my adult life has opened up a spaciousness in my everyday life. Discerning between what is essential, important, nice and expendable has become very easy. I’m more grateful than I was before, for things like buying groceries, a client ordering a pack of creativity cards or someone offering complimentary coaching.
Paradoxically, this return to a less is more kind of affluence has made me value my time more. A whole day spent on making art, on marketing it and on caring for my Etsy store is something to prioritize.
Making a living becomes so tangible and visceral, when it is indeed something you are creating yourself, breath by breath.
Money love in the arts
I’m reading a book. Money Love, by Kate Northrup. Slowly, I am starting to understand that taking care of my money, knowing what I spend to the last hundred euro, saving money and just being aware of what comes in and what goes out, is a way of loving myself. Money is an indication of value.
I can learn to value myself, my time and my art making skills.
Am I alone in having heard, time and time again: “Can’t you do something useful?” Meaning, anything else than art. Or, “Do you have to be so sensitive? You have to toughen up!” “Are you ever going to get a real job?” Implying that making art is something that isn’t work, or real.
It’s time to change that monologue now.
And that, more than anything, is why I am writing this today. As artists, we are prone to carry a lot of mental crap about art, money, value, our own value and what we have to do or compromise in order to be able to live and make a living. I know I do.
Love sees clearly. When we learn to love and value both our money and our art, we can start building our corners of the world into communities where artists can and do make a good living.
There is one thing I know. The world needs artists. The world needs to hear stories of people who did not compromise their dreams and still made a living. Our world desperately needs wholehearted people.
Being one isn’t easy, but it is worth it. Promise.
Luckily, all we need to do in this particular nook of the universe, is to start where we are. There are lots and lots of resources to start untangling the knots between money and art. And I wanted to say you’re not alone.
In the meantime, here at Marie D. Tiger Artworks the artboat is sailing onward, drawing by drawing, day by day, impulse by impulse. 🙂
I would love to read your thoughts about art, money and love in the comments. <3
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