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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Passion vs. Livelihood: Can the Two Survive in Tandem?

I suppose it is commonplace for many artists, no matter what your medium: when you start creating with the sole purpose to sell your creation, the artistic passion leaves you.

You know that old saying: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” So when you discover your talent, the thing that gives you the greatest sense of “living,” the thing that others even tell you “hey, you’re really good at that!” you start to think that this should be the vehicle by which you make your living.

You start looking for opportunities to sell your work. You see some advertisements or postings online looking for what you have to offer. You say, “Finally, a paying opportunity!” So you do what you do, and 99% of the time your work does not get picked up, but hey, you’re still doing what you love, right?

Well, sort of.

Why, when suddenly there is the urgency of getting something back for the work you do, does the passion wither?

I have met others who went about writing, drawing, painting, what have you, with the primary purpose of earning money from it (whether or not they considered the product very marketable), and once upon a time silly, naive me would ask, “But, what about doing this for the sake of art?”

To which I received rounds of laughter in response.

Yes, we all must pay the bills. Yes, we’d all like to quit our 9 to 5’s and do what we love to do all day long. And when you go on social media sites and see other people doing just that (or giving the illusion of doing just that), you say to yourself, “Why not me?”

But why was it so much more fun when you were creating for, well, fun? Is it the pressure of feeling like you must sell something in order to have a livelihood that ruins it?

I ask because there was a time where if I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t happy. It was an addiction, my personal “high.” And that’s how I still am—writing is my escape, my chance to get away for a couple of hours into the jungle of my brain. But now, as deadlines loom on me, as the need to try to make a career out of this or else I’ll be nothing for the rest of my life, I am almost daunted by the keyboard and screen. Oftentimes I don’t even want to touch the laptop.  I am only writing this because this rant isn’t for the sake of anything other than getting it out there, getting it out of me.

So you say, “Then just write for fun. Don’t worry about the rest. It’ll come in time.”

Lack of time, money, self-preservation. The first two, we starve for and attempt to gather to the point of futility. The third, it becomes a sort of joke, and illusion, because in one’s attempt to gather the first two, it slowly eats away and decays the third thing, at least mentally and spiritually. You waste away while trying to keep the people you love and care for aloft above the rising tide.

So you say, “There will always be a way to find time and money when you need it. Your art is your self-preservation.”

 Is art the ultimate selfishness? Because it’s solely for you, after all is said and done—maybe even a cry for attention, hoping someone out there notices you? Or is it the ultimate altruism, because it’s giving yourself to the world, putting your truth on display in the hopes it teaches someone else, knowing that most of the time, nothing is to be personally gained?

Is that why passion and monetary gain cannot coexist? They stem from opposite needs? Does one have to be sacrificed in order to maintain the other?


Okay, I’m finished now. You may resume enjoying your lives.

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