Art and Money

Everyone should have the opportunity to make things.

I don’t necessarily mean professionally. Obviously if you get to make things for your job, that can be awesome.

But it isn’t inherently and it may not fill that creative need. Maybe you’re an accountant who likes to knit or a nurse who digs whittling. Maybe you build electronics in a factory, but you really love tending your vegetable garden. Whatever it is. I think in some ways, it may be better for you if it’s not your full-time job.

There’s a temptation, I think, when we encounter someone who’s could at making something to say: “You should turn this into a business.” And I understand the impulse. We want to encourage each other to do what we love and at which we excel. We want that to sustain us in every possible way. To make a living, as they say.

This, of course, ignores the fact that there’s a lot more to living than money.

I think about this with writing quite a lot, as you might imagine. I have intended to be a writer since I was very young. It’s all I have ever wanted to be and, honestly, I can’t quite conceive of doing anything else with my life. No matter what else I try, I end up with writing. Not solely writing, maybe, but writing plus. Writing and teaching. Writing and editing. Writing and reviewing.

But there are lots of people for whom writing is a different sort of pursuit and that’s okay. It’s  good. It fulfills that need–that need to make things just for yourself this time. That’s not a need I fulfill with writing, though. That is why I cook, why I garden, why I keep trying at music and other projects.

I think I was scared of writing as a profession for the last few years. I worried about wanting success too badly. I was wary of putting work out into the world before it was ready in the service of “career.” I wondered if I was putting too much emphasis on writing as my profession.

I’m moving past that–finding that balance between perfectionism and impulsiveness. I’m thinking about the ways I connect to the writing community. I’m imagining writing as a career. Not in terms of big contracts or notoriety. But as something I do, lifelong. Not only for myself, but not only for a potential paycheck either. I think working in the arts, especially in the U.S., has to exist somewhere between those extremes.

Yes, art is always partly a personal endeavor and it can be just that. But there’s also the need to share, to show, to display. And that’s okay, too.


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