1. Give it away for free
You’re probably sick of it, right? I mean you’ve spent hours/days/weeks/months slaving over it. Perhaps it’s been a struggle to bring this piece of art to life – looking at it might remind you of the sleepless nights or the painful doubts it caused you. So just get rid of it! Someone’s interested in it? Give it away! Get it out of your sight. It doesn’t matter that you spent money on the materials, it doesn’t matter you’ve spent money renting a studio to create it, it doesn’t matter that you’ve put a chunk of your life into making it – who cares! Get it out the door. Just give it away. What do you want with money anyway? It’s a filthy, capitalistic invention and it just interferes with your creativity. Anyway if you did sell it your agent would take half and your spouse the other half, so it’s more honest to just give it away.
2. Undervalue your work
If you do sell your work, the best way to remain starving is to undervalue it. To have no concept of how much time went into creating it. No idea how much your raw materials cost you, no sense of the investment you’ve put into your education and developing your skills. Why bother learning what your competition is charging or, yuck, working out a budget so you know how much you need to earn for your time. Just slap a cheap price on it and hope someone will buy.
3. Spend more than you earn
This is a good way to really muck up your creative life. It’s never been said better than by Mr Micawber in Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield:
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.
4. Wrack up big debts
When you’re an artist without a regular income that credit card (or the overdraft) is so tempting. After all there’s no shortage of expenses: canvas, headshots, new computer, website, books, etc. There’s always something that you ‘need’ in order to create. When there’s no cash, it’s tempting to just charge it. Or to dip a little into that overdraft. Or even worse, visit a payday lender!
But you NEED those supplies. You’re an artist – you don’t want to go get a part-time job, so just chuck it on the card. You can pay it off next month or when you sell your next work.
5. Lend money to all your friends
While you’re at it, practice generosity. Lend money to your mates when they’re in trouble. Buy the drinks. Pay for dinner. Bail them out. That’s what’s friends are for, right? I mean, we’re all artists. We’re in this together. We’ve got to help each other out. They’d do it for you if the shoe was on the other foot…
6. Develop an addiction
There are few ways to ruin a promising creative career like a good addiction. Take your pick – booze, drugs, sex, gambling – there’s loads of fun ways you can fuck up your creative life, piss away all your money, destroy your creativity, and alienate yourself from everyone who loves you. But of course you’re only going to do it ‘one more time….’
7. Fail to meet your obligations
Another great way to keep struggling for a very long time is to be unreliable. Say you’ll deliver something by such a date and then be late. Let them chase you a few times before you finally do what you said you would do. Be lax with sending out invoices. Don’t bother chasing up unpaid invoices. Forget to meet people when you said you would or sleep in and be late. Or hungover. Or high. You’re an artist! Normal rules don’t apply to you. What’s their problem anyway?
8. Be difficult to work with
When you do interact with people, be a diva. I mean you’re creative, you’re meant to be difficult, or eccentric, or downright bizarre. Say crazy ass things just to see if they’re listening. Make inflammatory statements just to get a rise out of people and then say “I’m only kidding man! Relax!” Be sexist, or racist or homophobic. Artists speak their mind – and you’re only expressing what everyone thinks after all.
Pick fights with people. Be harsh in your criticism. Or flirt/try to seduce them – just for fun – and just to see if you can. Or hell, even sleep with them. Doesn’t matter that they’re a customer/your agent/ a director/your studio partner. It’s just sex. And you were drunk.
And if people challenge you on your behavior – have a fit. Use lines like ‘you just don’t understand me.’ Or ‘you would say that – you’re not an artist.’ Or ‘you don’t understand the burden of creativity.’ They go over really well.
9. Forget to pay your taxes
Oops. Shit. I forgot to file my taxes. Actually I forgot to put any money aside from what I earned. But I don’t earn enough to worry about it – the tax man never wastes his time on the little guys. Anyway, why don’t they spend their time going after Starbucks and all the corporate tax dodgers? Why bother with an ARTIST?
Of if I do file, I’ll just make numbers up because I don’t actually have books, or invoices, or receipts. But I’ve got a good memory. They’re ‘rough figures.’ That’s good enough, isn’t it?
10. Flit from one thing to the next
One week you’re doing watercolours, so you buy a bunch of supplies and stay up for three nights doing a new website to feature this work.
But by next week you’re on to making music – jamming until all hours on your guitar while your paints dry out. You throw a bunch of money into recording an album, but never get around to mastering the tapes because… what you REALLY want to do is make a film. So of course you need to buy a video camera….. ad infinitum.
Help me add to this list! What other ways do good, talented artists shoot themselves in the foot and stall their careers? Please use the comments below.