A. L. Michaels has written another guest blog for us. Welcome back Andi…
A friend and I were recently discussing our creative careers. The issue with working in the creative industries is that you can make it sound terribly exciting (‘I’m a studio manager in East London, whilst doing a writing residency, promoting my novel, studying for an MsC and writing a new book’) or it can seem awful (‘I have no money, been living with my parents, will never get a mortgage’) and it’s how you spin it that matters.
My friend raised the idea that working in the arts was more of a lifestyle choice than a business choice. It is rare that a creative entrepreneur can survive with traditional lifestyle expectations. You’re not always going to know how much money is coming in every month, or whether you can save for that holiday, or if you’re going to be offered a job abroad.
The creative worker has to be adaptable, and in many ways, fearless. Or hopefully, have a few people they can depend on. Most scenarios mean that artists find other artists, so life does not seem so strange. In some cases, living like a student well into your thirties may seem wearying and weird, and it may well be. But for an artist, who, yes, does want to make money, but shuns the traditional nine-to-five, a couple of sacrifices are worth it.
And if you’re surrounded by other people who have no money and work strange hours on varied projects, then you’re probably going to feel quite comfortable.
It sounds like I’m saying you have to be a certain type of person to make art, and it’s not really the case. Anyone can make art. Everyone should. But to survive as an artist, monetarily, requires determination, a sense of value of your work and time, and the understanding that life is not going to tick along at the regular rate of other people’s lives. You are probably not going to get a job, meet someone, move in, get married, buy a house, have babies, retire and die. Not to say you won’t do one (obviously, the last is pretty inevitable) or all of these things, but they probably won’t come along in the same order. You’re probably going to have a few jobs, and they’re probably going to change quite a bit. There will be months that are good, and months that are bad. If you have a partner who’s not in the arts, this may be disconcerting, or at times, downright terrifying to them.
Perhaps, it all evens out. I am talking from the perspective of a newly self-employed artist who spends most of her time desiring new shoes and the rest of the time crying that she has no money for new shoes. Perhaps, as you learn to surf the tide of your long career, things become more stable. But the truth always comes down to Champagne and Cabbages- sometimes you will have to sacrifice and adapt. One month may be cabbage soup, the next champagne breakfasts. But if you’re entrepreneurial about it, you’ll know which month is which, and can adapt.
To work in the arts you perhaps are a certain type of person. To be committed to making your money in the arts, you are another breed as well. The payoff for instability and sacrifice is getting to do what you love for the rest of your life. You get to network, meet new people, make opportunities. You get to feel your work is valued, and find your own purpose. You get to make something that you can be proud of. And for a certain type of person, that is absolutely worth the risk.
A.L Michael is a writer and workshop leader from North London. She has a BA in Creative Writing with English Lit, an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship and is starting an MsC in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. Because you can never learn enough. She’s currently the Writer in Residence for Red Door Studios in East Ham, and her debut novel Wine Dark, Sea Blue is available to buy in hard copy, and on kindle. Not that she’s sick of talking about it or anything.
Andi has provided me with a really great opportunity to introduce you to what’s going to be coming around this autumn at The Thriving Creative.
We are going to dedicate the next few months to talking about……. money.
There is no way of avoiding money, unless you move to a deserted island (and even then you are probably substituting money for coconuts). We need it to live. In many cases we need it to be creative. We need it to feel safe. We need it to smooth out the up-and-down, month-to-month cycle that Andi describes above.
Making money is an art. Making money from art is a craft. You can learn to be better at it. You can learn to manage the money you have better and you can learn to do more with less (and feel richer!).
Money makes people uncomfortable.
All the more reason to talk about it.
So gird your loins ’cause we’re about to dive into the murky money pool.
See you soon.