Since my last post where we talked about Karl Marx and getting closer to the means of production, I have been looking for examples of this around me.
This morning, while catching up on recorded TV, the above credits flashed up on my screen.
I was watching a recent episode of Season Four of Suits and the first of the credits shows that the two lead actors are also co-producers of the show.
My recollection is that they didn’t have this credit in the initial seasons – this is something that they have negotiated as the show has gone along.
This is an example of actors getting closer to owning the means of production – and their position as co-producers is likely to earn them far more money than they will earn for just acting in the series.
Now obviously starring in a hit TV series gives you a fairly good negotiating position, but still…
You have to start where you are, so start to look about you for opportunities to move closer to the means of production.
Looking for opportunities develop your artistic career is a very pragmatic business move. And it’s crucial that you start to think strategically about your creative work and take it seriously as a professional career. You should be approaching your art with the same savviness as if you were Harvey Specter in a $2000 suit.
But at the same time we have to create – and it’s hard to hold space for both of these seemingly opposing forces.
One is a very active force – looking for markets for our work, negotiating to be paid what our work is worth, nudging ourselves closer to the means of production.
The other, the creative force, requires opening ourselves up to inspiration. It is a receptive energy. It is welcoming ideas and stimuli and creating space within for them to manifest into something creative.
I’ve been revisiting one of the classic books that has had a huge impact on me – The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This paragraph just leapt off the page to me:
God has lots of money. God has lots of movie ideas, novel ideas, poems, songs, paintings and acting jobs. God has a supply of loves, friends, houses that are all available to us. By listening to the creator within, we are led to our right path. On that path, we find friends, lovers, money and meaningful work. Very often, when we cannot seem to find an adequate supply, it is because we are insisting on a particular human source of supply. We must learn to let the flow manifest itself where it will – not where we will it.
Don’t know about you, but this kinda scares the sh*t out of me! Yikes. It seems opposite to being a creative entrepreneur – seeking out opportunities, wrestling them to the ground and getting the sale while we can, rather than allowing the flow to “manifest itself where it will”.
But is there a space where they can both co-exist?
To answer this, I want to share a story from the Sufi poet Rami (Taken from Stories of Tom Thumb):
Trust God But Tie Your Camel
There was once a man who was on his way back home from market with his camel and, as he’d had a good day, he decided to stop at a mosque along the road and offer his thanks to God.
He left his camel outside and went in with his prayer mat and spent several hours offering thanks to Allah, praying and promising that he’d be a good Muslim in the future, help the poor and be an upstanding pillar of his community.
When he emerged it was already dark and lo and behold – his camel was gone!
He immediately flew into a violent temper and shook his fist at the sky, yelling:
“You traitor, Allah! How could you do this to me? I put all my trust in you and then you go and stab me in the back like this!”
A passing sufi dervish heard the man yelling and chuckled to himself.
“Listen,” he said, “Trust God but, you know, tie up your camel.”
This two-pronged approach is echoed in a British expression of taking a ‘belt & braces approach’.
See, I’m sure God has an infinite number of movie ideas, novel ideas, poems, songs, paintings and acting jobs. And I’m sure that if I really opened myself up to receiving them, I would probably experience a bounty.
I suspect the Universe also controls the ultimate ‘means of production’. I’m confident that Allah or whoever we put our faith into, probably has great connections to publishing houses, producers, and galleries – but I’m not prepared to put my blind faith in that.
My tying up my camel is to put the effort into finding channels to get my work into the hands of those who will value it the most and reward me for my creative efforts. Which allows me to open up and create even more.
This cycle of:
- taking to market
- converting to cash (which feeds and sustains me)
repeats over and over again. This is a sustainable loop. This sustainable loop makes for a happy, healthy contented artist.
If any step of this loop fails:
- a lack of inspiration
- the inability to bring ideas into fruition
- an inability to bring your work to market
- or an inability to convert your creation to cash
then you are stuck in that awful position of waiting tables and making art for free.
So how do find space to hold both faith and pragmatism? How do we trust God and tie up our camel?
The answer is the paradox: you find the answer by living the question.
This is paraphrased advice from another person who has really shaped my thinking Rainer Maria Rilke:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
Start to look for space to hold both of these ideas simultaneously.
Then use the comments space to let me know how you get on.
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