Originally published November 14, 2011, at Creative Dream Journals.
I want to write to you about money and creative callings. But this topic is so full and so present for me that my thoughts and questions don’t yet cohere into anything like a focused blog post. The place to begin, then, is with my disparate thoughts and questions. For now, I’ve organized them just enough to give you some broad categories. Please chime in! What are your thoughts and experiences on any of these topics, or on the broad topic of money and creative dreams?
The Day Job
- Day jobs and the creative process. Creativity happens during down time, when our minds are free to wander. We get our best ideas during breaks from periods of focused effort. We work hard on our creative project, and then we take a nap or a shower or a walk, and ideas come to us. But when we’re working a day job, our minds can end up devoting all that great unconscious creative energy to the concerns of the day job rather than to our own creative projects. Creative work, then, requires us to free our minds from our day jobs. It requires us to take a mental break from our paid work, then shift focus to our creative project, then take a break from it to allow our ideas to gestate, then return to focused work on our creative project, and then return to our day job. How do we manage our lives so that we can do all that?
- The happy day job. How do we find or create day jobs that we love, that feed our creative lives, or even day jobs that we just like well enough and that don’t take away from our creative lives?
- Self-employment as a day job. If you’re self-employed in your day job, how does that affect your ability to pursue a separate creative calling?
- Distributing our energy. We can put our energy into finding or creating or developing or tailoring our day jobs so that they support us financially and creatively. And we can put our energy into developing our creative careers so that we can earn money from them. And we can put energy into actual creativity—writing, painting, dancing, making music, however we express ourselves creatively. How do we decide where to focus our attention on any given day, week, month, or year?
Making Money from Creative Work
- Money dreams. “Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow.” How has this dream played out for you?
- Creating and business. If you’re trying to earn money from your creative work, how do you manage the different requirements of creating your art, music, or writing versus running a business that sells your art, music, or writing?
- Different logics. Often, being in business involves being strategic and goal oriented. We might develop marketing strategies, work to establish ourselves as leaders, set goals, and prioritize sales. The creative process often involves a more process-oriented logic: we follow the muse, go where the project leads, do what’s intrinsically motivating, and allow things to unfold naturally. When does it make sense to follow which kind of logic?
- Self-employment as a creative worker. How do we learn how to sell our creative work and manage a business built around our creative work?
- Hiring help. When do we hire help with the business side of creativity, and what kind of help do we hire?
Money, Creativity, and the Life Cycle
- Waiting for retirement. What happens when you postpone seriously pursuing your creative work until retirement?
- Parenting. If you’re pursuing a creative calling, keeping a day job, and parenting, then you’re working three careers. How do you manage?
- Gender, marriage, and family. What’s it like to pursue a creative calling as a single/married woman/man with/without children?
- Age, creative work, and money. What’s involved in being a “starving artist” in your 20s versus in your 40s or your 60s?
- Different strategies for different parts of the journey. How do we structure our creative careers differently as our lives change? For example, at different points of our lives, we might pursue a creative calling full time, we might go into debt to support a creative calling, we might work unrelated day jobs, or we might pursue careers that put our creative skills and talents to work on other people’s projects.
Struggle and Costs
- Debt. When do we go into debt to pursue our creative dreams? What kind of debt do we accrue? How do we manage debt?
- Managing time and energy. Pursuing a creative calling and a day job means pursuing two careers, in addition to our personal lives. How do we manage our time and energy so that we’re meeting our needs and staying happy and healthy?
- Financial worry. When our creative callings cost money, or send us into debt, or entail the uncertain income and increased costs of self-employment, we can get into a habit of worry. What do we do about this?
- Learning by example. Sometimes, the stories we hear about creativity and money run to extremes: it’s all either “starving artists” or “the universe pays me to do what I love.” But many creative people’s journeys are more complex than this. What true stories have you heard? What stories could you tell?
- Compromise. Sometimes we compromise our creative dreams for increased financial stability. Sometimes, we compromise our financial security for the sake of our creative dreams. Our day jobs may feed our creative work or take away from our creative work or both. How much of these different kinds of compromise is wise? How much is necessary?
- Work that costs money. While we hope to make money from our creative work, initially it often costs money, and this period of investment can go on for a long time. How do we decide how much money to invest in our creative dreams?
- Faith and trust. What roles do faith and trust play in the serious pursuit of a creative calling? How do you nurture your faith? What enables you to trust? Are you ever reluctant to trust that things will be okay? Is it ever unwise to act on faith? Are you ever better off not trusting and not having faith?