Making a Living as an Artist, Part I

Making a Living as an Artist, Part I

I am working on making a living as an artist, as a writer.

I already earn my living, albeit a somewhat small one, teaching and guiding artists and dreamers to create lives of passion, purpose and deep play. In other words, I already earn a living from my creativity and work in the realm of the arts. That’s amazing. I’m still astonished that I’ve managed to create a life doing this.

Teaching and mentoring, as I do, is a great source of pleasure, fulfillment, wonder and growth. I get to have a beautiful life and work with remarkable people. Teaching is also the counterbalance I very much need to the solitude of most of my creative work.

Being a working artist means being an entrepreneur

Making a living as an artist, whether as a writer or a teacher or some combination, means running my own business. It means being an entrepreneur (a word I’m not very comfortable with at all).

This is true if you are a visual artist or a musician and selling your work too. Like it or not, you are running a business. Even as an actor, seeking roles, you are running the business of promoting yourself, auditioning, etc.

If you want to make a living as an artist, you will have to come to terms with this.

My stumbling blocks

Despite the fact that I run my own business and am profoundly capable, responsible and organized, I am not very good at business. This has to do with a number of things.

First and foremost, I have inner blocks around business, success and money, which continue to thwart me. I have been getting some amazing new tools from Hiro Boga, and I’m excited for what they open up in me.

Yes, I do help other people with their blocks, but doing the same for myself is not so easy. (We’re designed to need the help of others with these things.)

Hence, I often watch my students succeed at things I have helped them with—such as starting their own businesses—when I am still struggling at those same things. I love seeing my students succeed because it inspires and gladdens me, and has me feel like the tools and processes I teach really work (they do!).

Why I don’t thrive in business (yet)

A big reason I don’t thrive more as a businessperson is because of inner conflict: Just the word businessperson gives me heebie-jeebies, so that’s a bit of a problem, right off.

Also, I need more of my time and inner space for my own creativity than running my business leaves me. I want to be an artist first, and secondarily, on the side, to be a teacher, not the other way around. This balance has been getting better in the past couple years, and I keep working at it, but it still creates conflict within.

I also want to be respected for my work, my writing and teaching. I grew up in a very snobbish, academic environment—my father taught philosophy at Harvard and my mother taught philosophy at Wellesley. In that world, people look down on the kinds of inner work and soul growth I teach and the things I write in my blog posts, even on the idea of blogging. Anything popular or self-help is definitely suspect. So, my longing for respect and the values in my home of origin are in conflict with the actual work I do.

A funny side note: My father in his eighties started his own blog and immediately had an outrageous number of followers. But that’s because he was already incredibly famous as a philosopher, and he started a blog about philosophy. No one in the snobbish world I grew up in would sneer at his blog. In fact, I can hardly understand a word of it! My father passed away in March, 2016, but you can still find his blog here: http://putnamphil.blogspot.com/

Lone wolf syndrome

Another problem: I do almost everything in my business myself, from building and managing my own website to being my own accountant, writing the blog posts and newsletter, being the marketing specialist, visionary, and creating all the materials for my programs, as well as teaching them.

Whatever there is to do, I do it. It’s too much for one person, and I can’t excel at all of it.

Trying to go it alone doesn’t work well. That’s why I encourage others not to make the same mistake.

I don’t actually want to be a lone wolf. It’s an old habit. In my defense, I usually haven’t got the funds to hire anyone else. But it is one of the curses of being hyper-competent and a fast learner, and also of having been without much money throughout my adult life. So, I will try and do things myself, even though they aren’t in my wheelhouse and aren’t a good use of my time and energy.

This is part I in a series on Making a Living as an Artist. In my next post, I’ll share new avenues I’m exploring for making a living as an artist and what I’m learning. Stay tuned!

2 Comments

  1. Karel K. Hendee Author December 12, 2019 (12:32 am)

    I especially enjoyed this sharing and relate so much to what you have said. I look forward to hearing more about your journey. I would also be curious to hear how you gauge success as a artist-businessperson. Thanks

    • Maxima Kahn Author December 12, 2019 (11:21 pm)

      Thank you, Karel! It’s so helpful to hear that. I’ll think about your question about success and see if I can write something about that. Success is such a tricky word.

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