This is part II of the series on Making a Living as an Artist, in which I share my trials and tribulations and triumphs on the road. If you missed part I, you can read it here. (That’s my desk in the photo.)
I’ve been working for the past few years to put my art first, making a concerted effort to shift the balance of how I spend my time and how I earn my living, so that more of it comes directly from my art-making.
I’ve been devoting more and more time to writing and promoting my writing, sending it out to literary journals, popular blog sites and, most recently, learning how to share my work through a site called Medium.
My year-long experiment
I took a year after my father died to cut my teaching time in half and focus on writing, studying how to have a successful blog, and sending my work out to publications and presses. The time helped me generate a great deal of new writing, get published in a bunch of literary journals (hurray!) and also on some popular blog sites, and learn.
It did not help me to grow the audience for this blog all that much, and that was a surprise. The arc of learning was so much slower than I could imagine.
The biggest surprise was that I felt busier than ever that year. It was hard to juggle all of my writing ambitions, and I could not do nearly as much with the blogging as I had hoped. But it did lead to getting my book of poems finally taken by a publisher! A huge dream come true. That book, Fierce Aria, will be available soon. I’ll keep you posted.
Financially, however, that year, which was supposed to help me grow my business, left me worse off than when I started. That was a big shock and disappointment. I had to move through shame and self-blame and fear at the start of 2019. I even looked for a part-time job, to no avail.
A new, improved patronage model for artists
I started a Patreon page on July 16, 2018, a year and a half ago, to share my creative process, my creative journey and my creative projects and get paid for it. That has been a huge gift to my life.
Patreon is a remarkable invention, a place for artists and art-lovers to connect directly, a way for artists to earn reliable income while art-lovers receive hot-off-the-press creations and insider coverage of the creative process by offering a small amount that they choose. The model is beautiful because it builds relationships and puts the power in the hands of artists and art-lovers, instead of cultural gatekeepers and corporations.
I share weekly on Patreon exclusive content about the intimate ins and outs of my creative life and process, as well as sharing my creations-in-progress, and in addition, I create extra awesome, fun, inspiring rewards for my patrons.
I absolutely love Patreon and had no idea how much I needed this place to be able to share in a vulnerable way my work and my working process, my passions, obsessions, successes and struggles.
Now, I actively work to grow my patron base in various ways, sharing posts, inviting people to join, doing a big push when something special happens. So, this has become another part of my work as an artist.
In fact, you would positively make my day if you become a patron now. I have a goal to get to 50 patrons by the end of the year, and I’m at 48. My patrons find it inspiring and rewarding. Would you check it out? Patreon.com/MaximaKahn
A platform for writers to find readers and get paid
Now I’m obsessed with learning how to earn income from writing on Medium. There are writers earning a full-time living from writing there!
So I am voraciously reading posts about that, starting to share my own work there regularly, and learning as I go. These things take time, dedication and consistency, and loads of patience.
One thing I’ve learned is I need to share posts there nearly daily if I hope for it to be a significant part of my income—My goal is to get to $1000 a month in 2020. (Last month I made $5.88) That’s a great deal of writing, editing and posting, and I don’t yet have time for that without hurting the rest of my creative life and/or my teaching business, but it is one of my goals for 2020 to build to this point.
Doing what I love
All of this is wildly time-consuming
and a huge, crazy juggling act. There are lots of mistakes and wrong turns and
side roads. There are lots of gambles and loads of risk.
I think that’s what being a professional artist is like. That’s why I’m sharing this with you, so you can see what it takes (even though it will look different for each person and each art form).
I still reserve hours each week to write poems, revise them and send them out to literary journals—all of which has zero dollars attached to it. That’s the nature of most poetry. But it feeds my soul, delights my heart, and I have to do it.
I have other creative projects going too, projects in writing, dance and occasionally music. If you want to follow those and read more posts like this series, join me on Patreon.
When I’m writing, learning about writing or sharing my writing, I’m doing what I love. Creating and performing, teaching, leading groups, and being in ritual space are when I’m at my best. Crafting words and making art are part of my DNA.
So, this is what I’m working at, making a living from doing what I most love to do. It’s a long road. I’ve been at it for decades. And it’s been hard, often excruciating, but it’s what I have to do.
Thank you for being with me on that road, being my companions on the journey.
To your joyful, soulful life,