Starving Is Not Good for Artists (or Other Living Things)
In my Artist’s Way class this week we are looking at how our relationship to money and abundance impacts our creativity.
We are looking at what we value and at the value of art.
So today I want to write about how “starving” is not good for artists (or any living thing). And what we can do about it.
I want to debunk any “romantic” notion that poverty is somehow conducive to creativity.
First, about the title of this post. My maternal grandmother was a Holocaust refugee and a peace and justice activist. She was part of an organization called Another Mother for Peace.
I am proud to have her pendant from that organization, which reads:
War is not healthy for children or other living things.
War, whether inner or outer, is not healthy for any of us.
I want to talk about the internal war that can arise when we don’t have enough to live on.
How Financial Lack Stifles Creativity
It’s amazing how crippling to my well-being, creativity and enjoyment of life lack of income can be.
It debilitates my sense of self and hampers my ability to cultivate that open, curious, loving state in which I beckon new inspiration to flow.
When I am not earning enough to pay my bills, my self-esteem crumples.
When my self-esteem is low, self-judgment gets a foothold. Pretty soon, everything I create can seem shabby, inadequate.
Once I start down that path, it is very hard to create anything.
In my work as a teacher and writer, income is not a steady, reliable thing. It goes wildly up and down.
When income isn’t flowing, worry and anxiety take over.
Fear is Deadly to Creativity
Worry and anxiety are forms of fear.
Fear closes me down. It narrows my field of focus, like a camera narrowing the depth of field.
As an artist, I need my focus wide open, to take in new inspiration, ideas, images, sensations, experiences. To let my wild imagination roam and be playful.
Fear causes me to be tight and constricted. As an artist, I need to be flowing, receptive.
Financial fear causes me to be consumed with money. As an artist, I need to be consumed with my passions, fascinations, my art.
The Wrong Conditions for Creativity
When I am not earning enough, I spend too much time, thought and energy trying to figure out how to resolve that situation. Then I have precious little energy left over for my real work, creating.
I may even feel guilty taking time to create. That creates inner confusion and stress.
Stress wears my body down. Worry wears my heart down. Then, I’m unable to attract new income. Bad downward spiral!
None of this creates the right conditions for creativity to thrive.
One Idea to Solve This
That’s why artists need a good, solid living, if we want to have art in our world.
That’s part of why I joined Patreon last year. Wait! I imagine your hackles going up when I mention Patreon.
I’m sharing about my creative journey to help you walk your own.
I joined Patreon in the hopes of being better supported as an artist. But also to have a way to share my art regularly and not be so isolated in my making.
It’s been remarkable to have that outlet.
So far, it only brings in $211 a month, enough for some groceries, which is great. I have 32 patrons there, whom I love! Yet that is not exactly a big audience for my work, nor enough money to relieve financial worries.
So, yes, I would love it if you would join me on Patreon.
You get to see my poems, bits of dances and music, and hear about my journey as an artist. Lately, I’ve been sharing about the process of making a book of my poems and trying to find a publisher.
But that’s not why I set out to write this post.
I set out to share my experience with you in the hopes that it is helpful to you to witness one artist living a creative life. Is it? I’d love to know. Because this is vulnerable for me.
It’s also incredibly hard to ask for monetary support, even when I’m offering a great deal in return. I assume immediately that you judge me for it. I feel guilty and ashamed.
We’re All Bozos on this Bus
Sometimes when a person writes a blog or runs a teaching/coaching business like mine here at Brilliant Playground, there’s a projection of success or inviolability onto that person.
I want to share the truth with you.
We are in this together, as artists, creative beings, humans with hopes, dreams, fears, hurts and real human needs.
We can only do this together.
I’m not super-human. In so many ways I’m just like you.
So I encourage you to consider Patreon for your own art. It’s not a quick fix for financial stress, but it may bring you all kinds of unexpected blessings. It has for me.
Thank you for being here, reading this, doing what you do, being you.
P.S. You can find out more about me, my art and about how Patreon works here: www.patreon.com/maximakahn. You can also make a one-time donation to show your support for this blog and my work here: