The Creative Dilemma

The story

So… you keep making artsy stuff.

It is just the way you are. It’s the creative dilemma.

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You didn’t plan to be all artsy. You may have even tried to stop because it would be so much easier to just be really good at bookkeeping or bee-keeping or something practical.

A dancer friend of mine did stop being a dancer right in the middle of it all.

He just decided to wise up and get a “real job.” He was a promising young choreographer.

About a year after performing in one of his pieces, I met him on the subway in Boston back in the 1980s after not having seen him around in dance classes for a while.

He told me he got into bookkeeping or tech or something and quit choreographing and dancing.

He explained that he did not have to struggle all the time anymore just to make a living and get recognition. He said life was so much more enjoyable since he quit that “dance stuff.”

Well more power to him. He seemed really happy with his decision. And that is what it is really all about, having a happy and fulfilling existence art or no art.

This was way back in Boston 30 years ago when I was in art school at Mass College of Art, and starting a freelance illustration career. I always envied him for being able to just walk away from “artsy stuff” and do something that was in sync with his times and culture and be happy with it.

Blessing or curse?

Being artsy is a blessing and a curse.

A lesbian friend said “I would not wish this lifestyle on anyone. But well, at the same time, it is also the greatest joy in my life.” This was back in 1977 when things were even harder for gay people in the USA.

That sums up how I feel about making art in our present political and financial structure.

I wish I could just walk away.

But at the same time making things, writing, painting, designing, assembling, and sculpting, has brought me more joy than anything else in life.

The artsy life is expensive

You need time and money to really get art projects going, start selling work online or offline, get publicity, and learn your craft.

There are few patrons, and things are not set up to make art-making easy right now.

We have a more efficient production of our basic needs than at any previous time in history. But we work more hours than ever at soul-sucking-energy-hoarding-day-jobs.

With creative projects, you need lots of time and space for messes and experiments before you reach that final product that you can sell.

You also need money and knowledge of marketing and promotion if it is to be a satisfying, enjoyable experience at all.

Unless you can just do it as a hobby on the side. I have never been able to stick with the art-as-hobby way of doing things, but that might work fine for you.

I always seem to want to find a way to make it into a business. I had my first handmade clothing business in Burlington, Vermont, in 1977. In 1984 I supported myself by doing hand-painted T-shirts for vendors in Downtown Boston. I started freelancing as an illustrator while I was still in college.

I tried to be “normal,” but it never felt right

I love to create things on my own, spending many gloriously happy hours joyfully assembling, gluing, painting, sewing, sanding, drawing, collecting, writing, and lately digitally sculpting and painting and designing as well.

I love the creative process and can’t seem to feel fully alive without having some kind of project going.

I did commercial illustration when I was in art school. But I was so shy in those days I could not hack the self-promotion aspect. So I decided to be practical and get a “real career,” something sanctioned by society, where you could get a paycheck.

I taught aerobics first, then I had a successful sports massage office, and then I taught Pilates. But all the while I was still busily painting, drawing, writing, and assembling things and intermittently showing and selling things in various forms.

I finally decided to just bite the bullet and really learn about marketing creative things offline and online. This is an exciting time to be a person who makes art because you can get rid of the gatekeepers and sell directly to your audience.

I came across a slew of interesting courses and information that I want to share with you, dear reader.

check out the personal origin story