The Artist's Poverty Narratives
Here’s my poverty narrative.
I fight like hell to land some client work and get inspired. I love my clients and helping people. I do the work. We’re all happy. There’s money in the bank and that’s lovely.
Here’s what gets lost. I’m exhausted from the work. I’m excellent at doing it, but I throw all of me into it, all my creativity, my problem-solving and my decades of experience. There’s nothing left for creating art. Nothing left for exploring powerful (but not lucrative) side hustles that serve others. Nothing left for the artist to create beauty.
So, once the client work wraps, I dive into the art again. I create. I noodle with tiny business ideas so I can skip the client work. I plan. I build. I dream. And a few weeks later, I freak the fuck out.
In that creation period, I haven’t brought in any revenue. No client work is on the books for the next few weeks/months. No new business leads and no new work. Fuck. My bank account slowly dwindles as I try to fire up one of my side hustles fast so I can get cashflow positive.
I sweat. I worry. I future-cast into poverty narratives. I meditate. I let go. I ask the Universe to show me what to do. I’ll take the action and I know how to hustle hard, just show me the right direction.
Am I on the right path with my art and I just need to hold tight and pray the ship doesn’t sink in the process? Do I need to focus on the side hustle and hope someone doesn’t smell my desperation and run away? Do I need to just surrender to being tethered to client work for the rest of my days and walk away from the attachment of creating art? Which is tantamount to a death sentence for an artist-- I know, I’ve tried it. It almost killed me.
Do I need to just find a man, get married and let him worry about this shit? Ha— that shit almost killed me too! I’ve actually had married friends tell me to do this.
I’m a single women in her mid 40s and I have been stuck in this cycle of artist survival mode for far too many years.
But here’s the thing. I’m not alone. I know this. It’s a conversation I have with other friends fighting to make their way in this world doing powerful and necessary work on their own. Without spouses, trust funds or corporate jobs.
People who fight like hell to do good in this world and not succumb to the exhaustion that is putting food on the table in 2019. People whose talents and gifts could elevate our entire collective consciousness if they didn’t have to waste energy on paying for health insurance, worrying about covering astronomical rents, fighting to pay for healthy food and worrying that one broken toe or slipped disc could bankrupt them forever.
How did we get here? Why are we fighting so hard just to live in one of the most “abundant” and “prosperous” countries in the world. I used to feel so blessed to be born in America. But lately, I really wonder what life would be like if I was born in Canada or Norway. Where the term “pre-existing condition” doesn’t even exist, education is paid for and people are just fairly fucking happy.
I’m going to toss out just one little glimpse at why we’re in such a perilous place. I realize this is a generalized assumption and might be a stretch for some, but I’m going to just say it.
So many of us are fighting so hard because the system is designed to keep us fighting for survival. If we’re struggling to survive, we can’t devote time and attention to watching what our lawmakers are doing, how corporations are destroying our environment or how fraudulent billionaires are using a presidential position to become authoritarians and steal more money.
This is not new folks. This is textbook population control. Starve the people and keep them in perpetual cycles of fear, poverty and despair and they will do just about anything you ask. Or they’ll be too fucking tired to resist.
What would you do if you had access to a basic income that sustained you and your family without having to work at jobs you hate or gigs that suck out your creative mojo? What would you do if money were never a consideration? How high would you soar if you didn’t have to immediately attach a dollar amount to your art?
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