Thursday, October 1, 2009

Artist Myth #3: Money is the Root of All Evil.

Actually this is one of the most misquoted biblical quotes of all time. Mistaken for the words of Jesus, it actually comes from Paul the Apostle in his letter to Timothy in which he said, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

With this correction in place, I’m more inclined to believe that money isn’t the root of all evil, lack of money is the root of all evil. Think about all the desperate poor people out in the world doing illogical things - to make ends meet, to feel love, to feel connected to the world, to feed their family.

How many times have you sold a painting for far less than it was worth in order to pay a bill? How many times have you put yourself in a compromising position as an artist because you lacked the financial resources to do otherwise?

A lot of artists seem to lose themselves when they achieve success. In fact, it seems to be rather stereotypical these days that with money and success also come addictions and career crashes.  Though success is challenging for any number of reasons, this doesn’t make money evil, it just makes the artist’s quest that much more sacred.

I’ve heard it said that most people that win the lottery blow it all within 5-8 years. Why? Because the lottery doesn’t come with money management classes. 

If you were “discovered” today and didn’t have to be concerned with money, would it influence your artwork? Probably. Would you stop doing it? It’s a good question to ask. Would you find it a challenge to keep creating if your financial struggle suddenly disappeared? That’s something to look at too.


  1. Interesting post. I'm actually finding that, despite all the programming to the contrary that I got studying commercial arts and I KNOW that it's right to earn $ from my art, I am STILL struggling with this issue. I feel like a prostitute when I connect a sacred service like my writing with money. I feel like I only have a good relationship to my work when it isn't my livelihood, but more like a volunteer spiritual service to humanity. This was a revelation I had a few months ago, and I'm still processing it because it goes against my reasoning and conditioning. I think it's not a general realization though... it's very personal. Or, I feel like I could be okay earning money with other creative work... but my poetry is sacred. And who wants to pay for poetry anyway? The reality is, it's too accessible. No one will pay for it except rich literary aesthetes, and the reason I studied commercial art was exactly to get away from that audience and reach the masses with my work, even if it meant having to dumb it down a bit. I felt it was really important art be accessible to all.

    I realized that I was getting too hung up on the "how can I make $ off my poetry" thing, instead of "how can I serve people through my poetry." I feel like if I start putting the cart before the horse things will start to make sense with this.

    But, it's tough. Artist (like myself) often have a hard time, also, separating the businessperson from the creative muse-chaser. They are such totally different mindsets that they sometimes, I find, antagonize each other. I have to devote entire months, separately, to creativity and self-promotion. I can't do them simultaneously. And the value of art is harder to define in concrete terms as you would other paying services; it's more subjective.

    My conclusion these days (for now) is that while I realize I have the right to be paid for my work and will never say no to that, I work best when I just work without even thinking about the money. This can even mean putting my work out there for free for people to read or use. I kind of see it as doing volunteer work for an ailing society. We are starved of poetry, and I am doing a service. And I know in some way or other, I have faith (is it okay to use that word as an artist?) that I will be rewarded... if not with money all the time, then in other ways.

    And I know that at some point, if I just keep writing... it will all start to make sense. So I do it for love, while staying open for money. But I would no more chase an income from my poetry, than I would ask for an income for praying or saving someone's life.

    That's just me, though.

  2. I have a great way, today,
    that you can make money
    with your poetry and make it pay
    Hey, if you send me your debit card number right away,
    we can get started
    and hey, baby, hey

  3. 1. First of all, most people do not want the money, they just want the life style.

    2. It is funny how miserable people always think money is going to fix everything. A lot of lottery winners just wind up being miserable people with money.

    3. Artist generally are not good business people. If you think about the average compensation that an artist get for the time they put into producing their art, they are always operating at a loss. It is too bad that artists do not business as a part of their schooling.

    4. Peer pressure from non-working artists is something I never could stand. What is wrong with getting a job? Nothing. However, we as artist label working artist as sellouts and not true to the art. That is a crock! If an artist is genius enough to be creative, this same artist can find a decent paying job that would help support their art!

    Do not blame the system. The artist is totally the one to blame for their mis-fortune. Money is a tool, not an entity!