Nobody becomes an artist just to worry about paying the bills.
Nobody becomes an artist just to have something to do or to have a job.
We become artists because after trying everything else in life we finally were not happy unless were doing the very thing were created to do. We become artist because there’s this thing inside of us that won’t quit burning until we give it expression. We become artists because we can’t do anything else authentically.
For many of us that journey of self-discovery has taken a lifetime. We’ve all worked jobs we hated, just for the money in order to get to do what we loved at night and on the weekends, dreaming one day that this could be our real job. We’ve all sacrificed more than many will ever know in order to get that burning in our creative bones out somehow.
Sometimes I wish that I could have just POOF gotten it when I was in college and started out on the creative road to success but my journey probably like many of yours has been a long, windy, scary and exhilarating road that brings me to where I am today. And it’s that journey that we all have in common. Each so very different and yet each exactly the same. It’s our stories that bind us together.
So, it sounds like we should have this idyllic life experience of life, love and creativity but for many artists – maybe even you – that’s far from reality. Too often our story becomes one of trying to make ends meet, sacrificing creativity for profits, making things that sell instead of making things that inspire us all in a package of too little sleep, growing frustration and an overwhelming feeling of ‘is this really worth it.” I wrote this book to tell you that it is worth it. You’re worth it. I also wrote this book because I have a passion to encourage you on your creative journey and to move from just surviving into thriving.
Understanding the unique identity that makes us each ‘artists’ is not as easy as simply grabbing a paintbrush and putting color to canvas. For thousands of years, humanity has struggled with what it means to be an artist, even to be creative. The Greeks and Romans even thought creativity was the result of channeling daemons or a disembodied spirit they called a “genius” who would live with, speak to, inspire and create through the individual. Then the Renaissance came along and the focus shifted to the artist being the genius and humanity being the center of creativity, leaving little room for the divine. Even today, the questions remain; is creativity simply some random act of chance, the result of tenacity and hard work, an encounter with divine providence or a culmination of all of the above.
We can’t do it all ourselves. We’re not wired that way. We can’t just make it happen and in fact we don’t have what it takes to be all that we desire. That smacks in the face of our good old American work ethic but it’s true. However, when we take what we have been given, mix it with hard work and thankfully offer it back to the Giver and humanity as a gift with a heart of joyful expectation, we will always find we have more than enough – fulfillment, creative inspiration and yes, financial provision. Otherwise we end up in the typical ‘starving artist’ scenario which is based in fear, scarcity and control: working more, getting less, never thinking our work is good enough and always existing in a place of lack and frustration.
Our creative sensibilities are not simply the result of well-executed skills or practice made perfect, but rather collaboration between a divinely invested gift, the Giver of that gift and the hard work of artists who steward well the gift entrusted to them.
(excerpted from Chapter 1 of “Crafting Your Brand: Strategies for Cultivating a Successful Creative Career” by Matt Tommey.)
Matt Tommey is a world-class sculptor, speaker and author who is passionate about helping artists to thrive spiritually, financially and creatively.