Making art and making a living. Lots of folks here on Scoutie Girl and elsewhere have plenty of goodness to share on the topic.
My angle: I agree with Lewis Hyde – author of The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World – that artists (and other folks with gifts to give to the world) have always put food on the table in a few different ways. Looking at this historically can help us creatives remember that we are part of a long lineage of those who have gone before.
[T]here are three primary ways in which modern artists have resolved the problem of their livelihood: they have taken second jobs, they have found patrons to support them, or they have managed to place the work itself on the market and pay the rent with fees and royalties.
I want to look at the last of these first: selling the actual products of your artistic labor.
With my new album, “at the edge of the unknown,” being released as we speak, issues surrounding selling our artwork is definitely “up” for me right now. Every time my phone buzzes with an alert from Paypal that someone else has bought a CD (a CD, can you believe it, in this day and age?!?) I feel a little thrill. And when I put them in the mail I know I will be thinking: “There it goes, one sweet shiny disc with all of the love that I tried to squeeze onto it, winging out to spread hope in the world.”
At the same time, I feel torn. Do I actually want to try to make money from selling CDs (or downloads) or do I want to be able to give my music away freely? Which approach will actually feel more nourishing to me? And how can I make my approach to sharing my music with the world best line up with my larger mission of helping people find their truest voices? As another recent post here on Scoutie Girl pointed out, we don’t want to monetize everything we make.
One danger Hyde points out is that relying on sales of your art to feed your family can lead toward making pieces based too much on what we think will sell.
How do we balance the urge to give people what they want with the need to return over and over again to that deepest Well of Creativity itself?
And then, some art is priceless; we give away what is most precious, like the quilt my sister-in-law is making in honor of my wedding.
Are you wrestling with questions of selling your art? How to price what feels priceless? Does the question of making things for market trouble you, or do you feel like: “People pushing to pay vast quantities of money for my art? I should have such problems!” Or have you made peace with piece work? Let me hear you!