I often find myself reassuring friends whose children want to go into the arts that their kids will not starve, nor will they ask for support for the rest of their lives. I know dozens of artists – writers, singers, filmmakers, visual artists, actors – and none of them are starving. Few of them ask their parents for money, either, just as I never have. On the flip side, I know successful business owners who borrowed cash from their relatives to get started. But no one worries about that.
It’s true that any serious artist would rather focus on his/her art full time, and frankly, we do our best work when finances are not a concern. It’s during those times when we are free to explore our art with no other obligations that we learn and develop and grow. It’s when we do our best, most demanding, most inspired work.
There are times in our careers when we artists may choose to sleep on a friend’s couch so we can spend more time in our studios. Or survive on Ramen noodles in order to practice our music all day. Or sell our cars to finance a few months off to write. We don’t do this because we are lazy or spoiled or “Bohemian.” We do it because we know that in order to get better at our art, we must sometimes live it.
At other times, we must work. Actors teach classes, writers take on freelance work, filmmakers do projects for advertising agencies. Many have day jobs, some work part-time, some pick up odd jobs depending on how much money they need or want at that time.
Just because many of us are not bucking for the highest paycheck does not mean we are not ambitious. Quite the opposite. We are willing and happy to forgo many of life’s luxuries in order to be the best at what matters most, our art.
If you meet a starving artist, know that it’s a choice.