5 Myths of Being an Artist

Written as a part of our ongoing Zoom classroom lessons.

Anybody else really annoyed to be labeled a “creative type”? (I am rolling my eyes while I do air quotes when I say that).

I am. I’m annoyed and feeling indignant that people are able to blatantly say things to me like “Not many artists can run a business like you are.” And they don’t even feel ashamed to say that in my presence. They expect me to react in agreement and retort “I know. I am such a magical unicorn for having both art skills and business know how.”

But you know what I want to say? I want to say “That’s some bullshit you learned along the way. You’ve never lived the life of an artist. You don’t know how hard it is to take up space in this world and claim your territory. You don’t know how hard it is to gain a position at a company, earn your rank, earn a salary, be bold and live out loud.”

But, I’ve got a live audience who gets it, right here. Yep, you. And I want to help you grow a successful business so we can show those dudes who’s boss. Here’s the 5 Myths I’m dead set on busting.

  • Artists are Lazy or Flaky.
  • Artists Can’t Make or Manage Money.
  • Artists are Messy.
  • Artists are Starving or Poor.
  • Artists are Crazy.

Myth #1: Artists are Flakes

I’ve known attorneys who are never on time. I’ve known restaurant owners who don’t pay their employees on time. I’ve known realtors who don’t call you when they say they will. So, it’s not just artists who don’t follow through on their commitments. But, it’s about integrity. I want to lift up the bar or standard by which we as artists and creative people live. I want to teach you some really practical ways to change your relationship with time. Honestly, when I am talking to you I am also aspiring to be better about this one myself, but I have gotten a LOT better. And it’s made a huge impact in my relationships with clients and also my loved ones.

Myth #2: There’s No Money in Art

This one is just a load of crap, okay? There are so many artists who are thriving. There are so many artists who are selling their work in galleries, but also in other arenas. Don’t use Jeff Koons as your model anymore. Find someone who is local and doing what you want to be doing and use them as your northern star. Because, for each of use the creative pursuit is different. I really wanted to create a day job for myself and I wanted to be the boss. That’s what lead me into running a business manufacturing products that I designed. I like the diversity of activities each day. I like sales and talking to people. I like learning new skills like web design or accounting. Even though they’re not my strong suit. I don’t think if you gave me the option to draw all day long I would like that type of work. And so, you have to strive to make money doing what you love. And I’m going to teach you some additional skills which you can throw into your toolbox. But, I guarantee with some effort and time you will start making money selling your work. Together we can bust this myth.

Myth #3: Artist are Disorganized.

Artists get a bad wrap for being messy and having a hard time keeping their stuff straight. And I am guilty of this to a certain degree. But, there are basic skills of time management, blocking your time, putting things on a calendar and setting up a system that will revolutionize your life and your studio. I’m not the person who created this stuff, but I’m gonna share it with you and ask you to try it out for one month. If you don’t see a dramatic improvement, well, you can stop doing it. But, I am willing to bet you will thrive when you put it into motion.

Myth #4: Starving Artist

I’ve been poor. Like, really poor. I was never starving, thank god. I had neighbors who fed me and there was always food in my cupboards. But, I’ve lived very lean at times. If this is your situation, I am going to be really sensitive to how fragile everything might feel right now. I know that knot in your stomach when you wake up and ask “How the hell am I gonna get out of this mess?” But, I am going to ask you tough questions. I want you to ask yourself one thing. Why are you poor? Is it because you’re not making enough money at your job? Maybe you need to ask for more or find a new line of work. Is it because you have no expertise? Are you not working hard enough? Are your kids creating such a distraction that you can’t get anything done? I don’t have an MBA. 8 years ago I graduated with an MFA and massive amount of student loan debt. And the marvelous thing about my degree is this: It was voted by U.S. News to be the second most useless Master’s Degree in America. And here I am. Making a living and owning a company. It’s not rocket science but I did put in some serious elbow grease. See… the thing I love about artists is that we are accustomed to jumping into the dumpster in the alley to rescue a chair or some old blueprints in order to make a sculpture or collage. We know how to make something from nothing. I had $0 when I started. So, if you have $10 you will be ahead of the curve. Trust me. I’m going to show you how.

Myth #5: Artists are Crazy

Here’s the miraculous thing about our specific brand of NUTS. We have ideas coming out of our ears. Like, all the time. We never have a lack of ideas. It’s that creativity and innovation that separates us from the rest of humankind and all of the animal kingdom. I’ve sat in on countless business seminars filled with hundreds of non-artists and listened to a speaker on stage talk about “How to get an idea for a business or product” and I wanted to jump up from my chair and say “I have 5,280 ideas in my brain, right now! I will sell each of them to you for $1!” We aren’t crazy. Our brains are on fire with creativity. It makes it hard for other people to relate to us. We talk fast, we say things off the cuff that no one understands like “What if we rent a hot air balloon for this..” and everyone gives us a blank stare like “Sit down Sally, you’re talking out of turn.” But, we aren’t insane. We are gifted in ways that people admire. They see our photos, our poems, our paintings, our projects and they are in awe. It’s not even talent. Talent is a skill that gets honed and refined over time. It’s raw energy in our hearts. And it’s special. I want to warn you that if you think this lovey-dovey crap is my secret sauce and it’s nor worth listening to, there’s the door. This is pretty much the most basic foundation of becoming who you are meant to be. Harnassing your ideas is the number one way to live your best life and take everyone you love with you to the top. So, sit with that for a minute and contemplate: What’s a more creative solution?

Because when I wake up and wonder what each day holds, it’s my crazy that gets me through. It’s my starvingpast self that pushes me to be the boss of my own life. It’s the lazy label that forces me to park in the lot 15 minutes early just to prove that We artists are early. And it’s the freedom I have in working for myself that brings me a sense of ease to chose how I’m going to spend my hours of the day. I’m not sleeping in and eating bonbons watching the Days of Our Lives, okay!? That’s not what self-employed means. (I know I just dated myself a bit there, since that was the show my mom watched when I was a kid and I grew up in the late 80’s). I’m running my life the way I want to. And there’s nothing better or more enviable than that.

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