Money then becomes a mere side effect.
Photo by George Coletrain on Unsplash
If you choose the creative life, you choose by default a second thing: insecurity.
Whether you are a writer, painter, photographer, musician, podcaster, and so on, you have control over your inputs, but absolutely no control over your outputs. You have no control over the success, or otherwise, of each of your productions.
Have you ever observed that it’s often not the pieces of work we believe in the most that prove to be the most successful? My most successful blog post is one I wouldn’t have bet on, whilst I sometimes wrote stories that I thought were great, and which barely received a hundred views.
You never know. That’s just the way it is.
The success of your work depends on too many factors. Quality, for sure, but also timing, luck, people discovering your work, etc.
That’s why, as a creative person, you choose insecurity. But you also choose something else. Something much more fun.
The freedom to create everything that is truly, unconditionally you.
Just do your thing and let the magic happen
Think of your favorite artists. Imagine them at work. How did they get there? How did they break through? Often without even aiming for a breakthrough. They did their thing, and it just came to them. Here are a few examples:
Lady Gaga: “R&B singer Akon discovered Gaga while she was performing a burlesque show that she created, called “Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue.” Impressed, Akon signed the performer to his label under the Interscope umbrella, Kon Live. Through 2007 and 2008, Gaga wrote and recorded her debut album, The Fame.” (source: biography.com)
Stephen King: “While in school, King published his first short story, which appeared in Startling Mystery Stories. After graduating with a degree in English in 1970, he tried to find a position as a teacher but had no luck at first. King took a job in a laundry and continued to write stories in his spare time until late 1971, when he began working as an English educator at Hampden Academy. In 1973, King sold his first novel, Carrie, the tale of a tormented teen who gets revenge on her peers. The book became a huge success after it was published the following year, allowing him to devote himself to writing full time.” (source: biography.com)
Justin Bieber, 5 Seconds of Summer, Ed Sheeran…:“an unknown artist uploads a clip of themselves performing on a social platform, which soon goes viral and catches the attention of not only music fans, but the gatekeepers of the music industry — managers, producers, record label execs. The result is immediate superstardom.” (source: cbc.ca)
The worst thing you could do would be to change who you are as a creative person, just to adapt to what you think would work, and hope to make money. I know you have a deep desire to live off your passion. Me too. And it’s possible.
Who knows, maybe the real you would work, but instead, you choose a fake you that will never work.
There’s a simple reason for that.
Actually, I heard this line on a reality show. But it came from a real professional music producer, so I guess it still carries some weight. Here’s what he said:
“You have to have fun. Character and personality are everything for an artist.”
The only way to have fun doing what you do, and to color your work with your personality, is to do what you love. Without boundaries.
So do the real you. Have fun. Let go. Set yourself free.
Do what you have to do, without worrying about the outcome, and let the magic happen. This is the change of mentality you need to make if you want your creative work to be successful and allow you to make a living.
If you’ve chosen the creative path, it’s because you have things to express. Go back to that. Express those things exactly how you want to express them.
Then the magic will happen, while you’re having fun, and the money will automatically come to you.
Leave the business side alone for once
For a while, I’ve been trying my best to produce photographic work that I thought would be successful. I spent hours scrolling through Instagram to see what was working, and I tried to reproduce the same images.
Spoiler alert: it never worked.
My work was boring. Déjà vu. There was no spark of my soul and personality in it. I was bored too. I almost gave up photography.
I think we should leave the commercial side alone for once. I know, it’s scary. Everyone has to stock the fridge and make a living. But you have to trust the process. You have to trust your work. You have to trust what you bring to the world.
By putting too much pressure on yourself — and the business side of things is part of that — you break the magic.
Let money be just a side effect.
I have a little trick for that.
Just like you, I need money. Every month. To pay for my rent, my car, and my food, mostly. Right now, I’m not successful enough to not care and do my thing freely. So I have a recurring freelance job. It doesn’t take a big part of my week, maybe it’s 1 day out of 7, but it’s the day that allows me to earn the money I need to live. I have 6 days left to be creative and free. It takes a lot of stress off my mind.
When you leave the commercial side alone, you give yourself the freedom to create what is really you. You inject it with your personality, your spark of creativity, and your magic. You take creativity to the next level.
And that’s what will work. Maybe not today, nor tomorrow. But keep pushing, keep trying, keep it steady, keep it moving forward and keep creating momentum.
There’s no reason it shouldn’t work. I'd rather bet it will. It's all about persistence and trust, both in yourself and in what it is you're doing.