Over at The Simple Dollar personal finance blog, Trent's got some great advice this week for would-be professional artists and writers. Basically, he says there's two kinds of careers: stable careers, and what he calls scalable careers--ones that some people make a lot of money at, but most people make little or nothing. Stable jobs have a lot of advantages, but often the careers people dream about having--musician, writer, professional athlete--fall into the "scalable" category. Is compromise possible? Sure. Trent says:

My suggestion is simple: whatever that dream is that you have, don’t let it go. Instead, spend your free time practicing it in the way you want to. If you already have a stable income, don’t worry about what sells and what doesn’t - just do it. Practice deliberately. Have fun doing it. Don’t worry about the end product - just have fun with the process and try new things.

In other words, treat that hobby as you might treat a scalable career if you didn’t have to worry about the income at all. It actually frees you to experiment, since income is merely an unexpected bonus. Try new things, practice the details, and enjoy what you’re doing.

What happens next? You get better. You produce interesting things. And people begin to pay attention. It might take years--it might never happen--but does it really matter? You’re enjoying the process.

This passage really resonated with my current situation. I know that it's damn near impossible to make even a meager living drawing comics, no matter how good you are. (And often good has nothing to do with it.) But for two years I let that fact stop me from drawing at all. I settled into a fun day job, and decided I could get all my money and my creative fulfillment at work.

But I miss drawing comics--I miss it a lot. So I hereby vow to draw a little everyday, do my updates on time, and keep getting better, even if it results in a net financial loss. It'll mean some cutbacks, of course. I'll have to give up a little sleep, drink less, and waste less time on the internet. But I know the end result will be satisfying.

And you know what else? There's no shame in having a day job. Some of the comic artists I respect the most--like, I look at them and think, I want to be there in ten or twenty years--have day jobs. We live in a society that just isn't structured to reward most artists financially. (Which is maybe a good thing--thins the herd.) But it doesn't make art any less essential.


Anonymous said...

Good points, and good luck!

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