The Practicality of Choosing to be a Starving Artist

One of the blogs that I follow on my WP Reader popped up with a plea for financial support to keep the blog running. The blog’s writer has some days where the output is brilliant. It has a heartfelt rawness that can only come from someone that truly enjoys writing with heart-on-sleeve. There are off days as well, like every person on the planet. So I thought that I’d have a look at the donation scheme, which resides on a crowdfunding site.

I’ve always wanted to create art for a living. I also realized early on that I didn’t have the talent, wild luck or well-to-do parents to allow me to pursue art as a first career right out of university. This was a time before the internet existed, so opportunity was definitely limited. So I shelved the ambitions to be the next Tolkien, Asimov or King and went about getting a useful degree. So here I am 20-odd years later, somewhat financially stable and with time to pick up writing again, but without the illusions that art is an easy thing to make a living at.

Which is why what I found on the site gave me pause. It looked like the blogger was maintaining the site (not a free WP blog) and self-publishing work with financial support via crowdfunding. Repeatedly. Translation: the business model was not self-sustaining. I know blogging can become financially viable as a career. I have friends that are able to support a single person’s lifestyle with the proceeds from their blog. They don’t stop there though, because a blog is like a restaurant. Patronage ebbs and flows. If you’re dependent on steady cash flow from your blog to live, and you don’t have a plan B, it’s like tightrope walking without a safety net.

What I’m saying is nothing new. There have been starving artists for generations. Many of them hold down other “normal” jobs in order to fund the chase for their dream. Some defer the dream until life is stable, and if luck is on their side pick it up again later. Authors have had their first NYT Bestseller in their 40s or older. If people aren’t buying your e-books off the self-pub sites, then your stuff isn’t good enough right now. Take the hint, and come up with a fallback that isn’t art.

There are better choices than living with the need for donations every month.


PS: TDP, I don’t like “free writes” since that’s not really a prompt. We don’t need an excuse to write about anything we want to. The time rule sucks because it’s bad form to leave a sentence half-completed.

PPS: If there’s anyone that can write for ten minutes straight on a tablet or smartphone without an external keyboard, please tell me how to retain your sanity with the combination of typos and autocorrect. The only exception I would make is if you’re on a classic Blackberry with a physical keyboard. I’ve written some epic work emails and blog posts on Blackberries.


9 thoughts on “The Practicality of Choosing to be a Starving Artist

  1. Very curious, one of the blogs I was following also requested donations to maintain his blog alive. However, unlike the blogger you mention, I felt that his posts were quite limited. I wanted to avoid the word boring here, but they were dead boring. I noticed that some people donated but I do not know why. I fully agree with you that there are fa better choices than living with the need for monthly donations but I personally believe that that is just an easy way out.

    I can write extensive pieces on my mobile (Samsung Galaxy S4) without any issues. I do not have autocorrect enabled. The Blackberry keyboard was great but far too noisy!

    1. You’re a far better smartphone user than I am! I have an even larger phone (the Samsung Galaxy Note 2) and I use the Swiftkey app. I can’t get through ten words without something needing manual correction. I don’t know which Blackberry you were using, but all of the ones I’ve had are quiet. I still use my Bold 9900 as my backup phone, and when I need to type out something long I do it on the BB then email it to the Note. I’ve used BBs for over ten years though so I guess it’s a comfort thing. πŸ™‚

      1. You might just need more practice! πŸ™‚ I cannot fully recall it but I think I had the BB 9300 it was lovely but the keyboard was extremely loud. Perhaps it was my fault as I can usually type very fast. It also started creating these crazy characters by itself. I got the first replaced and within three months I had the same issue so I never bothered with a BB again. I’ve had Samsung for many years too so I always end up back probably as a comfort thing too.

        1. It’s the lack of tactile feedback that causes me grief when I type on a virtual keyboard. My fingertips don’t hit the right spot, even when sliding, so I don’t get the letter or word that I want. Too bad Blackberry failed to adapt and is dying a slow painful death. Seeing the rubbish that they’re throwing out now is sad.

          1. You can enable tactile feedback on your settings. It is not the same as a physical feedback but it still helps a bit. Have you tried it? Blackberry has died.

  2. While there have always been starving artists, I think what you’ve written about is the modern form of private art patronage at best and just plain online begging at worst.

    I’m not sure what to make of it myself. While there are certainly worthwhile things/projects to support, I have no disposable funds.
    I agree with you that the monthly fundraising drive isn’t an ideal business plan, especially if the talent and originality isn’t there to sustain it. However, there are plenty of people who lack both and are still writing, acting, painting, as well as crowdsourcing funds for their own vanity projects even though they have the financial means. I guess that’s the benefits of having generous fans πŸ™‚

  3. This was really interesting to read, thank you! As per typing, I type all my writing on my iPhone, and only noticed now I touch type the keys while watching what I type, I don’t look at the key notes, never really noticed that before!

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