midweek musing : art for sale or soul?

I read an article recently that was one person's observation of the move in our society (Western, developed, etc.) from artists as 'artisans' to 'entrepreneurs'.

Overall, I agree with the author's perspective that the relationship between our artists and their community has changed from those with a gift to offer, to being another group with something to sell. The all-pervasiveness of commercialism was bound to suck us all in eventually. Everyone has to eat, and food costs money.

As an artist who this year has had to rely on my art as a means for making money – I started a Patreon page through which folk can financially support me as I compose stories and poems, with a commitment to produce stories and poems on a regular basis – I have found this shift debilitating.

It may be that the broader experience of living hand to mouth, uncertain of the long term income prospects or my ability to cover the rent each month, is the overriding source of debilitation. It may be my general ambivalence towards money that causes disaffection with any money making enterprises. Probably it's a combination of all this and more.

The point is that I have lost the joy. The pressure to compose work of a standard that will engage with an audience and encourage more people to sign up as patrons is squashing the creative impulse. I actually find that whole concept distasteful – see my above-mentioned ambivalence towards money. You see, when I need my work to reach an audience, to inspire people to dig into their pockets and give me money in gratitude for work they appreciate because they want more of it, I need people to 'like' my poems, posts, links, videos - my work. When they do not, when hardly anyone is even clicking through to watch the videos or listen to the poems, then I think to myself, why on earth do I bother creating them? If no one actually seems to want my words, then I will keep them to myself. But I can't do that because these words are one of the few things I have that have potential to generate income ...

I have lost the joy. The simple, grateful joy of playing with words, getting to know characters, discovering a new perspective, delighting in the creative process.

Do not despair.

An idea struck me last weekend, inspired by the way a friend participates in the throwback thursday trend in social media. If you've not come across it, people tweet or instagram a picture of themselves from the past, and post with the tag #tbt (throwback thursday). It's fun. It is joy. This friend I mention posts words of wisdom from saints past and present, with a picture background – what are known as 'memes' – Jason Chestnut of The Slate Project, on the right is their #tbt from last week.

I decided that I would remind myself of the joy of creating and playing with words by making memes with favourite lines I have written, or in most cases, that have written themselves through my pen – one of those memes is above. I will share them with you through twitter, and I'll post them here, too. But they're not primarily for you. They are for me. To remember my love of words; to recapture the joy; to celebrate the gift.


Heather said…
The Catch. I feel for you.
Anthony Haynes said…
Enjoyed reading this. It's a little insight as to the realities of things if you're wanting to make a living through your words. I'm super glad to hear you're falling back in love with poetry and story telling as ends in themselves.
sarah said…
Heather : thank you x

Anthony : thank you, too. It remains to be seen whether the project has the desired effect of bringing back the love of my arts ... fingers crossed.

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