The Financially Dependent Creative
This post was originally published on my blog, The Way of the Worrier, where I blog about what I’m writing, reading, and worrying about.
I know that idea of the “starving artist” — the pure creative who lives on inspiration and black coffee alone — is largely a myth, but I still can’t stop and wonder at anyone who manages to pursue their creative hobby or passion while being financially insecure. I’m not saying its a bad thing, but I just don’t understand how people do that. I sure as hell can’t do that.
One of my August Resolutions is to write (and read) more fiction. Since starting this blog and doing my freelance writing, my fiction writing has taken a hit. Now that I’m done with school (for the time being), I thought I would be able to spend loads of time on my fiction writing. I even signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in July, where I wrote a whopping 900 words. Just about 3% of my goal of 30,000 words. So what gives?
It’s not time. I work 2 jobs, plus freelance, which combines for a total of 30–40 hours per week. And I probably spend about 10–15 hours per week ostensibly doing blog-related-things, but only about 5 of those hours really produce anything worth showing. I spend a lot of time scrolling through Instagram “seeking inspiration and brainstorming my branding” — in other words, comparing myself to people with 10k+ followers and feeling inadequate. Still, at max, my jobs and blogging take up 55 hours each week. Which leaves me a TON of time where I could be writing fiction. So, again, why am I not doing it?
I couldn’t answer this question for myself until the beginning of this week. (i.e., yesterday). As I deposited a paycheck that seemed tragically small, I realized that I feel insecure. A large part of that insecurity is financial, but a smaller portion is emotional insecurity.
My Many Insecurities
First, let me explain what I mean by “financial insecurity.” In reality, I am probably not financially insecure. My parents still give me money for things like my cell phone bill and car insurance. I pay less than half of the rent for my apartment because I live with my boyfriend and he makes more money than I do and he’s super awesome. (Shhh — don’t tell him I said that.) Maybe rather than saying “I am financially insecure,” I should say “I’m insecure about my finances.” You see, I am a very independent person, and I would like to be financially independent, stat. I don’t want to become a starving artist, but I’m also not totally happy being a financially dependent creative. So during my free time, when I sit down thinking that I should work on that story idea I just had, I often end up on Upwork or Contently combing through paid writing opportunities or reading blog posts about how to increase my Twitter following in hops that I can eventually grow my blog into something that could make money.
Why am I not out searching for a job that will make me more money? Even if it’s at the cost of my writing time, I’m clearly not being entirely constructive with that time anyways, so what am I doing with my life? The truth is, I probably should be looking for another job that pays better or offers health insurance. But that leads into the emotional insecurity that I mentioned earlier. I’m comfortable at both of my current “day jobs.” I’ve had a lot of change recently, with graduating college and moving in with my boyfriend. And now we are probably going to move to a new apartment in two months. And we may very well move again in a year so that I can start grad school. Not to mention that grad school in and of itself will be a huge change.
I don’t always deal well with change. (If you would like to confirm this, just ask my parents. Or my siblings. Or my boyfriend. Or my freshman adviser in college who had to watch me sniffle in her office during the first week of classes.)
My issues with change are a main part of me clinging to the jobs that I have only recently gotten comfortable with. Even as I realize that the amount of money I’m making is not enough, I can’t imagine diving back into applications, interviews, and a new work environment.
Ok, now that I’ve blabbered on for a few hundred words about my insecurity, I’ll finally get to how this connects with my fiction writing — or lack thereof.
I’m feeling stressed about my finances, about my future, and about all the changes that have happened, are happening, and will happen. With all the stress I’m feeling, I have a hard time making room in my brain for creative pursuits. So even when I have the time to write more creatively, I’m not in the right headspace for it. At the best moments, when I do feel myself sliding into a creative mindset, I feel guilty that I’m not doing something that could make me more money.
Then again, I’m worried that if I did work more hours, especially at a job I didn’t like, that I would still be stressed and unhappy because I struggle to function well if I don’t have a lot of time to recharge by myself.
I’m not saying that I want money to buy me happiness, but I’m also not denying that money plays a role in happiness. Studies have shown that a higher income will make you happier, but only to a certain point — and that point is less than $100,00/year in the U.S., no mater which state you live in.
I don’t have a dollar amount in mind for what will make me happy and less stressed. But I do think that feeling more financially independent and resilient would allow me to engage in my creative pursuits more freely.
How do you find a balance between creativity and financial stability? Have you gained your financial stability through a creative pursuit?