5 Easy Ways To Support* The Struggling Artist In Your Life
*that won’t cost you a cent!
I have recently foisted upon my family and friends that great bane of becoming a Struggling Artist. I quit my well-paying sought-after corporate job to take a punt on Living The Dream as a full-time writer. The day that I announced my resignation, I was inundated with messages along the lines of “We’re so proud!” and “You’re so brave!”… unfortunately, as I quickly learned, bravery doesn’t pay the bills.
I’m now in the uncomfortable position of having to call upon those admirers and ask them to support me in my work. It’s no easy task, given that I am just one in a chorus of aspiring artists, worthwhile causes, Facebook pages and capitalist sirens, all begging for attention. As much as I desperately want hordes of readers to stumble upon my work and love it so much that they’re compelled to throw fat stacks of cash at me, in the immortal words of Mammy in Gone With The Wind: “wantin’ ain’t gettin’”. I think that my work is worthwhile, but I’m very aware of the fact that I’m asking people to part with their most valued commodities — their money and their time — to enjoy it.
Still, I’ve found that so many people in my life — more than I ever would have hoped or expected — want to do whatever they can to support me. I’m incredibly privileged, in that regard. Many of them don’t have a lot of time or a lot of money to give, so I found myself devising a short list of ways that they could give me a boost without great personal sacrifice. If you have a loved one who’s fighting the same good fight, and you want to help them out without breaking your bank or your back, this is the list for you: my top five ways to support the struggling artist in your life (that won’t cost you a cent).
(1) Subscribe to their stuff.
Depending on what breed of artist they are, this could take many forms. Subscribe to their email newsletter. Like their Facebook page. Follow them on Twitter. Don’t underestimate the power of all of these options: so much of selling oneself to editorial and curatorial overlords is convincing them that you have a pre-existing social reach. “Look! Here’s a not-insignificant number of people that demonstrably give a shit about what I do, and might potentially give you money if you help me to do it!”. Even if your inbox is overflowing, it costs you nothing to enter your email address into a subscription form, and the trillionth of a second that you spend hitting “Mark As Read” once a week might make all the difference to the struggling artist on the other end.
(2) Buy stuff that you would buy anyway through their affiliate links.
Yes, I know, I said that it wouldn’t cost you a cent, but this doesn’t count. Say you’re going to buy a book on Amazon: that book will cost you exactly the same amount if you go to your friend’s blog first, click on their Amazon affiliate link, and purchase the book through that window instead. Even if you’re not buying something that your friend is advertising directly, affiliate links will usually follow you through the merchant’s site, and your friend will still get a teeny-tiny cut of whatever you do ultimately purchase. You could click through a link on your friend’s photography blog, for example, to buy your Bullet Blender or your inflatable chair or whatever it is that you need, and it will still send a few cents their way. This kind of conscious purchasing decision on your part could mean that they can splurge on brand-name baked beans to live off for the next week.
(3) Go to their events.
It might be a book talk, it might be an art exhibition, it might be a poetry reading, it might be a half-hour set at your local pub… these events are often free, and a bit of a crowd is good for the ego, not to mention good for demonstrating that pre-existing social reach we talked about earlier. Even if you have to buy a ticket, the cost is often nominal, and at most such events you’re probably going to be handed a complimentary glass of wine that’s worth more than the price you paid to begin with (be sure to ask about concession prices, too!). I can’t overstate the value of seeing a friendly face in the crowd when one is reading aloud the work they’ve slaved over for months, or inviting strangers to stare at a piece of art that feels more like a piece of their soul. Even if the genre isn’t really your “jam”, you’d be surprised at how much fun you’ll have and the interesting people you’ll likely get to meet.
(4) Share their stuff.
Facebook has a “Share” button, and it’s not just for show. You never know who among your couple-hundred-odd Facebook friends might be interested in your loved one’s work (maybe even enough to buy some of it). Same goes for re-tweeting on Twitter, pinning on Pinterest, tagging on Instagram, recommending on LinkedIn, and whatever-other-equivalent on any-other-social-media-network that has infiltrated your hand-held device. If you really want to kick it old-school, you could think of another friend who might be interested and send them a text or an email (or a fucking carrier pigeon, for all we care) simply saying “I think you’ll really be into this, check it out!”. The struggling artist in your life will kiss the ground you walk on, and buy you a beer when they’re rich and famous.
(5) Tell them they’re great. (Even if they don’t believe you.)
This last one is probably the easiest, and the most often overlooked. It’s not always about “building an audience” and “making connections”. Sometimes, it’s just 3AM and we’re looking at everything we’ve ever created and we’re unable to escape the seemingly obvious reality that We Actually Suck. We cry and we curse and we tear everything up, and we vow that we’re going to return to being a professional dog walker or whatever other job we can land with our relatively-few marketable skills, because clearly our art just ain’t gonna cut it. This is where you come in: never underestimate the power of a message telling us that we’re great and you believe in us, in that very moment. Those words will snarl and scratch at the neurosis that looms over the head of every creative; the words won’t always win, but they’ll go down swinging. And, pssst, this last one goes beyond just the struggling artists that you know: maybe you could tell everyone you love, now and then, that they’re great and you believe in then — you can be sure that it will make the difference between giving up and forging on in someone’s darkest moment.
— — — — —
If this list has inspired you to support a struggling artist, you can start right now! Check out my blog series: www.ourhoneymooninisrael.com — my story of romance and disaster in the Middle East. Don’t forget that all of the really awesome and smart people hit subscribe!