Who Are You, Really?

When I made one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry and sold them at art festivals, the big question in any conversation was “are you a full-time artist?” It was a badge of authenticity to make your art bear the burden of supporting the family and fueling your creativity. The day I realized that all my creative decisions were approved through my marketing budget, I quit. I vowed I’d never put my art in a straight jacket again. I returned to my roots as an art journaler (before it was called that) and worked with people to challenge their inner critic.

Some of the many hats you can wear.

To support my creativity without weighing it down with spread sheets, I expanded my business to include creativity coaching, freelance writing, and developing and running business communication training programs. Oh, and I design and celebrate people’s sacred ceremonies–weddings, commitment ceremonies, new home blessings–almost anything that has to do with change and growth. I like to be busy.

Each of the pieces of my business have different cycles, and with some hard work and planning, some parts are busy when others are not. So far, ten years into running my own business, I’ve never hit a patch where all the businesses slowed down at the same time. Knock wood.

About two years ago, I made the decision to have one website instead of two. For a while, I was worried that my business clients would not understand the creative side and would be afraid that I was too far out of the box.

Interestingly enough, my business clients are fine with me being an artist. It’s something they are familiar with–artists have to do other work to be able to support their creative projects. For the corporate world, that’s a no-brainer.

What is surprising to me is how many artists frown at my business side. “Oh, so you aren’t really a full-time artist are you?” Sometimes I say, “I’m creative all the time.” Sometimes I ask, “How do you define ‘ full-time artist’?” It’s as if my creative side is tainted because I design and teach writing and communication training programs.

One of my biggest creative challenges is teaching grammar to business people who never learned it in school. Without knowing the difference between a subject and a predicate, it’s hard to explain why it’s always “between you and me,” and  never “between you and I” and why you should tell your dog to “lie down” and not “lay down.” Making up rules that don’t include grammar requires a lot of inventiveness and imagination. I find it challenging and, yes, fun.

It’s also sad for me to hear artists make up rules about who gets to claim the title of artist and who doesn’t. Or to deny business people the right to be artists. Nowhere is creativity needed more than in corporate America.

What bothers me is that artists, who know a good deal about being labeled and stereotyped, are doing a lot of that themselves. Being an artist does not demand that you sell you art and live from that money alone. Being an artist means that you face life creatively and work at the intersection of the world’s need and your determination. So yes, I’m a full-time artist. And a full-time business owner. And a full-time writer.

–Quinn McDonald is many things. She’s happier that way.

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12 responses to “Who Are You, Really?

  1. I don´t get asked about being a full time artist but I do get asked if I got money out of whatever work I got published or posted. More than once I got the “I have just lost interest” look and even got told “then. it´s not worth it” when I said there was no check involved.

  2. quite the opposite; I opened a door too quickly the other day and caught Cricket lecturing at a white board to the other dogs, the cat, and three of the crows who know how to take the cover off the trash can. Not a big surprise, although how she works the laser pointer without thumbs is beyond me.

  3. Interesting post. I work full time as a Building Surveyor and construction project manager. A “hard” industry, very corporate, lots of hard hats and muddy boots, ladders and roofs and big egos. Its how I earn money, and I’m good at it. It doesn’t seem on the surface to be fertile soil for creativity. But in many ways, it is. Imaginative solutions to problems, wether how to use space or how to finish a troubled project. Moreover, it brings me into daily contact with a huge spectrum of people, from chief executives of large corporations to the man on site pouring concrete. We all live in the same world of creative potential, and it saddens me that there are “ghettoes”. It cheers me when the unexpected crossover is encountered. The developer in his 60’s, rough tough man who attends creative writing classes. The property consultant who takes amazing photos of people and places. The architect who paints. The accountant who reads and searches for new writing talent. And yes, I’d agree that SOME arty types can be very sniffy about the worlds of business and commerce. Creativity and a world full of potential

    • Maybe you chose this job for that great discovery and challenge. it sounds like a wonderful job that both challenges you and feeds your creativity.

      • I didn’t “choose” this profession/business -I fell into it an stayed in it. And its certainly not a vocation. But I guess my point is more that creativity and interesting people exist everywhere – not just in “artistic” circles

        • You sound like the work chose you. Which is how it works for many of us. And finding creatives wherever you are is a gift you bring. Many people would just ignore them.

  4. My dog objects to both “lie down” and “lay down,” much preferring “yes Cricket, right away Cricket, sorry for the delay Cricket.” And we aren’t to ask about her plans for world domination; we’re not supposed to know about that.

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