I was in a diner in Tarrytown,NY, years ago, when I had a meltdown about being a jeweler. Too many creative decisions were turning into financial ones, and I wasn’t doing what I loved, I was supporting my family with my art, and that is a different choice from meaning making. Snorgling into my mashed potatoes and watching it rain outside, I longed to return to the paper arts. But I needed to make money to support the family. But I was soooooo unhappy.
Imagine that: unhappy in the life of an artist. How could that be? The simple answer is–I wasn’t making meaning, I was making money. For many people, making money with their art is a life time dream. For me it became an unimaginable burden. Every decision I made was based on profit margin. Could I make this design large enough to show detail? Well, if I made it smaller, I could save time because the detail wouldn’t show. Should I fabricate the clasps? That would take time, and add to the price. If I purchased them, it would mean I could sell the piece for less, and still make a profit. And save time. That meant making more. Nothing had meaning anymore. The taste in my mouth was dry and dusty. The mashed potatoes were dry and dusty. My life was dry and dusty.
Right there, in the diner, I made a decision. I would no longer make my art do the heavy lifting of paying the mortgage. I would create other business outlets to do that. On the left-brain/right brain debate, I come down right in the middle, and that’s what was causing my problem–I was trying to make meaning “equal” to making money. I was trying to say that spending equal amounts of time on left brain business and right brain creating was fair. After all, equal is fair, right? Wrong.
Just as not everyone at a meeting has equally brilliant ideas, or even equally OK ideas, everyone has an equal right to speak. So I gave my brain equal time to think and then chose what works for me–teaching business writing, teaching the under-served, writing copy. And then teaching art, making books, and making art that I don’t have to sell.
For me, it works remarkably well. I support my family through my own work, I do what I love, I am a life- and creativity coach, and I have time to work deeply on the art that influences everything else I do.
Image: Used under the Creative Commons attribution license. Photo by wasoxygen at http://flickr.com/photos/51035768687@N01/16498910
–Quinn McDonald is a writer, creativity coach, and the author of Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art.