Maybe Not Earning a Living as an Artist is Really the Way to Success?

21st Century Enlightenment by David Lee Eubank Oil on Canvas 80″x90″

Maybe not earning a living as an Artist is really the way to success.

I know what I said yesterday, but maybe our teacher’s were right in advising us not to worry about the money. In fact we may be better off or at least more creative and true to our real needs as artists not to work for money.

Catch 22, maybe may be not.

After I posted yesterday I was watching the PBS News Hour and guess what. They had a segment on exactly what motivates creativity and how we earn a living. The segment showed evidence that we humans free up our minds and problem solve much more efficiently and more creatively when we are motivated by the interest in the activity rather than the interest of being paid. In fact according to the research we are far less motivated by money.

Working for money actually detracts from the creative process as I understand what the research means.

Further the segment used the modern phenomena in technology, The Open Source Movement.

Open Source is where groups of creative people get together and design programs for your computers and the internet without being paid.

Further these Open Source groups give away the technology for free. An example is the Fox Fire Internet Browser. The creators have day jobs that pay their bills and work for free to create, free content. When asked why; most were motivated by the creative and autonomous aspect of the work. Sounds like the News Hour was interviewing a group of artists.

Now I don’t really understand all of the research into this behavior but I do understand the reported results. As long as I can remember the fact that artists are more motivated by the nature of creating art for arts sake dominates any discussion on the subject. Combined with the fact that most artists want to maintain control and autonomy over their creative process and work leads me to believe the idea for finding another source of income or support may be to our benefit as artists.

The only other thing I can really say is this. Ten years ago I took the same route as the Open Source people and quit worrying about making a living. I earn my keep with my day job. When I really think about it I am more satisfied with my creative activity having removed the need to sell artwork. The freedom I have gained allows me to explore and experiment with new ideas, technologies and materials I might otherwise forgo if my creative processes were connected to my income.

I might have never written this blog or experimented with other media if it were linked to paying the bills. That is not to say you can’t still make money off your work. It just means that your work is motivated by what ever reasons you chose to work from as an artist.

I then asked myself who is pushing us to work from a money point of view rather than from a creative point of view. Perhaps it is that part of society that is motivated to work for money rather than to work because it is something you want to do. Which is what the research shows. The outcome suggests we as a society may achieve a far more productive satisfying and sustainable future if we change the current model and our attitudes and thinking about why we work.

Watch the report at the link below. Tell me what you think!

What Drives Motivation in the Modern Workplace?


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