During the Renaissance period, a painter or musician could find a patron and make a living at their passion. In modern society, you’re told to keep your passionate pursuits as hobbies. However, your ongoing struggles with your art tell you otherwise. It’s nearly impossible to make a living with your creative talent these days.
Creatives struggle to find a niche and sell themselves, which sucks out the heart of why you’re creating in the first place. Passion for creative work is intrinsically connected with the creative individual’s sense of self.
With such a deep aesthetic, pressure builds to produce in a society with increasing demands that present ongoing and difficult struggles for the creative mind.
The Necessary Evil of a Bread and Butter Job
The arts are shown to improve a student’s aptitude when it comes to core academic testing, yet the arts are still relegated to extracurricular activities in school. The arts remain as hobbies when adolescents become adults. Singing, painting or writing poetry are all great hobbies, but people are told to monetize these talents to fit into society. When that doesn’t work, creatives turn to other labors to pay the bills. They then neglect the creative work that made them feel the most alive.
That’s just the hard truth—a bread and butter job is a necessary evil for creatives. So, they take a job not as creatively fulfilling. Some creatives don’t have a problem with taking on a related career that is statistically likely to earn more money. Others hate that idea and suffer from burnout.
If faced with this tough decision, it’s important to know under what conditions you thrive best as an employee. Find your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator when it comes to creativity. It will help you learn more about your personality and how you work. Does your job need to have high expectations of you with strict deadlines? Do you prefer to be in charge of your own vision and be an entrepreneur?
Sometimes combining your passion with a practical talent isn’t such a bad idea. You may be an illustrator with great technical skill in design programs. So you decide to open your own business designing illustrated logos. Creative, know thyself to thrive.
The Reality of Being a Tortured Artist
Next to the starving artist is the cliché of the tortured artist. Many creatives have struggled with mental illness, stress and anxiety.
The truth is that creatives tend to be neurotic. This is often linked with anxiety. The same rumination that happens with deep aesthetic thinking also occurs with persistent negative thought patterns. Everyone’s had negative thoughts keep them awake at night.
For those who consistently have that problem, those self-generated thoughts have a plus side for creative brooders. Those thoughts show inventiveness and a tendency to seek out solutions.
Stress can fuel or hijack creativity, but it’s possible to shift anxiety more positively into creativity. Thrust into flight or fight mode, artists like Vincent van Gogh painted many famous works during difficult struggles with mental health. However, I don’t recommend cutting off your ear and sending it to your lover.
Many creatives recognize the ability of art forms to serve as a method of catharsis, generating works that touch hearts or teach others how to heal through being creative (think art therapy).
Consider how you can use your creativity to share your story and help others. The power of art is its conversation with the viewer. Talk to your doctor if you notice that your depression, anxiety or stress is affecting your daily life more than it should.
When Substances Become a Crutch
Are creativity and addiction linked? Why do so many famous people struggle with substance abuse? Addiction is a disease, and tendencies toward addiction are influenced 40 percent by genetics. Other factors depend on environment, peer groups, stressors and accessibility to addictive substances.
Scientists believe that an individual seeks pleasure through substance usage as compulsive risk takers, and this may be a launching point for creativity. Many creatives also turn to substances to deal with emotional stress as a form of self-medication.
Ernest Hemingway and Oprah Winfrey are examples of creative celebrities who have dealt with addiction. Hemingway was a functioning alcoholic and could stop to produce written work, but otherwise his drinking affected his personal life greatly. In her early career, Oprah Winfrey relied on crack cocaine to get by. Winfrey was fortunately able to overcome her addiction and bravely talk about it on a broadcast in 1995 to raise awareness and potentially help others.
Your relationship with alcohol or drugs becomes addiction the moment you are relying on it in any way, no matter whether it’s to get in the mood to do creative work or get through relationship troubles. It’s important to talk to someone you trust. Reach out to family, friends and your spiritual community. Support groups and hotlines are available 24/7 in the most desperate of times to help you find treatment and listen.
When Your Commitment to Creation is Greater Than Anything Else
Many creatives feel torn between being true to their creative souls or being true to a family. A novel is like a baby to a writer in its first draft. It needs a great deal of nurturing as it grows under the care of an agent, editor and publisher. This process requires significant energy and one’s life balance often becomes imbalanced. Relationships and health begin to suffer.
If you’ve noticed your creative life and personal life at odds, it’s time to sit down and be honest with yourself and your loved ones. Are you devoted to completing a project? How can your family best support you, and in turn what do you need to do for your family?
Be clear and be honest with yourself and those you love. Set a schedule to balance your personal and creative lives to give your time where you are most needed. For more serious concerns, a therapist may be helpful with developing clear communication.
Many creatives struggle with finding satisfying work that pays the bills, while dealing with stress and pressure to produce good work. Balancing creative projects with personal life obligations can sometimes lead to struggles with mental health and substance abuse. Yet, the creative mind has the ability to transform the most poignant of experiences into cathartic and inventive works that have the potential to help many.