Today, I was reading a post by a friend of mine. They are an amazingly talented artist, musician and playwright, who’s works inspire contemplation. They are feeling inspired and excited by ideas lately, their Muse is speaking to them… and they are having to ignore their muse, because all of their time and energy is going to bill-paying physical labor employment.
I see another group of my friends crowdfunding so that they can keep their jobs, because they are a small, creative, innovative company in a sea of big fish, in an industry where making one product costs millions, and then you hope it makes enough money to create the next product.
I know so many creative, talented people who would be so much happier and healthier if they could be focused on creating, instead of The Bottom Line.
People who would be happy to occasionally do work for “exposure”, and not have to think about putting a price tag on their human worth every time they make a piece of art.
People who regularly have to spend money self-promoting in the hope that they break even, because there needs to be food on the table.
People who have given up pursuing their creativity, because they need to make rent.
People who’s spark and soul are being crushed by having to take whatever paid employment they can.
What are we, as a species, losing because we demand that human creativity be set aside in favor of paid employment? How many bright sparks are snuffed out because they can’t afford to go to art school, or writing workshops, or learn to play an instrument? How much joy is being sucked out of our existence by denying that creativity is part of the human condition?
Our society has built a narrative around creative people; their creativity is only “worth something” if they are able to fit it into our income=human value framework. Look at the archetype of the Starving Artist: financially incapable, anti-social, dependent on others, inconsistent and inconsiderate. Oh yes, their art is amazing, but aren’t they pitiful? Their life would be so much better if they’d just start acting like a Responsible Adult, instead!
We revile the artist who turns their back on our paid-employment-centric worldview. We see them as irresponsible and burdensome- until the moment their art becomes financially valuable, and then we laud their efforts.
Imagine what could happen if artists didn’t have to be “starving” to focus on their art. Imagine if we gave everyone, including creative people, a stable financial floor, so they could make decisions about their time, energy and resources that aren’t based on fundamental survival. What would we see flourish when we have a society that’s not focused on wealth acquisition and ‘socially acceptable’ productivity?