During dinner last night with friends, the discussion entered the realm of the difficulty in making a living in the arts. There are multiple dimensions to this, but if one strips to the core, it’s relatively simple – all be it disconcerting. As much as people do enjoy the arts, for those who have money to spend, what they are willing to pay is a different story. Almost as important is the reality there are many, many talented artists/artisans (this includes writers), and as in any commodity, markets are often “flooded”. Oh, for the sake of this post, I’m referring to freelance. Yes, there are teaching positions, but that’s a different path.
Unlike numerous careers where you won’t become wealthy, but you can earn enough to achieve and sustain middle class, few in the arts are genuinely likely to achieve that. Certainly not if there’s a family to care for as well. The tiny percent in the arts who do “make the big time” help fuel the dream though of all who have such aspirations. (Yes, there are also those who create only for “art’s sake”; that though is yet another topic). The desire to create, whether it’s acting, art, craft, dance, music, or writing is something that should never be discouraged as it is a profound aspect of being human. Balancing the drive with “real life” is the trick as I’ve posted about when we were faced with son’s intent to be a dancer. And of course I’ve written plenty about my own experience which was part of last night’s discussion. In never having the commercial breakthrough, my writing has been a consistent tax write-off, but the IRS does get a bit touchy with year in and year out of that. Since I do primarily self-publish and I no longer publish at least one book a year, it works out that I “make a profit” every few years. That is very much a relative term as it means yes, I have more income from writing than expenses. Let us say the ability to make a living with that income is not the same. On the other hand, I’ve refined the process to where my costs are no more than we spend on an average vacation and we do both take pleasure in my books.