Elizabeth Gilbert writes about creativity and money–so worth a read.

14 Jul

This came from a FB post from Elizabeth Gilbert’s page – I happened across it after another writer shared it. I don’t usually do two blog posts in one day, but this one so much goes with what I wrote below, and speaks to so many artists, that I must put it here in its entirety. 11377181_841444645937652_243275401139948379_n


“Dear Ones –

As many of you know by now, my new book BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR is coming out on September 22, 2015. I’ve been sharing a quote from the book every Monday, just to give you all a chance to see what’s coming.

This quote is about creativity and money.

Please understand that I have NOTHING against people wanting to make money out of their art. I always wanted to make money out of my art, I always strived to make money out of my art, and now I do make money out of my art, and I am grateful as hell.

But for the first ten years of my creative journey, I did not make a single dime out of writing. And for the next ten years of my creative journey (which included the publication of three books) I always kept alternative day jobs — always made sure I had other streams of income to rely upon.

I did not quit all my other jobs until EAT PRAY LOVE became a crazy bestseller, you guys. And EAT PRAY LOVE was a freak of nature.

The reason I always maintained other streams of income was because I never wanted to burden my creativity with the task of providing for me in the material world.

I do not believe that Creativity comes to us from the material world, and therefore she has no concept of what it takes to survive in the material world. Creativity is a timeless little playful disembodied weird other-worldly goddess. She doesn’t need to eat, she doesn’t need a roof to sleep under, she doesn’t need to go the dentist. (WE DO, but she doesn’t.) Creativity just wants to engage with us (or not, sometimes!) in her own crazy and unpredictable ways, but she never promised to provide for us.

I adore Creativity. I love her. I have devoted my life to her, because she brings me joy. But I do not suggest relying upon her to pay the oil bill. She is not very reliable. Creativity has no idea what the words “oil bill” even mean. Creativity doesn’t give a damn about your auto insurance. She just wants to dance with you, and then sometimes dance away — on her own schedule, on her own strange rhythms.

This is why I made a promise to my writing life when I was about 15 years old. I said to writing: “I will never ask you to provide for me financially; I will always provide for YOU.”

I was willing to work hard, in other words, so that Creativity could play lightly.

I have seen so many beautiful creative souls murder their creative process because of this relentless insistence that they are not real artists unless their art pays the bills. When it doesn’t work out (and often it doesn’t, because, once more, Creativity is a FLAKEY AND WEIRD airhead goddess) these people become angry, bitter, stuck, bankrupted, and — worst of all — they often quit creating at all.

Let me tell you what makes you a “real artist”:

Are you making art?

Then you’re a real artist.

I met a women recently who’d quit her job in order to embark on a creative project that, in her words, “didn’t work out”. Now she was in both financial trouble and emotional trouble. She said to me, “I am angry at creativity. I took the leap. I gave it everything I had. And creativity let me down.”

Those of you who follow this page regularly have heard me say it before, but I will say it again now:


Creativity owes us NOTHING in exchange for our devotion to her — except the gorgeous experience of getting to work with her at all.

You know how they say, “Jump and the net will catch you?” Well, not always. Jump off the cliff on Creativity’s watch, and she might be polishing her nails at the moment of your leap, and she might forget to catch you. Because she’s a FLAKE.

Nothing is ever promised, nothing is ever certain.

Those are the terms; that’s the contract.

This does not mean that you should not take creative risks. But know that they are risks. Creative endeavors are always freaky casinos. You cannot go into any creative field expecting or demanding satisfying worldly rewards. (You can want it, and you can strive for it…but you cannot demand it. You do not get to set terms and conditions upon which Creativity delivers rewards.) The joy and strangeness of the creative process itself is your reward — MUST be your reward. Otherwise, you are doomed to be anxious and angry all the time.

You do not need to be a millionaire in order to fund your own creative explorations. You do not need a sugar daddy. You do not need a “studio wife”. You do not need a trust fund. You just need to say, “I am taking complete accountability for my own creative journey.”

I wrote my first book while I was a diner waitress. I wrote my second book while I was a diner waitress and a bartender. I wrote my third book while I was a bartender who also worked in a bookstore and who also worked as a journalist. When EAT PRAY LOVE (my fourth book) came out, I was still working at a flea market on weekends. If it wasn’t for the bananas success of EAT PRAY LOVE, I would still be doing other jobs.

Nobody has ever paid my bills but me. Not a parent, not a man, not an artistic patron.

I paid my own bills, and then — on the side — I was free to dance my own crazy dance with the beautiful, irresponsible, irresistible, unpredictable goddess of Creativity.

I have always been my own artistic patron; you can be yours, too.




2 Responses to “Elizabeth Gilbert writes about creativity and money–so worth a read.”

  1. karenrsanderson July 15, 2015 at 5:44 am #

    I have dreams, but I’m pretty sure I’ll always have to keep my day job. This puts it in greater perspective.

    • katmagendie July 16, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

      I do freelance editing – or else i’m on the streets and hungry *laugh*

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