The relationship between artists and money has never been a simple one. In fact, I have recently found myself in conversations with writers who simply did not want to mention publishing for fear of that dread word spoiling their creative experience.
This is understandable. Money is tied ineluctably to thoughts of our survival. Whether you are an artist, or a banker, or a nanny, it is easy enough to turn the game of life into a survival contest, to view the world in a cold Darwinian search for food and shelter. In this light, life has no meaning outside of not-dying, which is to say it has no meaning at all. That which is meaningless is worthless, and that which is worthless can and should be thrown away. In this way, paradoxically, thoughts of mere survival lead eventually to thoughts of suicide.
To write, meanwhile, is to seek meaning in the suffering inherent in life. This meaning has nothing to do with mere survival, and yet in the end it is more essential to our continuation than food or shelter. You would not deny a friend food or shelter if you had it to share, why would you withhold meaning? And yet this is what we do when we choose not to publish, we withhold meaning for fear it will be called meaningless, and there we will be again, back in the game of dead or alive.
If mixing art and money disturbs you, do not look upon publishing simply as a means of putting food on the table; think of it as sharing what is most valuable in life. That this brings food to your table is recognition of the proper relationship between the body and the soul. The body is in service to the soul, never the other way around. It cannot be, for without the soul there would be no body. Art, love, friendship, compassion—all these things correct the suicidal reversal that is survivalism. So share what it is you already know you want most in your life. Share it so you can see that is it more real than the hand with which you give it.
Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
“A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.