There are two types of people in the world: those who enjoy making money – and those who feel a bit guilty when they do. Okay, I realise that’s a bit simplistic but I’m always surprised when I come across creatives who seem allergic to actually earning good cash.
Or, specifically, creatives who look down on other creatives who are making money. They accuse them of “selling out”.
Accused of selling out
I remember going to a talk that Anthony Bourdain once gave at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Someone from the audience asked, with obvious disdain in her voice, what Bourdain thought of the fact that acclaimed chef Marco Pierre White was now appearing in television commercials for stock cubes.
While I didn’t take notes on Bourdain’s exact quote, it was along the lines of: “I think it’s great. Good on him!”
Incredulous, the woman said: “Really? You don’t think he’s selling out?” To which Bourdain, in his exuberant style, said words to the effect of: “Not at all. What’s wrong with him doing this? Nothing. We all want to get paid for what we do. If he has the chance to make a lot of money from this why not?”
I’ve also heard artists being accused of “selling out” when they lend their names to commercial projects or when they get paid by a corporation instead of an art lover. Or writers “selling out” when they get their books sponsored by a business.
“When I grow up I want to be poor”
The reality is that if someone is willing to pay you for your work, that’s awesome. And if they want to pay you a lot of money, that’s even better. I went to school with a really talented girl who was streets ahead of us rest of creatively. She went to singing lessons, drama coaching, she was great at art, the works!
At the age of 16, I remember her saying to me one day: “When I grow up I want to be poor.”
Even at that tender age, I remember being taken aback at this statement. “I want to be creative and live in a house where there is singing and talking and laughing and where we all have to struggle for money. And I want to have lots of ideas and write songs and just make things and do my art.”
Presumably, she had visited such a house and had romanticised this existence. In reality, when she grew up, she didn’t end up poor. She now lives in a very nice house, gave up her creative pursuits – and became an dentist.
Creativity and money are not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to give up one in order to have the other. And if you do find yourself being able to work with a corporation or business – whether they sell widgets or stock cubes – this is a wonderful opportunity to challenge yourself and see whether you have the creative chops to combine your artistic vision with the goals of your client.