Secrets of Starving Artists
Admit it. You're worried about money. You and just about everybody else, considering what's been going on of late. You're in particular worried about the future.
Welcome to the world of those who make their living in the arts, the chronically under- and un-employed writers and performers who share a bed with feast and famine. With little job security, those in this boat either move on to something less nerve-wracking (Stop-n-Rob stickups spring to mind) or learn to adapt with the cyclical nature of their career choice.
One way artists and writers manage to survive the lean times is by hanging onto a day job or working part-time in some field where they've had previous training or where their minds, at least, can run free. I know many novelists who get up obscenely early or stay up quite late to write before or after work and "give up" almost every weekend. A lot of them dream of the day they'll be able to give up this paycheck (or its benefits) and devote themselves to their art; others enjoy either the security or the work of their "other" job. But there's no shame attached to moonlighting, no admission of failure inherent in the act.
Those "starving" artists who keep at it long-term also tend to help each other. They talk up each other's work, band together to take advantage of opportunities, and introduce newcomers to the "rules of the community." Rather than jealously hoarding scraps of potentially-helpful information, they share tips with others who may benefit and develop a network of contacts that often helps them in the long haul. After all, if your buddy's career skyrockets, he may have the opportunity to offer you a hand up -- something which happens far more often that you might think.
One last thing I've noticed is those living on the poverty-prone fringes of the creative territories (which would include most of us) celebrate not only capital-S Success but every baby step in its direction. Get a halfway encouraging rejection? An invitation to submit your next work? A kind word from a mentor or an offer from a small press or a nice online review? Your buds are out there genuinely cheering for you, even when they're dying for some good news of their own.
You'll notice that a lot of this comes down to community, to finding others who share or at least support your goal. And it never hurts to have friends with whom to share recipes for inexpensive meals, tips on the best paper prices, and, oh, yes... that all important opportunity to laugh about the craziness of this life we're living.
So what are your "starving artist" secrets? How do you save or raise more money or plan for the lean times between contracts? And if you want to share or link to a great deal, we would love it!