I love creative, complex, funny people.
When I see a photo or video or clever ditty or hear great music or read a deep, insightful essay it makes my heart expand.
This is the case with supremely talented fine artists or wacky creative geniuses like Hugh McLeod, who did the above gapingvoid cartoon.
Or ZeFrank, whose mind I love so much I would marry it if I could.
If you have 18 minutes, watch his TED talk:
(link here if you can't see video - it has a teeny bit of profanity so if you are at work, take note)
A client, whom I won't name to maintain his privacy, told me that he was a musician. He wanted to explore making a living by his art, but was unsure if he could do it. By the way he described it, I assumed he was a decent player, most likely entertaining family and friends in the living room, or playing at a local small coffee shop. Then I viewed him playing on YouTube.
My jaw hit the floor.
He was sublime, exquisite, hyper-talented. Carnegie Hall material.
And I wondered -- if he, Ze Frank, Hugh McLeod worry about making a living from their art, what about the rest of the average creative Joe or Jane?
We went to the Tempe Art Fair a few months ago and a talented street performer named Dana Smith did a show in the middle of a huge crowd of people.
My 3-year old son watched with rapt attention. At the end of the show, Dana asked for volunteers. My son waved his hand and stood up . After Josh's "performance," he told me that he had to go speak with the artist. "I want to work with you," he said to Dana. Dana replied:
"If you want a life of driving around in a beat-up pick-up truck, come join me," he said. "Otherwise, become an accountant!"
This half-joke/half truth stuck with me.
Is there really a correlation between pure creative joy and poverty or selling out and prosperity?
A coaching client from India told me something I never forgot:
"My father told me from a young age that I had three choices for my career. I could be a doctor, an engineer, or a failure."
Unfortunately for him, he was a software engineer for a very successful high tech company. Who deeply longed to chuck it all and be a creative writer. He drank. A lot.
Today I learned something that blew my mind: Michelangelo hated painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Hated it.
If I had been his coach, I would have asked him why.
He would have told me that his boss was a tyrant and that he didn't see himself as a painter-he believed he was a sculptor. He would have told me he missed his family in Florence and that the pay was inconsistent.
Then, as his coach, I might have asked him why he didn't quit.
I am so glad I wasn't his coach.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is one of the most inspired and beautiful things I have ever seen. How could he have hated doing it? How could he have spent four years making something so amazing and not enjoyed it?
It makes me wonder. . .
What if he had followed his "North Star" and not done the thing he hated?
I cringe at the thought.
And then I wonder...
What might he have created (and loved creating) in those four years instead?
Or was the Sistine Chapel his North Star and he just didn't realize it at the time?
I don't have the answers.
I don't have the answers either. Every once in awhile, I come across someone like Hugh who seems to blend genuine joy at creativity with a healthy attitude towards commerce. But he worked terribly long and hard at it, giving away his drawings on the back of business cards for years before successfully selling them as prints.
But mostly, when talking with extremely creative people, there seems to be an inherent friction between pure creative freedom and making a living.
Maybe we need more creative genius grants to let the truly creative do what they are meant to do without twisting themselves into "packages" of e-books, sound bites or workshops.
If I had it my way, Rhett and Link would not have to worry about paying rent.
I wish I had a neat process to ensure you could maintain the feeling of total creative freedom while making a living doing it. I just don't know if one exists. I am sure that part of it has to do with changing the "starving artist" mentality, and maybe part of it has to do with relaxing the expectation that you should always make tons of money from what you love.
Your thoughts on this one?