You Don’t Have to be a Starving Artist

I took up oil painting about a year ago, and I’ve been writing for years, among other things. One thing those professions have in common is the idea that you can’t make money at them if you want to stay true to your art. (Many other idealistic professions have that in common too.)

But that’s a lie.

Making money doing something you love does not mean that you’ve “sold out”. It means that people are willing to pay you for something they appreciate.

You don’t hear stock traders who love what they do and are good at trading stocks talking derisively about other traders who’ve “sold out” for money, do you? Or what about surgeons deriding other surgeons for their high salaries? The idea is laughable, but surgery is definitely an art and a skill. Most people happily accept money in exchange for their work.

If you’re telling yourself that you can’t make a good living doing the things you love and are good at, you’re fooling yourself. You’re probably depriving the world of some wonderful things too.

Selling out is something else entirely. It’s changing who you are and what you believe, which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with money.

It’s ok to make money. It’s ok to value your efforts, and to stand up and get paid for them — which will likely give you more time to concentrate on your real work instead of struggling to exist and buy supplies. It’s even ok to be good at business, too, or to team up with someone who is.

So if you’ve bought into the starving artist line, take a minute to see if you might really be using that as an excuse not to succeed.


  • Kim

    I have been an artist all my life. I was raised by artistic people. It is my take that the reason there are so many starving artists is that they don’t WORK. An idea is just an idea until someone does the work. ,A great idea is just another great idea until someone slogs the boxes up or down the stairs and sometimes you just have to work in a state of AFRAID.

    • Good point. Creating the work and then doing the work required to actually sell it are pretty important too. You’re not going to make money from ideas alone.

  • I am making a living do something I like. I am a teacher. Do I like what I do all the time? No! I encouraged my children to pursue something they love and they will be successful. They are successful and happy in their careers.