Art for fun or profit?

I’ve been rediscovering how much fun it is to create art and stories about things I love. I thought I had done that with the Malevolent books. But writing this new Spacetime book has been even more so. And fanfics are the most fun of all.

But I feel guilty about fanfics. I’ve had this idea for a long time that art is worthless unless you can make money off it.

Isn’t that a sad, mercenary thought? It’s crept into my thinking and sapped the joy right out of art. When I do allow myself to play with art, it results in teaching the kids to make pumpkins out of clay.

clay-pumpkins

Or in me giving them a crash course in Photoshop. Or the basics of animation.

But none of those things add cash to the coffers, so I sadly steer my brain cells away from them. Instead, I work furiously on my “real” art: book covers, stories written to be published, and so on. I’ve had moderate success with them.

Writing a fanfic feels like a guilty pleasure. I’ve allowed myself one per year for the last few years. This year? I wrote two book-length fanfics, back to back. I hang my head and shuffle my feet. You can’t make money off fanfics, after all. It’s a waste of time. Except I love it so much.

Is it okay to make art purely because you love it?

On my Facebook, someone was talking about this podcast episode of Makers and Mystics. Ken Helser was talking about this idea that we have to make money off our art, and how bad it is.

He told a story about a woman who had a beautiful singing voice. Everyone around her told her that she needed to go professional. So she scraped together the money to record a demo tape and went knocking on doors in Nashville. Everyone said the same thing. “You have a great voice, but you’re not what we’re looking for right now.”

Discouraged, the woman returned to her hotel room and lay on the bed. “God,” she cried out, “why did you give me this voice if you don’t want me to use it?”

God replied, “I thought that you would enjoy it.”

I’ve pondered that and pondered that since I listened to it. You mean that we can just enjoy our art? We don’t have to make a living with it? But that’s crazy, isn’t it? If we have a talent, we should milk it for all it’s worth!

Then I look at the quality of work I produce while trying to be “commercial”, vs the work I produce while playing. The stuff I produce during play is far superior.

When you give yourself permission to play, the shackles come off. You try things. You make a mess. You make a lot of mistakes, but you can quickly iterate on those mistakes and improve. I watch my three-year-old learning to color. She colors the same picture over and over (printing out coloring sheets), until she’s gotten it perfect. It’s play. It’s also iteration.

I’m going to give myself more permission to play and less pressure to sell. It certainly makes life brighter, and the kids happier.

jungle-tower
Jungle Tower, by me. Because it was fun.

 

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5 thoughts on “Art for fun or profit?

  1. If you only do art for profit and leave nothing for play, you’ll eventually burn out. I always have to have something (a craft or drawing or something) that is just for play. So don’t feel guilty about just playing with your art. It has to be something you enjoy first of all!

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  2. Wow what a profound thought!! I will be thinking about that for awhile. I know I feel guilty just doing things because I like them. I am glad you came to that conclusion as Moms we need to take the time to enjoy the gifts God has given us and I think we forget that or at least I do. Susie’s birthday stuff is coming from Amazon. Friday, Saturday and then next week. I hope she likes everything. 🙂

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  3. I’ve struggled with balancing “productive” writing (my original work to be published) with my “fun” writing (fanfiction and such). Then I realized that not only is it important to give your brain a rest with fun things sometime, but working on a fun project can be valuable practice, especially if it’s a different mood or genre than you typically write.

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    1. I’m glad it’s not just me thinking about this! And yes, I find fanfics and fun projects to be restful to my brain. I push really hard on my “professional” work.

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