What Those “Chase Your Dream” Books Aren’t Telling You

Do you ever get to that point where you have a hobby that you try to turn into a business and then the actual act of the hobby (whether painting, knitting, singing, accounting, whatever) is no longer fun? Been there?

Well, that was me a few weeks ago. I wasn’t really enjoying art anymore and I was frustrated with myself, my studio, my art, and others. So let me be completely honest about the issues with trying to make it as a an artist. I’m sure it will seem like a bummer of a blog post, but it will be therapeutic for me and maybe even resonate with other artists out there.

And if you don’t like it, don’t read it.

Here is the thing, I am finding it is insanely hard to make it as an artist, especially since I don’t have a lot of money for advertising, craft fairs, stocking prints for consignment, etc. Social media now has algorithms that block my content from being seen…unless I PAY to have it seen of course. Instagram has been particularly frustrating. I’ve all but given up on Twitter and will occasionally toss something up there. I’ve tried some small amount of advertising on FaceBook and Instagram, but honestly, the returns were not worth it. And I can’t pay $20 a week just to get people to “like” a post.

Especially since “liking” does not translate into “buying”.

Trying to earn an income from art is way more difficult than what I thought it would be. Yeah I get a couple of sales here and there but nothing consistent from month to month. Not stable enough to call it an income. I’m sure part of this learning experience is all about trying a bunch of things to see what works, but sometimes my lack of patience gets the better of me.

I’ve read all the “grab your parachute and chase your rainbow and find bliss forever more as long as you positively affirm it no matter what” kind of books. And that might be one thing I’m now an expert on – those books flat out lie to you. Sure, telling you how hard it is and all the lows you will go through to get this passion off the ground isn’t exactly sexy talk. Writing about how the odds are stacked up agains the reader before he/she even starts doesn’t sell. And as we all know from watching Jimmy Carter crash and burn after being brutally honest with the American public, no one wants to hear it. And these authors want to make a living as well. I get that.

So. This blog is my attempt to fill the void left by all those positivity woo woo self help authors out there. Can you do it? Sure. Will it be easy? Nope. If you aren’t a trust fund baby and already have a lot of patrons who adore every weirdo scribble you make, making it on your own as a creative is going to be insanely difficult.

Which I am sure makes it more rewarding when you “make it”, but I’m not at the rewarding part yet. I will let you know how rewarding it feels if and when I get there.

But where I am at right now is trying to get my love of art back. The rejection, lack of sales, newsletter numbers, and “constructive” criticism take a toll of your creative mojo. As anyone who has gone to art school will tell you, the moment someone starts assigning a grade to something so subjective, you feel the need to conform or risk failing. The same thing with trying to make your creative passions into a business. The moment you assign a price, people out there want you to justify the price.

“Oh, show me a video of your process so I know I’m getting my money’s worth.”

“Why would I pay that price for something that looks like a five year old drew it?”

“Walmart/Target/My Granny has it cheaper than what you are charging for it.”

“Don’t you have a husband who pays all your bills? Why do you want to make money from selling art?”

And my personal favorite, “If you get enjoyment out of it, why charge for it?”

Those are just a small sampling of the comments you get. And sometimes worse than the comments is the dead silence. No one joins your newsletter, no one answers your survey or comments on your post or likes your photo shared across the interwebs. It kinda sucks. And then you find yourself changing your art to please people, which I recently caught myself doing.

So after a stern self talking-to, I decided that this needs to be something I enjoy more than anything and listening to (sometimes well meaning) comments of others does NOT bring me joy. If my inner head space were to get KonMari-ed right now, keeping stock in my house that I can’t afford, worrying about Instagram numbers, and trying to convince people that my art is my JOB do not spark joy. Therefore, out they go.

If you see something in my shop you want, great! Thanks for supporting my small business. And if you don’t, then that’s okay too. I’m here to draw and make cute things and blog and stuff. Most importantly right now, I’m here in this studio to have fun.

4 thoughts on “What Those “Chase Your Dream” Books Aren’t Telling You

  1. Love this article. So true! I like having the choice to print your art on things I want to buy or give to others. I think remaining true to ourselves is all we can do. People who love our work will find us. Thank you for the beautiful journal and washi tape. I’m the lucky winner, tay!

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