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Is Money the Key to a Creative Life?

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Should our passions pay us? If we focus on what we love, should we be able to earn a living from it?

I believe in living a creative life – in whatever way that applies to you. It could be finding time to paint or write, designing a career that feeds your soul, or putting together a non-traditional lifestyle that provides abundant time for your family and your personal life.

And yet so often, money is left out of the conversation. But ignoring your finances invites a life of imbalance. In reality, the more you take care of money, the easier it is to be creative and create life on your terms.

Follow Your Bliss … Ignore Your Finances?

Around the time I graduated from high school (the late 1980s) a very famous book called Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow by Marsha Sinetar was published. The title seemed so descriptive, it never really occurred to me to actually read it. I was already in love with the idea of doing what I loved and, like so many others, believed money would magically appear as a result. It also seemed to fit with my growing (and somewhat misguided) knowledge of metaphysics: focus on what you want, and you will attract it. How could money not be part of the bargain?

When combined with the perennially popular theme of “follow your bliss” (popularized by the work of American mythologist Joseph Campbell), it is no wonder so many people growing up in that time period divorced money from the creative life conversation.

Here is the dilemma: These notions often translated as “Don’t worry about money.”

We may start to believe that if we focus on what brings us joy, money will magically take care of itself. We may even want to ignore the money conversation. In fact, many believe that talking about money actually “taints” the creative process.

An Alternate Point of View

Unfortunately, falling prey to the “just follow your bliss” mentality may put you in a very stressful financial situation that actually shuts down our creativity.

Recently, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic. (Gilbert also wrote Eat, Pray, Love.) At its core, Big Magic is about how to live a creative life. We are all creative beings, but so many of us are blocked and we find it difficult to access our creativity. Gilbert is attempting to show us how to find it and use it to live deeper, fuller lives. One of her points is that when we blindly expect our creativity to pay the bills, our inspiration literally dries up.

As Gilbert writes, people have been sold the idea that they should be able to support themselves if they are following their true passion, but she points out that many artists do not make a lot of money and their financial lives can be extremely stressful. What if they did not force their creativity to pay them? She maintains they would be happier and their inspiration would not feel so squeezed. Per Big Magic:

“I’ve always felt like this is so cruel to your work — to demand a regular paycheck from it, as if creativity were a government job, or a trust fund. Look, if you can manage to live comfortable off your inspiration forever, that’s fantastic. That’s everyone’s dream, right? But don’t let that dream turn into a nightmare. Financial demands can put so much pressure on the delicacies and vagaries of inspiration. You must be smart about providing for yourself. To claim that you are too creative to think about financial questions is to infantilize yourself — and I beg you not to infantilize yourself, because it’s demeaning to your soul.”

In other words, it is simply not fair to our inspiration to put that kind of pressure on it. In Big Magic, Gilbert suggests most “artists” shouldn’t “quit their day jobs,” not because they are not amazingly good at their art, but because making it responsible for paying for your life puts a huge burden on your creative pursuits. (She herself always kept her jobs through the publication of numerous books.)

Making Your Creativity Work for You

Don’t get me wrong: I think you should follow your passions. But, as a certified money coach, I recognize that when we believe our passions should pay enough money to live the life we long to live, we can enter into dangerous territory. The key is to combine our creativity and passion with creative money-thinking.

Strategizing goes well beyond “work by day and create by night.” Instead, you may want to have a creative conversation with yourself about your finances.

Get creative. Get conscious. What kind of life do you want to live? When you are open and at peace with talking about money, it can actually support you in many ways. There are all sorts of possibilities you can explore to have your bliss and a sufficient paycheck, too. Here are a few examples from my own experience as a money coach:

  • One woman rented out her large house to a family and then rented herself a smaller apartment. She saved so much money that she was able to work part time and had enough time to pursue her writing career.
  • One couple downsized their expenses to the point where they could take turns supporting the household while the other pursued various interests.
  • One single father asked for a large raise — and got it. With the extra money, he hired a housekeeper and other people to help with all his “chores.” With his extra time, he pursed a new career direction, eventually going to ministerial school in the evenings.

There is a dance here: Earning what you are truly worth (don’t undersell yourself) combined with keeping your expenses low, often will create enough space in your life for exploring your own dreams and interests.

When we stop blindly demanding that our creativity financially support us, we can take the conversation deeper. Yes, live a creative life. And yes, get creative with money to make it happen. When you create a life that supports you financially, you can engage in the dance of creativity – and inspiration feels free to visit you often.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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  • http://moneywiseadvisors.com/ susan wilson

    Mikelann, this is exactly what I needed to read today. I’m ready to get creative with my money and to grow my business.

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