I spend a lot of time around businesspeople.
Many of these people have a pretty good idea of why they do what they do. “We’re going to change the (something) industry for the better.” “We’re hoping to make the world a better place.” “I saw a problem that needed solving, so I’m solving it.”
All valid reasons to dive into business; the world, industry, or problematic area will hopefully be better for their efforts.
I also spend a lot of time with creative folk. Writers, painters, performers.
Many of these people see their work as something spiritual or meaningful beyond the physical. Not religious, exactly, but something that supersedes the tangible world in some way; something necessary in a different way than food or shelter. It shapes their priorities, this need to create.
I’ve found myself in an interesting position as a professional with one foot in the artsy, designerly, writerly, creative space, and the other in the world of entrepreneurship. One grants me immense satisfaction and creative fulfillment, while the other gives me the ability to perpetuate those activities indefinitely: I can spend my days daydreaming and wandering around, thinking about a book I want to write or a poster I want to design. And then I can go do it. Whenever I want.
There does seem to be a wall between the two concepts for many people, however. It’s as though creative work cannot be an economic activity, and the business world cannot be a creative endeavor. I very strongly disagree with that sentiment.
In college I decided to learn how to start and run a business, so I read a lot, asked a lot of questions, and then tried and failed until it worked. And you know what I learned? The parts of my brain that were most active while being entrepreneurial were the same parts I used when designing an album cover or painting a portrait.
Creation is creation, regardless of what you’re creating. Building a business can be a creative act, just as sculpting can be an economic one. There’s nothing wrong with making money from your work, just as there’s nothing wrong with applying your business savvy to causes you believe in beyond what they pay.
To those who are looking for ways to fund their artistic endeavors, I would encourage you to learn about business and view it as just another tool in your studio: another medium with which to create.
To those who are looking for ways to become more fulfilled in their work, to produce things they can be proud of, remember that being capable of sustained creation is an incredible skill to possess, and that you can use it for more than just upping the numbers in your bank account.
Business is creation, just as sustained creation is a business. Break down the mental barriers you’ve built between the two and enjoy how much more practical and fulfilling both become.
Update: April 10, 2017
I’ve written about this topic in many ways over the years, and found that a lot of people have a eureka moment when told, perhaps for the first time, that they can be creative and run a business, and they can make money while making art. That realization sometimes leads to action, and sometimes not, but the recognition, I think, is valuable unto itself. It allows us all to prioritize more intentionally.