Three Kinds of Freedom

Creativity is all about freedom. Both the presence and the absence of it.

In fact, life itself is, in large part, about how we navigate and negotiate our freedoms.

What is free will? How much of it do we enjoy – if any at all?

These are important philosophical questions. But those most relevant to us as free creatives appear in a series of seemingly paradoxical statements:

  1. Too much freedom of space makes us lazy and buy too many things.
  2. Too much freedom of time makes us lazy and do too many things.
  3. Too much freedom of thought makes us lazy and think too many things.

Let’s look at how not only both laziness and excess can be true of unrestrained freedom, but actually, inevitable.

Freedom of space

‘The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.’

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

If you’ve lived in a small space, even for a short while, you’ll know how difficult it can be to keep a small space organised.

It would seem the less space you have and the less stuff you have, the easier it is to keep house. But in reality, it often requires a lot more work and thought, at least at first, to keep a small space well-organised. Only once your systems are in place does the ‘small places take less time to clean’ promise become a reality. Why is this?

Larger homes can make us lazy

In a larger home, you have the advantage of space. This can make cleaning – or at least, what might appear as cleaning on the surface! – a breeze. Guests coming over? Close the laundry door! Dump the unwashed dishes into the dishwasher. Sweep the kids’ toys into the spare room. No time to make the bed? Quick, shut the bedroom door.

Perfect!

In a tiny home or a studio apartment, none of these options are available. If your bed isn’t made, you can’t hide it by closing a door. You have to make it. If the dishes aren’t done, you don’t have the space for a dishwasher. You have to wash them.

To achieve the same appearance of cleanliness and tidiness in a smaller home requires a higher level of organisation and better systems. But it also results in a home that truly is clean and tidy, rather than just looks it.

Larger homes encourage us to buy too many things

Because of the space larger homes afford, they can encourage us to buy things we don’t need, in two ways.

First, we seem to have a desire to fill space, so it doesn’t look ‘sad’ or ‘lonely’. If you buy a house with two lounge rooms, even if you’ll never have people sitting in one at the same time there are people sitting in the other, chances are, you’ll buy a second couch. For the same reason, if you have two spare bedrooms, chances are you’ll buy two beds, even if you never have two guests at once.

It’s not just big ticket items. Think of all the decorative items. Rugs, photo frames, lamps, and knickknacks, bought to fill an ‘empty’ looking space. The clothes to fill our wardrobes (which eventually fill our laundry rooms).

This not only wastes money but it wastes time, too (impeding your temporal freedom). Think about how much extra washing and folding and bed making and dusting and vacuuming every item involves.

‘Tidying’ a home to make it presentable may take less time the bigger your house. But properly cleaning a large house filled with things takes a much longer than a small home with less clutter.

The second way large homes encourage us to buy more stuff comes under the guise of ‘organization’. Organizational goods are a multi-billion dollar industry, having doubled since the early 2000s. The average American family home has doubled in size too. But despite having double the space and double the organizational goods, this stuff doesn’t seem to be doing much. It simply shifts the problem, considering it one of ‘storage’ instead.

In a small home, you can’t afford the space to store things you infrequently (or never!) use. Rather than buying storage boxes, you:

a) cut back on buying things you don’t need in the first place, or

b) adopt a one-in-one-out policy, selling or donating things when you don’t need them.

These steps result in, once again, time and money savings. There are fewer things for you to spend time taking care of. And by cutting down on spending, and selling things you no longer need, you save money too. And learn to value what you have more.

Takeaway message:

An excess of physical space can result in our not seeing a need for organizational structure. This results in the accumulation of clutter. And in our time and money being tied up taking care of our house (or office or studio). This detracts from the creative freedom we crave.

By encouraging us to be more organized and frugal, having less space can (seemingly paradoxically) give us more freedom of time and money.

Freedom of Time

‘Lack of time is not the issue… The real problem is a lack of clarity and definition’

David Allen, Getting Things Done

How we fill time is like how we fill space. We often get more done when we have other things on. Not run-off-our-feet-busy, of course, but when our days have some structure to them.

If you’ve ever had long stretches of time with no commitments, you may have noticed you didn’t seem to get as much done as you’d have liked. And, seemingly paradoxically, when you have a commitment that gives your schedule a little organisation, suddenly, you’re getting more done.

Again, there may be two reasons for this:

Spare time can make us lazy

When you have lots of time stretching out in front of you, it’s easy not to take action immediately. Both on creative and non-creative tasks. Why do the dishes or pay that bill now? I don’t feel like it, and it’s not urgent. Why try and create now? I’ll just wait around for inspiration to strike me.

Free creatives don’t wait for inspiration to find them – they go out and find it. But with no constraints on your time, there’s no impetus for you to make a schedule and get things done. No reason to focus on what matters to you.

Some people diagnosed with terminal illnesses have a tough time dealing with this devastating news. Yet others find the newfound knowledge their time is not unlimited sparks them to do more in six months or a year than most of us achieve in a decade.

Spare time can encourage us to take on too many things

When we don’t have a clear idea of what we want to do with our lives, we can end up filling our days with stuff that isn’t important. Just as we fill our houses with clutter.

Everyone’s time clutter is different. But we all have a hard time saying ‘no’ sometimes. Or we waste more time than we’d like to binging shows or social media. The average person spends 5 hours passively watching stuff. And 3 hours on social media, ‘liking’ things other people have created, or watching to see if others have ‘liked’ what we made. That’s 8 hours of wasted time.

Even if you only waste 4 hours a day like this, that’s 2.5 months in a year.

Imagine if you had 2.5 months each year to devote to creative projects.

YOU DO!

In essence, we’re all always doing something. Filling your day up with the right things is what it’s all about. It’s easy to put off being creative, longing for great uninterrupted stretches of free time. But the reality is, most people who have this luxury don’t do anything with it. Creativity often draws its inspiration from the other parts of our lives.

Takeaway message:

An excess of free time can result in our not seeing a need for time management. This results in our wasting time on activities that aren’t aligned with our life’s purpose.

By encouraging us to be more organised, and by giving us creative inspiration, structured activities can help us value our time better and give us more creative freedom.

Freedom of Thought

‘When intelligent people read, they ask themselves a simple question: What do I plan to do with this information?’

Ryan Holliday, Trust Me, I’m Lying

Thinking creatively does not have to mean being ‘out there’. It doesn’t mean suspending logic and believing everything you come across. On the contrary, just as systems are important for managing our space and time, systems of logic and reasoning are vital for managing our thoughts, too.

Relativism is defined as the idea that there is no universal, objective truth. That every viewpoint is thus equally valid.

It’s important to note that you can believe in the existence of truth without knowing what it is. Or even without believing that we will ever know what the truth is for sure.

For example, some say the Earth is flat. This used to be the accepted wisdom. More people these days, believe the Earth is round.

A strict relativist position would be that both viewpoints are valid, and it is impossible to tell which is best.

A more moderate interpretation of relativism would state that while we will never know 100% for sure which (or even if either) is correct, there is more reliable evidence to suggest that the Earth is round.

Why is this important?

Relativism can make us intellectually lazy

A strong version of relativism, in which we consider every viewpoint equally valid, means there’s no point engaging with various ideas. No point comparing or contrasting them. No point trying to synthesize or build upon existing knowledge.

Instead, it encourages us to throw up our hands and say ‘what does it matter’?

Relativism can encourage us to think too many things

While it is not possible to think too much, it is possible to think too many things. Cognitive dissonance is the name for the discomfort you feel when you hold two or more contradictory ideas or beliefs. Strong relativism forces us into a position of cognitive dissonance. We need psychological consistency to function in the world. 

This doesn’t mean conforming to the system. Popular opinion is not what makes something right. The vast majority of people used to believe the Earth was flat. Nor does it mean selecting an idea at random. While strong relativism preaches that all ideas and perspectives are equally valid, a more useful method is to evaluate the logic and evidence supporting each idea, and then make your decision.

Takeaway message:

An excess of relativistic thinking can result in our dismissal of logic. This results in an inability to respond to or generate new ideas. And this kind of thinking can pervade all aspects of our lives. Resulting in an inability to organise our time or our space either.

By encouraging us to think critically while acknowledging our limitations, logic, evidence, and a weaker view of relativism can help us to make better decisions. And to generate new and build upon existing ideas. That is, being creative.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and the Low Information Diet (LID)

Humans have always had a ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO). But it’s only since social media’s massive influence on our everyday lives that this has become a common cry.

Thanks to the internet, we have access to more information than ever before. This can be engrossing. And, as master media manipulator Ryan Holiday says in Trust Me, I’m Lying, people have come to confuse their constant consumption of media with actually doing something.

Personal finance blogger Mr. Money Mustache advocates a ‘low information diet’. This gives you ‘the most powerful asset of a free mind’. Likewise, Your Money Or Your Life recommends evaluating every activity in your day according to whether it was a good use of your ‘life energy’. We can apply this kind of thinking to creative pursuits:

Is cleaning the spare room a good use of your life energy, aligned with your purpose in life? Has it advanced your creative development in some identifiable way?

What about your 2 hours on Facebook?

Or the time spent doing your makeup?

Or the time in front of the TV?

While Your Money Or Your Life encourages you to reflect on your spending behaviour, David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology asks you to assess every task as it comes into your life according to whether it is going to further your purpose.

Activity

Ask yourself these questions about everything that comes into your life:

Is this thing I’m buying (or gift I’m receiving) either necessary to living or going to further my purpose in life? Or is it just something extra for me to waste time working for, cleaning, etc? (Spend a few minutes now and try out the life energy calculator – you won’t believe the results!)

Is this activity I’m planning (or invitation I’m accepting) either necessary to living or going to further my purpose and enjoyment in life? Or is it just a distraction?

Is this objective claim a reliable, likely one? Or is it just misguided nonsense? Is this subjective opinion healthy for me to think (or listen to)? Or will it just make me depressed?

To be a free creative, you must learn to curate your space, time, and mind.

‘We are naturally creative beings… The challenge is not to be creative, it’s to eliminate the barriers to our natural flow of creative energies’

David Allen Getting Things Done.

Diagnosing Your Life Lies

How free do you feel? [LINK TO HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?] Chances are, if you’re taking this course, in the previous module you found one or more areas of freedom you’d like to improve upon. And that means there’s one or more practices you need to build.

To ensure you target the right practices, it’s important to make sure you’re honest with yourself. Not being sucked in by ‘life lies’.

What is a ‘life lie’?

Drawing upon Adlerian psychology, Koga and Kishimi describe the ‘life lie’ in their book The Courage to Be Disliked. A ‘life lie’ is a pretext for avoiding life’s tasks.

Workaholism is one form of ‘life lie’. Our careers can be demanding. But sometimes, we find ourselves wedded to our jobs. We prioritise our work above our creative pursuits. Even above our families, above our friends. This, Koga and Kishimi state, is what happens when we are only able to recognise our worth on the basis of acts. When we measure our value according to the money we earn, or our job title. And it’s those who focus on this measure the most who have the toughest time adjusting to unemployment or retirement. Or the transition to a creative lifestyle.

Using our past experiences as an excuse not to try is also a life lie. Consider an anti-social person who says ‘My home environment was bad and that’s why I have a dark personality’. Conventional wisdom would probably agree. But according to Koga and Kishimi, the truth is this person has a goal of not being hurt by others. This is why they choose such a personality. To excuse their behaviour, they bring up their home life.

We can say the same of someone who claims their teacher disparaged their art. We might think their teacher’s words wounded them, and that’s why they no longer see themselves as creative. But another way of viewing the situation is to understand this person as also having a goal of not being hurt by others. To spare their own feelings, they decide not to try. And to excuse their lack of motivation and effort, they bring up their past experiences.

Cause vs. Purpose

To understand this thinking, we need to understand two key ways of looking at behaviour:

  • Aetiology = the study of the causation of a given phenomenon. (Person A had a bad home environment, thus, they have a dark personality. Person B was abused by their teacher, thus, they don’t see themselves as creative.)
  • Teleology = the study of the purpose of a given phenomenon. (Person A (who had a bad home environment) doesn’t want to be hurt by others, so they have adopted a dark personality. Person B (who was abused by their teacher) doesn’t want to be hurt by others, so they have stopped claiming a creative identity.)

Traditionally, Freud and others in the psychology have taken an aetiological perspective. That is, looking to our past experiences – especially traumas – to explain the things we now do. This style of thinking is so prevalent, it may even be how you’ve come to think about your own behaviour.

If we accept this point of view, we must also accept that our ability to change is limited, or even non-existent. It’s a view of human behaviour which argues we are who we are, and we do what we do, because of what has happened to us.

But Adler and Kishimi take a teleological perspective. That is, they consider our behaviours as dependent on our purposes. From this point of view, change is possible. We can alter our goals, and alter our actions to align with our goals. We are who we are, and we do what we do, because of what we want to become.

Our goals are informed and shaped by our past experiences. But our goals and actions do not have to be determined by what has happened to us. In brief, we should look towards our desired future to explain our actions and attitudes. Not only seek understanding from our experienced past. In this course, we will help you visualise the goal of a life of freedom, and give you the tools to get there.

Activity

If you haven’t already, complete the self assessment of your feelings of freedom. [LINK TO HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?]

Could any of those feelings be life lies?

What’s really going on?

What life lies are you telling yourself?

It’s important to consider what’s behind any of the life lies in your life. (And we all have them!)

Let’s take the story of a little boy who is afraid of the dark as an example. In The Courage to Be Happy, Kishimi and Koga retell the story of a boy who’d cry as soon as his mother turned out the light. Because he wouldn’t stop crying, she would come back and ask ‘Why are you crying?’ ‘Because it’s so dark,’ he would answer. The mother, understanding her son’s goal, would ask with a sigh, ‘So, now that I’m back, is it a little lighter?’

The boy wasn’t afraid of the dark, Adler concluded, but of being separated from his mother. He manufactured a fear of the dark in an attempt to keep his mother nearby.

Of course, it’s not only children who act this way. In another example, from The Courage to Be Disliked, a youth yells at a waiter for spilling something on him. He justifies his emotional outburst by saying he ‘couldn’t help it’.

The philosopher counters by asking, if he’d had a weapon with him, would he still have been unable to control himself? The youth responds that using deadly force would be ‘different’. If he could control himself not to kill someone, surely, he could also control the level of his voice. Therefore, the philosopher argues, the youth ‘created the emotion of anger’ in order ‘to fulfill the goal of shouting.’

Could it be that one or more of your feelings of unfreedom is rooted in some other goal?

Let’s take a look at one of the common complaints of creatives:
‘I don’t have enough time to paint/write/play…’

It may truly be the case that you lack time. But unless you’re one of the poor souls working 19 or 20 hours a day in forced labour, it’s likely you’ll find you have ample time. The question is whether you choose to use it.

The average person spends 2 years of their life watching commercials. 4.3 years driving. 3 months stuck in traffic. You’ll spend 92 days on the toilet. Most women will spend almost a year deciding what to wear, 1.5 years doing their hair, and 8 years shopping.

The average person spends 5 hours watching TV or other video (Netflix, YouTube) each day. And over 3 hours looking at social media. ‘Liking’ something every now and then. Posting photos or comments. Not exactly pursuing a dream of photography or writing. We tell ourselves we’re ‘building a platform’ for our creative work. But in reality, being a writer is about writing. Being a photographer is about photographing things. Not hitting a little thumb on a screen or sending someone a winky face.

Even if you spend only 4 hours a day watching videos or using social media while doing not much else – not solid hours, mind you, but 5 or 10 minutes snatched here or there – that’s 1,825 hours a year. Or 76 full 24-hour days. 2.5 months.

In waking hours only, that’s 101 wasted days every year, or 3.4 months.
Imagine what you could do if you had 3.4 months to devote to something.

The good news (and the bad news)

Here’s the good news, which also happens to be the bad news: you very likely do.

Most of us could claim several hours a day to spend being creative.
The question we need to ask ourselves is why haven’t we?

Why is the lure of Netflix or YouTube or Facebook or Instagram so much stronger than the pull of the creative work we supposedly feel passionate about? Why do we hear the call of distraction so much more clearly?

Is it simply that we need to discover the tools and skills that will help us pull these bits of time together and turn them into time that we can be creative? (Something we’ll address in the Strategic Practices section of this course).

Or, is there something else going on, too?

Could, for example, your inability to find time relate to your reluctance to do so?

Perhaps you’re afraid that if you actually devoted some serious time to your art, the result might not be what you’ve hoped for. Maybe you’ve even given it a shot – and given up. Your work didn’t come out as well as what you’d imagined in your head. Or it didn’t compare well to that of other creatives you admire.

You know what? That’s okay.

The power of yet

If you do spend any amount of time online, chances are you’ve seen some variation on these quotes:

‘Don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside.’

‘Don’t compare your first draft to someone else’s final masterpiece.’

‘Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s end.’

And you know what – unlike much of what you’ll find online, they’re all right.

Researcher Carol Dwek talks about the importance of telling ourselves we’re not there yet – rather than that we’ve failed – in developing a growth mindset.

Fear of failure

All too often, we’re afraid of failure. We haven’t learned to accept ‘not yet’. And rather than admitting we’re scared of failing, we tell ourselves life lies.

The danger in telling yourself these lies over and over is that we come to believe them. And then, even when we decide to take action, if we keep believing these life lies, we can wind up taking action in the wrong areas. Or, at least, we can wind up not addressing the problems we really need to fix.

For example, you might rush right ahead and complete the Strategic Practices portion of this course. You finesse your time management skills. Or, you might decide it’s your job that’s getting in the way. You throw all your energy into developing your Economic Practices to the point you can quit your job.

But, if the notion ‘I don’t have the time’ was, in whole or part, a life lie all along, you could end up with the most organised, free life and still be paralysed by fear, unable to create.

At that point, you might address the underlying issue – your creative confidence. That’s something else we’ll address throughout this course. Or, you might come up with a new life lie:

‘I can’t write because my computer is too old.’

‘I can’t paint because I don’t have a studio.’

‘I can’t sing because I can’t afford a coach.’

Once you’ve earned enough money or produced enough income to get those things though, you’ll come up with a fresh set.

When it comes to life lies, our creativity is bottomless

‘My new computer is great, but I need this software.’ ‘I need to write in a cafe, I can’t concentrate here.’ ‘My kids are bothering me – I need to travel somewhere exotic. I have to do that course.’

You are a creative person. We are all creative beings. You became interested in this course because you already identify as a creative, or because you want to.

The problem with being creative is that it doesn’t just mean we can be great artists or musicians or designers or writers.

It also means we can be excellent at coming up with excuses.

Unless you interrogate the reasons for your current feelings of unfreedom, chances are, you’ll be able to come up with an inexhaustible supply of life lies. It seems to be the one thing we never experience ‘writers block’ or a creative funk in doing!

Most of us can benefit from improving our time management. From having more financial resources. Or from supplementing on our artistic skills. But sometimes, our ability to craft worlds, create symphonies, and paint pictures, means that even we can’t recognise the life lies we weave.

For now, it’s enough to simply look at the statements you jotted down and recognise that they could, in fact, be life-lies. You don’t need to collect evidence on this yet. Nor start interrogating yourself too harshly (unless you want to!) In this course, we’ll walk you through the steps of diagnosing each of your feelings of unfreedom. We’ll then help you can develop your skills in the relevant areas, and make sure you’re addressing the real problem.

What Does Creative Freedom Mean to You?

“Every painting is a voyage into a sacred harbour.” 

Giotto di Bondone

Do you want to be a full time artist, writer, musician, poet? Are you resentful of your working career because it pulls you away from your art? Do you dream of leaving your job and being free to spend your time and energy dedicating yourself to your art? Is your passion for you art being compromised by your search for a market? 

Being free to create your art means being financially independent. Not needing to work in a job or sell your work to make a living. In this article you will learn that creative freedom is just around the corner, if you know where to look.

The Dordogne River valley from the Château de Beynac

Giotto di Bondone was a painter who lived near the end of the Medieval period. In 1305 he was engaged by a rich usurer called Enrico degli Scrovegni to paint frescos across the entire interior of a chapel that Scrovegni had built to pave his way to heaven. Feeling ashamed of his occupation and fearful of being cast into Hell, Scrovegni though he could save his soul by honouring God with his money.

Giotto illustrated 37 scenes of holy significance in a solidly three dimensional way—in perspective—making them seem real and bringing to life the stories of the Virgin Mary and Christ. These images were amazing to eyes that had never seen such realism before.

Detail from the fresco showing Scrovegni himself handing his beautiful gift to Mother Mary, as depicted by Giotto in the Arena Chapel, Padua [Source Khan Academy lesson]

What Does Creative Freedom Mean to an Artist?

“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.”  

Auguste Rodin 

In his day, Giotto was seen as a tremendously fortunate artist: to have such a patron; to get such an opportunity to paint these masterpieces; to have such talent and skill to master and then advance the art of painting. But was he free?

Certainly Giotto could devote all his time to his art. In this sense he had the temporal freedom to perfect his art. It takes many years to master painting. “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” Michelangelo. 

However, although it is a rare privilege to be paid to be an artist; Giotto had to work long hours in difficult circumstances (suspended from scaffolding meters above the ground in cavernous church buildings, exposed to the elements).

But Giotto was paid handsomely for his work. By 1305, Giotto had a significant income. So he could afford to travel to find opportunities. Hence, his work can be found in churches all over what we now know as Italy, and possibly as far as the Papal seat at Avignon

But while he had the physical freedom to move, it was only to places where he could find work.

But he was not free to choose what he would paint. He, like most professional artists throughout history, made his income from the sale of his paintings. As a result, he depended on finding wealthy customers and sponsors to commission his talent. And he had to accommodate their wishes. 

Until the renaissance era, the Church funded most artistic work, hence our galleries are full of images of the Madonna, Bambino, Christ and the Saints. Alternatively, gallery walls are festooned with portraits of royalty, nobles and wealthy merchants. Endless august characters dipping into their coffers to glorify themselves visually.

Portrait painting is challenging and artistically satisfying as an art form—but surely most artists would have preferred to paint people other than their sponsors? Vincent van Gogh, for example, became obsessed with trying to capture the faces of hard working peasants—despite having everyone he knew including his beloved brother Theo (who ran a gallery) telling him that he was committing professional suicide. No one wanted to purchase these or any of Vincent’s experimental works; so he died in poverty.

As a sponsor, Scrovegni was a little more subtle, but his face still appears opposite the altar and God, the last image you see as you leave his glorious chapel.

In later life, once he owned his own house and other assets, Giotto became more selective in his commissions and was able to take on apprentices. Financial independence gave him the mental freedom to become bolder in his style and symbolism. Consequently he caught the attention and admiration of the new generation of painters following in his footsteps, which ignited the Italian Renaissance.

Statue of Giotto in the Uffizi Galleria, Florence [Source: Wikipedia]

Is There a Fast Track to Creative Freedom?

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” 

Vincent Van Gogh

Fast forward 714 years and we live in an incredible era for aspiring artists. Unlike Giotto di Bondone, Michelangelo or Vincent van Gogh, you do not need to live in poverty or wait until you are old to become a free creative. You do not need a wealthy patron, agent or gallery to promote and sell your work. You do not need to spend decades trying to build your reputation in order to find a buying public. You simply need to save and invest your money.

Being free to create your art means being financially independent. Not needing to work in a job or sell your paintings to make a living. 

You do this by building assets that can give you a modest passive income—to free up your time—allowing your to practice and travel and create art of your choice (shown in the model below). This is the path to creative freedom.

How Long Will it Take to Become a Free Creative?

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” 

Henry David Thoreau

Down through the ages and here am I sitting on the wall of the Château de Beynac looking down on the Dordogne River valley. The sun is setting and I know I will paint this scene one day in my studio back home. I am on annual leave in Europe with my family and I am finally admitting to myself that I want to be free to devote the rest of my life to painting. I do not want to go back to my job, or any other job. I want to be a painter! I have always wanted to be an artist. But how can I make this happen? How can anyone make this happen? How long will it take? And most importantly, how will I make the money I need in the first place?

So began my journey towards self-sufficiency.

If you are an ordinary person like me (not rich) there seems to be four choices:

  • Make your income from your art. (Giotto took 40 years before he was free. But you will be doing what you love doing, right? Maybe!).
  • Make an income from something else and practice art on the side. (Hopefully you will not be too tired, stressed or emotionally exhausted when you reach for your brush, if you actually find the time to paint at all).
  • Wait till you retire from work to paint. (That’s what most people do, but it takes about 60 years).
  • Make an income for the specific purpose of building an investment portfolio, to fund an early retirement into a painting lifestyle. (Known as Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE)—this approach will take 5 years or less).

So I asked myself, what’s it going to be: 5 years, 40 years, 60 years or never? 

Easy decision! Sitting on that wall I knew I could do it! And I became determined to be free within 5 years!

How Much Will I Need to be Free?

In a nutshell, you must live within your means. Whereby your monthly income exceeds your monthly expenses to the extent that you are able to set up a passive income to fund your continuing monthly expenses within five years.

For example: If your annual expenses are $12,000: $10,000 x 25 = $300,000 in your portfolio. 

In this case, you would have to be earning $72,000 net per annum from a job to pay for your lifestyle and also save $300,000 within a five year period.

Could you live on $12,000 per year if you did not have to pay for rent or a mortgage? 

According to the author of Enrichmentality (a fabulous resource dedicated to helping creative people to learn the language of money and fast track their path to financial independence) there are three variables you can play with: your income, your expenses, and the time frame. “If you want to retire faster, you will need to improve your performance on at least one —or ideally both—of the other variables.”

Obviously you will need a roof over your head, but if you do not have to be in a big city to find work; your home could be anywhere in the world. There is a rapidly growing demographic of free creatives who house-sit; buy land and build tiny houses; rent at incredibly low rates in rural regions; travel and live in more affordable places elsewhere in the world. In some towns houses cost around a dollar; or they will even pay you to live there.

If you feel that you could not live comfortably on $12,000 per year, then consider this: at $12,000 per annum you have still made yourself free. Most people can actually live on $12,000 per annum at a pinch. Knowing this is a great consolation. Knowing you have your actual existence covered. That you can now afford to live without working is the whole point. After that, you are free to do what you want to do. So then, if you work in a job to “top up” your quality of life—it is by choice, not through necessity. This is the key to financial freedom—get the basics covered so you can take the pressure off earning for the rest of your life.

Any money you earn after the $12,000 freedom threshold, if put directly into your investment portfolio, increases your quality of life, forever. So if you do choose to work for money, it’s wise to save rather than spend that too. [See our article introducing Financial Independence].

Whatever your strategy, your end goal will be more quickly achieved if you:

  • Embrace frugal and sustainable living
  • Have modest house expectations, and
  • A willingness to learn the language of money and act upon your knowledge. The sooner the better.

How Will I Know When I Am Free?

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” 

Vincent Van Gogh 

It’s funny but the moment you realize that you will soon be free from the workforce, it becomes easier to tolerate your job. Suddenly, when every dollar you save and invest puts you an hour closer to resigning and being free forever, it becomes easier to resist the temptation to spend. Magically every minute you spend at work has a greater purpose. You are no longer a drone. You are on a higher path.

This is how it feels to me now. It’s a dream actually coming true. In this sense I am already free. I am imagining being free: and as an artist I place great faith in my imagination.

Finally, you may wonder that by going down this path are you becoming one of the Scrovegni’s of the world? Of course not! A ususer is only interested in money for money’s sake. You, on the other hand, want to be free to create artworks that will enrich the world.

Your investments will give you time to make this contribution.

With this in mind, you must ask yourself, how long will I wait before I make myself free to own, honour and develop my talent? To invest my life in my art rather than wait for others to invest in my art?

The good news is: no matter where you are in life, you can start now and it will take no more than 5 years, probably less, if you are smart.

Then one day you will wake up and know you are there. Yesterday was your last day at a job. Today your voyage towards self-sufficiency is over and you have arrived at your sacred harbour.

Remember, wherever you are on this journey, you are already a free creative.

This Course

Most courses are linear in nature. But the Creative Freedom model is designed to represent our three-dimensional reality.

Everyone will approach it from a different starting point.

Think back to the issues you identified as getting in the way of your creative freedom.

Maybe you’ve retired from a day job that required high levels of strategic planning, but you want to become more artistic.

Maybe you’re a practicing artist already, but you want to learn how to manage your finances to reduce your economic woes.

Or perhaps you have a few skills in each of these areas – or you feel like you want to start from scratch.

None of these are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways, and everyone’s path to creative freedom will be unique. So, you should feel free to begin by engaging with whatever topics jump out to you.

If you’re not sure where to begin, we recommend experimenting with each of the practices in turn. Start with Strategic Practices. This is one of the two foundations of the model, and developing your strategic skills first will help you get the most out of the other areas.

Next, you might like to move on to Economic Practices, the second foundational set of skills. This will allow you deal with the remainder of your obstacles (or, as we’ll call them, ‘life-lies’).

With this platform in place, you might like to work on your Artistic Practices.

Once you have these practices in place, additional materials deal with each of the freedoms. Moving anti-clockwise around the model, assess your sense of Temporal Freedom. This foundational freedom is, in our experience, the most common worry of creatives.

Next, take a look at Physical Freedom, perhaps the second most common issue.

Having diagnosed each of these freedoms, last, examine your Mental Freedom. While this freedom is perhaps the least often discussed, in our experience, it’s often the final stumbling block for many creatives. Here, you’ll deal with those issues related to your intellectual and emotional freedoms. We’ll also examine issues masquerading as concerns about finding the time or space to do your art, but which are actually mental freedom issues.

Your Path to Creative Freedom

The Creative Freedom Model provides a simple overview of our philosophy. Its design represents your path to creative freedom, as well as a method of targeting your goals. It’s worth spending a few minutes to become familiar with the ways of reading this image.

The Creative Freedom Model

One way of reading the diagram is along its axes. Reading the diagram from bottom-to-top illustrates the importance of each of the elements. Meanwhile, reading it from left-to-right represents a typical journey along the creative path.

Artistic practices are at the top of the diagram. The desired outcome is art, and the continual development of artistic skills.

Strategic practices are on the leftmost side. This is your first step on the journey to freedom. Engaging with this course is an important part of developing your strategic practices. You’ll enhance your skills in goal setting, research, and time management. And, these strategies will help you get the most out of the other areas in this model.

Economic practices are on the rightmost side. The final foundation required to develop your Artistic Practices. Without organisation and a reliable income, finding time to devote to your craft will be hard.

Temporal freedom, a result of Strategic and Economic practices, is at the bottom. It, too, is fundamental to the development of your Artistic Practices. The link between time-on-task and artistic skill has long been evident. A lack of time is one of the most frequent complaints creatives have.

Mental freedom results from developing both Artistic and Strategic Practices. It’s decoupled from and has no overlap with the Economic Practices sphere. To make unbiased, uncompromised decisions about your creative expression, this is vital.

Physical freedom is set at the intersection between Artistic and Economic Practices. This is in recognition of the fact that our art has value. But, not all valuable resources must have a price tag attached.

Targeting Your Goal

Another way of understanding the diagram is as a target.

The outer ring comprises the processes we need to undertake to get to the centre: Artistic, Economic, and Strategic Practices.

The next ring consists of the freedoms we achieve as a result of combining two of these practices at a time: Physical, Temporal, and Mental Freedoms.

And in the centre is the ultimate goal. The one we achieve when all three of those practices, and all three of those freedoms, combine in balance: being a Free Creative.

Join our free course to become a Free Creative on your own terms.

The Middle Way

The ‘Middle Way’ is a well-known concept around the world. It refers to striking a balance between two extremes.

Gautama Buddha used the term ‘the middle way’ to describe the path to liberation. It’s a way of moderation between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self mortification.

To achieve physical freedom, we must find a middle way between our material desires (that expensive easel, luxurious retreat, or pricey recording equipment) and our economic realities. To find a way of feeding our art while also managing to feed ourselves.

To achieve temporal freedom, we must find a middle way that gives us work-life balance. This may sound trite, but we must balance our creative and non-creative life tasks. To find a way that we can earn enough money to support ourselves, while also having time to create. And, we need to learn to appreciate even our non-creative work as experience we can draw inspiration from, and to apply our creativity across all areas of our lives.

To achieve mental freedom, we must find a way to develop a healthy, balanced creative mindset. One which does not seek to be disliked, but which has the courage to be disliked. To cultivate an ego which is healthy enough to have a go, and share our work.

As Ryan Holiday points out in his book Ego, when we lack confidence, we don’t even try. But the second we tell ourselves we’ve mastered something, we stop learning.

A Free Creative is forever learning, and thus, must stay between these extremes.

The trick is to develop enough confidence to keep trying, but not so much that you become overconfident and stop learning and growing on your path to creative freedom.

Find out how you can forge your own path to creative freedom.

Tensions: The Paradox of Freedom and Creativity

Concentrating our efforts on one area often results in a decline in freedom in one or more others.

We’ve all heard of the ‘starving artist’. A person who has sacrificed financial reward for artistic integrity. That’s an example of someone who has prioritised their mental freedom over developing economic practices compatible with their ideals. The opposite is the ‘sell out’. Someone who has sacrificed artistic integrity for financial reward.

While these stereotypes might be the most familiar, there are tensions inherent across all the areas of this model. Financial and organisational woes often create pressures on your temporal freedom. This results in a decline in the time you can devote to your artistic practices – and vice-versa.

If you are too regimented and rigid in your organisation, you may not have the ability to enjoy your physical freedom, in spite of the strategic practices you’ve developed. And once again, the opposite can be true, too. 

The Creative Freedom Model

Living as a Free Creative isn’t about ‘having it all’. It’s about finding a balance between these freedoms that works for you. A ‘middle way’.

How Can I Increase My Freedoms?

Artists and scientists have used experimentation for centuries. The scientific method provides an elegant framework for answering questions of all kinds.

As researchers and artists, we’ve devoted the last half a decade to increasing our freedoms.

We both left our jobs in academia to pursue a more creative lifestyle. Jo has used her background in design and research to exhibit her paintings in two exhibitions. (Hope: From Robe to Riches, and Palette of Painters.) Sarah has drawn upon her research training and love of writing to pen the satirical novel Number Eight Crispy Chicken

We’ve documented our journeys in the hopes it will help you increase your own freedom.

Creatementality is the result of our artistic experiences and research on creativity. Over the course of our conversations, we identified three key practices which have helped us increase our freedoms:

  • Artistic practices
  • Strategic practices
  • Economic practices

How do these practices help?

Although developing any of these practices is likely to improve your life, it’s when we combine them that the magic really begins.

To do what we want (physical freedom) requires artistic and strategic skills. If you have to rely on a wealthy patron to survive, you won’t have the freedom to make the kind of art you want. Likewise, even if you have a lot of economic resources, if you haven’t developed your artistic skills you won’t be able to make the kind of art you want either.

To do things when we want (temporal freedom) requires economic and strategic skills. If you have to spend all your time working because you’re in debt, no matter how organised you are, you’ll be too exhausted to create. Likewise, even if you have a lot of free time, if you haven’t developed strategic discipline, you’ll find yourself wondering where it went.

To do things how we want (mental freedom) requires strategic and artistic skills. If you have oodles of artistic talent, but no discipline to apply yourself and deal with criticism, you may find you’re merely someone who talks about writing, painting or sculpting. Likewise, even if you have incredible ideas, and a lot of support, you’ll find yourself falling short of your potential if you don’t develop your craft.

We can visualise the relationships between these practices and freedoms as follows:

This diagram represents the Free Creative lifestyle. The three primary-coloured circles (red, yellow and blue) represent the processes of honing your artistic, economic, and strategic skills. The three secondary-coloured overlaps between them (orange, green and purple) indicate the physical, temporal and mental freedoms which result from developing these skills in tandem.

To do not only what you want, but when you want, and how you want to, you’ll need all three kinds of freedom. Each of these freedoms represents a tension that needs resolving.

The Creative Freedom Model

This diagram represents the Free Creative lifestyle. The three primary-coloured circles (red, yellow and blue) represent the processes of honing your artistic, economic, and strategic skills. The three secondary-coloured overlaps between them (orange, green and purple) indicate the physical, temporal and mental freedoms which result from developing these skills.

To do not only what you want, but when you want, and how you want to, you’ll need all three kinds of freedom. Each of these freedoms represents a tension that needs resolving.

Discover how Creatementality can help you resolve these tensions.