“If you’re supporting yourself financially and you’re not bothering anyone else, then you’re free to do whatever you want with your life.”Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Money. It’s something most of us don’t like to talk about. It’s a taboo topic – even more so than sex or death. Because of this, we often find it difficult to talk about money with our partners. Or even to open up to ourselves about it.
Especially when it comes to money and creative work.
But paint and ink and canvases cost money. And themes of money often feature in art. Many folk tales tell stories of wealth, and ‘rags to riches’ is one of the ‘seven basic plots’.
Artists themselves often dream of this story line. The starving artist gets discovered, and becomes fabulously wealthy.
What is financial independence?
“I promised that I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it…I would always support us both, by any means necessary.”Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Most of us consider ourselves independent when we no longer rely on our parents. But getting a job and moving out of home doesn’t mean we’re entirely independent. At various points in our lives, we may be dependent upon our spouses or the government for income. As employees, we depend on our employers. And even if we become entrepreneurs, we’re reliant on our customers.
The same is true of an artist who relies on their creative work to live.
If the market changes and no one wants to buy your work any more, you may wind up as a ‘starving artist’. Even worse, if you become unable to write, paint, sculpt, act, or sing any longer, you may wind up not only having no creative outlet, but having no income.
Financial independence is a continuum.
At one end, is full dependence on others – your parents, the government, your credit card company.
At the other, all expenses are covered by diverse income streams. These sources of income keep bringing in money regardless of your ability to work or create.
You may inhabit different places on this continuum at different points in your life. Or, you may find a certain range more suitable for you.
Some people may always have to rely wholly or partially on others for financial income. Don’t let this discourage you. The truth is, all economic activity involves some reliance on other people.
Recognizing who we’re dependent upon, and where we are on this continuum, helps us identify where there may be weaknesses. We can then protect against them, to ensure we can continue to live, while continuing to create.
What kind of financial independence is right for me?
“You just have to figure out two points, where you are and where you want to go… Anybody can become financially independent, if you have the ability to earn, a little discipline to save, sufficient time, and reasonable intelligence”Venita Van Caspel-Harris, in Your Money Personality.
Take a moment to position yourself on the continuum, and then, think about where you’d like to be.
You don’t have to aim for the end of the scale. Your life stage, current income, or other circumstances may make such a dream unrealistic. But there are still lessons to learn.
For example, maybe you will never be able to invest enough money to fully support your needs. But perhaps you can invest some so that at least some of your expenses melt away. Or, you could save an ‘emergency fund’. This would give you a safety net in case your primary source of income comes under threat.