A long time ago, in my thirties (:-)), I dated an artist called Mr. Fire-man. He was a really fabulous painter, and very dedicated to the artistic lifestyle. He was like magic–even though he didn’t always have a reliable source of income, he always had a place to sleep and food to eat.
It was a lifestyle that I found very attractive: bohemian and free. There was a kind of a romance to it, although in retrospect, it’s likely that the romance of the lifestyle was tied up in the romance of the, well, romance.
We broke up after about six months, but continue to remain friends (Hi, Davey!). One thing that relationship taught me is that I need a certain amount of financial stability in my life. I need to know where my next month’s rent is coming from. I like to be able to go to the grocery store and not count pennies. After I became a parent, the need to create stable, steady income became even greater–I now had someone who depended 100% on me for his food, shelter, and well-being (a house that is under financial pressure creates an atmosphere of stress).
So, unsure if I’d be successful or not, I started a business. And things are going well. I’m not getting rich, but I can pay all my bills, and I have a little put aside for emergencies. I’m not in debt. I’m saving a bit for my retirement, and for Michael’s post-secondary schooling. I even have a bit of cash for treats–a new pair of shoes, taking Michael for a sushi dinner.
Yay, me, right? What’s the problem?
The more successful I become, the guiltier I feel. I feel guilty just for being successful, first of all–as artists, being successful often equates to “selling out.” Is that me? I ask myself. Am I a sellout?
I am also still surrounded by artists that are, especially in these tough times of cutbacks, struggling, and that adds to my feeling of guilt. How dare I be a success when others around me are struggling so much, and even, in some cases, failing?
Children in Africa are starving, and I just bought red shoes, not because I really needed shoes, but because I wanted them.
Where does my Puritan Guilt come from? Likely my childhood, but I’m less interested in exploring its roots as I am with resolving it. I am working on some new business ideas, and I hope that they take me and my income up and up.
I’m really interested in hearing whether other artists out there struggle with these same feelings and issues. Finances and money seem like one of those topics that are taboo–we must not speak about them–but I’m tired of that. I think it’s time we had an open and honest discussion about money and success as an artist.