Calling All Artists, Thinkers, Writers, Part 2: The Luxury of Art

So the last time I called, it was to ask the meaning of art. This time I want to talk about its source and sustenance. Would you help me through my ambivalence on this question, follow as I st r u gg le? Thinking over the things my mother worked to procure for me – shelter, food, education – I noticed a glaring contrast to what you can find me busy reaching for. My writing. Mom was preoccupied with making rent and putting rice on the table. I am often lost in my search for the perfect word – whether I’m running around like a headless chicken or slogging through kitchen duty and the lessons with my son. Through it all I never waste a minute, too many things calling for my attention. So it is with moms, and I remember my mother flying everywhere all the time. But it was a different quality of time, a different meaning to it, between Mom’s and mine. Maybe one day I will write a book on the challenges that are my normal. It is on the soft bed of middle-class existence, though, that I do my battles, not the hard ground Mom walked. Would I pursue my writing in her worn-out shoes? I can take nothing for granted. I have mused at times that my world can be pulled from under me any moment. I’ve asked myself if I could keep up A Holistic Journey if I found myself a single parent without means. No. At least not with the time and fierce love I’ve poured into it. If a roof over my son’s head and food in his belly were no given but necessities that I had to clock in 12 hours outside the home for, I’d be foolish to consider my art in any space between the pressure. I would marshal all my resourcefulness and energy to meet my child’s basic needs today and prepare for his tomorrow. Survival trumps all, transforms many desires into nonessentials. Which leads me to conclude that art is a luxury borne out of class. Only now, 20 years after the required reading of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, am I able to write the paper with understanding.

PurseSo what do you make of Woolf’s famous precept that women need money and a room of their own to write? Unbroken time and space to think and hear herself. Woolf was insisting upon a level playing field in reaction to the socioeconomic disparities between men and women throughout the centuries that had impacted their art. It was men, and therefore male writers, who published readily. Women couldn’t get in the game a hundred years ago, let alone attempt to write through the demands of family life. Woolf wrote, “Intellectual freedom depends upon material things. Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom.” Freedom was one of many things my mother did not have. Financial, material, intellectual. She certainly had no room of her own in a one-bedroom apartment. Though I am not made of money, I still enjoy a feast of options on the food, toys, learning materials I can get my son. I will also fight for the freedom to teach him exactly as I wish if need be. Against this backdrop I exercise my intellect in the luxury to imagine and wonder beyond the walls of my home, and create. I feel secure enough that the walls will not give way. There was no such thing as self-actualization for my mother. No time, no wherewithal. Because my starting point in the discussion was this financial duress stamped into my consciousness, the joy I take in my art feels like hedonism. Now Woolf wasn’t arguing for luxury as she was that money and time be staple provisions for women as they were for men. She resonates with the wild, helpless artist in me, of course. My words are not wine but water, air. I would thirst and gasp if I couldn’t write. Not a day goes by where I don’t begrudge the clock my due, petition the day the time to myself.

But isn’t the classic starving artist single? Or childless (as luck would have it), able to stalk his dream at the encouragement of an understanding, optimistic spouse? Stephen King and the rest who created successfully through the stress of providing for young children seem to disprove the archetype. Yet while King helped with the kids, he did write in his lunch hour at work – outside the home. And though he was often broke, he had a college degree. I grew up watching extremely talented musicians busking in the subways of New York. Street art and brilliance out of the ghettos make it an interesting question, doesn’t it? The circumstances most hospitable to art. Of course it’s ridiculous to say the poor cannot birth what is powerfully beautiful. All over the world we have evidence to the contrary; poets and novelists who wrote in the trenches and drew upon raw experience to bring the power of reality to their art. But don’t time and the sense of stability that money can buy give you not only a room but space in your spirit to conceive things bigger than your life? If art keeps your heart beating, do you need money in the bank to live more fully? Turning our attention to virtual art: anyone can open a blog account and not all bloggers are professing artists. But do those of you who are serious about your art out here consider yourself above the stated lower class where you live? Money is no panacea and some of the richest people are the most unfulfilled. The question is how sustainable art is and whether it can thrive where one’s pocketbook fits only so many coins and groceries and dreams.

159 thoughts on “Calling All Artists, Thinkers, Writers, Part 2: The Luxury of Art

  1. If your expression is limited by your ability to feed and clothe your child, your choice will be to abandon expression in favor of your child’s hunger. This is what Woolf said, I think.

    Imagination and the visualized expression of thought is not the possession of only the rich or priviledged. Far from it because it comes from the mind, not one’s wealth or status. The mind is bequeathed us by a line of genetics which has no need of material wealth nor even solitude. It is given us to do as we wish with it, society be damned. Wealth might make it easier to express or give us more opportunity to do so but we can easily recognize 40,000 year old cave paintings whose authors were not wealthy, and whose mothers struggled daily to survive.

    Art, is merely the expression of thought, frozen in time. The ability to create good art is a skill. The ability to create art that is thought good is another skill.

    Consider “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” –
    and lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Little side trips in life or career that turned out to be hugely popular. Even ‘The night before Christmas’ was an accident.

    If we worry who our art is for, perhaps it is no longer art. If we worry that we’re not good enough to make art, perhaps we’re examining the art with the wrong standards. If we have to question art, do we deserve it? If a child asked me what art is I would tell them that I think it is what someone was thinking one day, and the thought was so special to them they wrote this, painted that, carved that, and so on.

    Of course, sometimes, artists just have to pay the rent. That’s how they got the Cistine Chapel painted…

    • Interesting piece. However, I agree that the two go hand in hand when you have a family. For years, when I was in the corporate world, I was busy and neglected photography. Now, during my sabbatical, I know I need to monetise something -my photos or a business venture, in order to do both – have the income and the freedom to look after my family and to photograph and write. Going back to the corporate world will bring money. Only.

      • Maybe that is what is needed? I don’t have any real clue, but sometimes that necessity thing is the mother of invention and creator of all things wondrous

      • Perhaps you’ll be the next big thing by combining your family and your desires. This ‘necessity’ is what makes us who we are and if there is one thing I know, it is that people like honesty.

      • I know exactly how you feel, Rajiv. Down to every nerve. Which is the heart of the post that might seem cerebral. We have only so much time and money…

        I am thrilled you guys made friends of each other here. =) I love the dynamism of new relationships on this blog. Atheist, I enjoy how you challenge and buck against the threat of obstacles, asking WHY NOT? It’s about transforming stumbling blocks into stepping stones, as I mentioned in my very first post here.

    • “Wealth might make it easier to express or give us more opportunity” This is precislely and merely what I was leaning into and exploring. I did speak of the plenteous examples of creative expression out of people without comforts and amenities.

      “The ability to create good art is a skill. The ability to create art that is thought good is another skill.” Indeed. and so my question simply is how money can come along as a handmaid to help vivify one’s talent.

      “If we worry who our art is for, perhaps it is no longer art. If we worry that we’re not good enough to make art, perhaps we’re examining the art with the wrong standards.”

      I don’t worry who my art is for and I most certainly don’t believe such worry has a place in the process, as I believe you agree. As to the fear of being good enough, well, that’s a whole other post. In fact, it was an amazing, beautiful TED talk presentation by Elizabeth Gilbert a reader sent me this year – that I might talk about one day.

      I love your child’s definition of art. =)

      As to your closing point, you know, that really is what this post comes down to, in many respects. Artists struggling to make rent. Artists allowing themselves to be artists when they have to make rent. It’s really a naughty, almost tricky question bc it turns on itself. As I saying in the schizo post, a real artist is a helpless one. You will just be yourself with the art, can’t resist it. We really oughta dig more deeply into how Michelango managed to feed his belly while working on the Cistine. Perhaps he didn’t. It was on the ceiling, after all.

      • Perhaps we connect the artist to their art too completely. It is, after all, an expression and not the person who expressed it.

        When painting the Cistine Chapel, was it Michelangelo’s expression being frozen in time, or that of the Holy See?

        When we contract an architect to design a house for us and the builder builds it, is it our expression or that of the architect or the builder?

        Might that give us qualifications on whose art is expressed? Your art is your expression of your thoughts but the Cistine Chapel is the expression of a third party’s thought.

        To feed your child using your skills is no crime. If others think it art, where is the harm? Is it a lie to let others see in it more than you paying the rent?

  2. Interesting, thoughtful piece.

    Your mother achieved the American Dream. She worked hard, doing the necessaries, allowing you to achieve the education, the insight, the opportunities that have allowed you to be the musician and writer you are today. The American Dream has always been to make things better for succeeding generations, postponing the gratification of the present. (Alas, this seems to be a fading dream in light of today’s desire for immediate gratification – and, perhaps, a troubled economic future.)

    And, yes, I do agree with Virginia Woolfe’s viewpoint. Art has always been luxury of the upper or leisure classes. When you work in a factory, when you clean houses all day, when you’re the primary caregiver of children or aged parents, when you work your fingers to the bone and wear your body and mind out doing ‘the necessaries,’ it doesn’t leave much time for contemplation or observation, two activities required for the creation of Art. Pragmatism trounces creativity – how could it not? The focus is keeping bread (or rice) on the table, and putting aside something for the next generation.

    The pragmatist feeds the body; the artist feeds the soul. I suppose one can’t exist without the other.

    This is a very interesting ‘discussion’ to me, and I look forward to reading what your fellow bloggers have to say about this. You’ve certainly sparked my interest in re-reading Woolfe’s words on this subject.

    • I really love how you put it, Kate. Of course bc you agree with me, in part. =) A touching, articulate (and very sweet) iteration of the American Dream – and I agree with your fearful reservations on the comforts the latest generations might spoil from. Some of the things I would’ve said in reply to you I just said to Atheist in the comment above. Yeah, opening up the round table in Part 1 was amazing last year; thanks for staying tuned for the others who’ll be piping in.

  3. I am glad you find the time to write your blogs. They are filled with passion and depth of feelings. You are right when you say it is hard to master one’s craft when the mind must place all its energy into survival. To sit at the computer to write when the joy and responsibility of parenting takes all we have to give, yet to still find those moments to let out the story inside of us is often impossible. In the end your holistic journey will take you where you need to go and find the voice to share the stories and thoughts that must be shared.

    • All I can say is thanks for such generous encouragement, James. I’m revisiting for discussion (cracking open) what is a daily struggle for me and have felt would really be even more impossible if my circumstances were less amenable. I have to get to a comment below that mentioned individuality. It’s the way I (italicized) – as opposed to other artists – create that would make it even harder without the supports in place. I tend to be slow and intense in what I produce. I really would need the time and space to piece all the scratch paper notes together. I’ve appreciated the ongoing support.

  4. I would argue that your dilemma and challenge is that you are pursuing two artistic endeavors. The first is raising your son. Despite what books and bloggers wish you to believe, getting a child to realize his/her potential isn’t a science, but an art. If you had another child with the same father, his/her personality wouldn’t be exactly like the first, thus you would have to approach the second slightly differently.

    So, while your blogging material fits into a more classical definition of an art, I believe that motherhood is equally as worthy and demanding of an art. Your mother may not have had the luxury of time or money to have a classical artistic pursuit, but seeing your potential and motivating you realize it was her master stroke. So, my hat’s off to you for putting so much energy and passion into both!

    • Mark, what do you leave me to say but thank you? I’ve brought up in other posts – both the expository and poetry last year – this struggle. Once I started writing and all the more when the feedback came rolling in, it was like breathing air I had not tasted before. And there was no going back. Since then, it’s been a daily battle to live out all the parts of me I need and want to. Thanks for taking the time to encourage. I also appreciate the honor you’ve paid my mother.

      Were you a handful as a kid? *Impish grin* Not meaning wild. But dya have a mouth? *wink*
      I’m sure your mother is very proud of you, too.

      • I certainly know how you feel in terms of feedback. I hate nothing more than to feel like I am speaking into a vacuum. You are certainly not, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t continue. It’s clear from your posts how essential your blog is to your being.

        Me? A handful? Never! 😉 My mother definitely had to work harder than most to maintain the upper hand. Actually, that wasn’t really an issue until the teenage years. She had it pretty easy until then. I will happily tell you that my relationship with my mother has never been better. 🙂

    • WOW, Mark that was beautifully stated. Isn’t it interesting to think D’s mom could show her artistry through the raising of her daughter? That’s deep. I like it, because I was one of those single mom’s that had to drop everything and take care of feeding my daughter and keeping a roof over her head, and couldn’t think of expressing myself through art at that time. It never crossed my mind, but I did encourage my daughter to express herself in an artistic way. And now she’s an art major in school. Hmm, I’m going to be thinking about this for a while. Shazza

      • I’m flattered that my sincere belief that raising children is an art struck a chord with you. It’s awesome that your daughter is able to express herself artistically in a more traditional way, but don’t take away what your blog means to you!

  5. I work my butt off all day long and live comfortably because of it, but it hasn’t always been that way. I often go to bed even more tired because I choose to write before I allow myself to sleep. My friends and family all suffer because my time and attention is often on my writing. I think they sometimes wish I wouldn’t write. I believe I would be far worse off if I didn’t feed my soul. Being a woman with responsibilities and needs is a tricky person to be, in my opinion.
    Thanks for helping me think tonight.

    • Glad to hear from you, Audrey. Your comment left me with mixed emotions but your situation (esp the highwire you teeter on) resonates with me. “Being a woman with responsibilities and needs is a tricky person to be, in my opinion.” You really said it. And feminist rants never had my sympathy. Until I started out on A Holistic Journey – only to find myself, a longlost friend buried in a cave. There is only so much time and so much of us to go around, right? But this post was an expression of gratitude for my having been able to write as I have the past year, though I have longed for the time to take off on this blog and on my writing. I just don’t see I could keep up what I’ve managed without the props. Things can always be worse.

      Big hug,

      • I don’t know that I’ll ever sympathize with feminists, Diana. I actually have pretty firm beliefs about my role as a woman and I adore the part that was given to me. However, I have felt like that longlost friend in a cave on occasion. Whole different topic of which I am not equiped to debate, as I am often too tired. Haha.

        Goodness, time off. You would be missed. Your words are far too important.

        Hugs right back,

      • I’m liking (bc I’m knowing) you better with each comment. =) Thoroughly appreciate how you embrace the high calling that is ours in the home. I now see I didn’t say it right:

        ” though I have longed for the time to take off on this blog and on my writing. I just don’t see I could keep up what I’ve managed without the props. ”

        I meant take off, really take off, like a jet on the runway. I ought to be grateful for the time I HAVE had. Yet I’ve been frustrated for the inability to work the rest of my blog, as I’ve put so much energy into the writing piece of it. No need to get into that or elaborate but to say I simply wish for more time blogging. I am wiped out, too, as I speak: I all too well understood how tired you go to bed. I am so sad I can’t finish responding to all the comments tonight. Must turn in.

        But that was really sweet and generous of you to say, about my taking time off. See you on your board – when I come out from under.


      • You’re right, T. Caring for the elderly is a huge responsibility many have on their hands as well, just when they are beginning to come up for air from having grown little ones. You just reminded me: such caretakers recently have gained a lot of press in America for the baby boomers who’ve needed care when in fact people all over the world (Asia esp) have been tending to the elderly in every generation.

  6. Different times require different strengths Diana. The struggle of existence seems relatively well described by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs ('s_hierarchy_of_needs ). As you can see, your Mom was living in times when the struggle was for physiological, safety and love needs. (in that order). Because of her struggle, you can easily fulfill those needs and can concentrate on esteem and self-actualization. There is no doubt in my mind that this structure theorized by Maslow is a median and in reality individuals would be driven based on a Bell curve. For instance, at one end some individuals would require little of the bottom tiers and would be consumed by the top tiers – at the eventual expense of their lives. Many great creative geniuses died very young. At the other end there would be those who craved only food, air and sex – all physiological needs – and couldn’t be creative or self-actualizing if they tried. Most of us fall somewhere in between – requiring that our basic needs, safety and love be at least partially fulfilled before we can rise to self-esteem and self-actualization. There is flexibility there as I’m sure you’ve noticed in yourself – for instance you likely forget to eat (or sleep) sometimes when you are creating. Most do.

    That being said, I’m not sure that the basic needs levels contribute any more to our “humanness” than the upper (creative) levels do: that to fight for one is any more difficult than to fight for the other. A different fight, for sure, but harder? – I don’t think so. I wouldn’t be concerned that my effort was of less value were I to be writing rather than cooking. And if I had the chance to create because those that went before me worked to give me that opportunity, I would do everything in my power to honor their sacrifices by doing what is important to me, knowing full well that my ability to choose is that for which they struggled. So, Diana, create for your Mom, and create for your Grand-Mother and create for your ancestors; create for all who worked to give you that choice. And know that their lives will be visible and honored in your creations for generations to come. When you think of ancient generations – it is their art and writing through which we have come to know them. Their creativeness has endured for thousands of years. In the big picture, it turned out their creativity outlasted their lives. And so too will ours.

    One bitter cold February night at 2 am, I was driving a tractor trailer loaded with baked goods west on the Trans-Canada Highway outside Fredericton New Brunswick. The temperature was hovering around -30 and the deserted highway was windswept with blowing snow. As I came close to my delivery warehouse, I passed a young man hitchhiking, going east. I seldom picked up hitchhikers, the lone exception being if I thought their safety was in jeopardy. I made a note that if he was still there when I was unloaded and returning east, I would stop for him. So, about 1 ½ hrs later (3:30 am) I was returning east and there he was still shivering in the cold, so I stopped and picked him up. He was a fresh-faced young man of about 25 who had just hitch-hiked from his home in Alberta and was headed to Nova Scotia for a family funeral. I told him I could take him about 2 hours down the road, where I finished my run, and would drop him at a 24 hr truck stop so he could find a further ride while waiting inside. He was a cheerful and we talked as we drove. As it sometimes happens late at night with strangers, he began to tell me his biggest concerns in life. He had been very fortunate and had a good job, a young woman whom he loved and who had agreed to marry him, good health and he could see attaining his life goals of a family, a home and owning his own business within 5 years. He knew he was blessed and he appreciated how easily it could have been different or how easily it could change. And yet he was worried. His worry wasn’t the chance of his luck changing, for he was comfortable that he could handle hard times and I too was sure he could. His worry was that he had so much and such good luck, far more than his ancestors and far more than many of those less fortunate, that he felt awkward and uncomfortable. He didn’t think he deserved what he had, although he had worked hard for it and maintained a positive attitude even in the face of adversity. His perseverance had overcome his problems to date and he called it “good luck”. He wanted to know if I thought he was acting privileged or if he had more than he deserved. What do you think Diana?

    • Maslow and I come from entirely different starting points that beget their own paradigms. But I really like your construct with the bell curve based on his model, Paul. A neat, clear way of looking at my question on the place of art in the spectrum of needs. I wasn’t necessarily pitting or comparing writing against another creative act, btw.

      I love this: “I would do everything in my power to honor their sacrifices by doing what is important to me, knowing full well that my ability to choose is that for which they struggled. So, Diana, create for your Mom, and create for your Grand-Mother and create for your ancestors; create for all who worked to give you that choice. And know that their lives will be visible and honored in your creations for generations to come. When you think of ancient generations – it is their art and writing through which we have come to know them. Their creativeness has endured for thousands of years. In the big picture, it turned out their creativity outlasted their lives. And so too will ours.”

      You put it beautifully, of course. I’ve been thinking in all the writing about my mother that it in fact would be pitiful if I – and my life – turned out more wanting (as it already is in some respects). For all my parents’ travail, of course we should see fruit from what they planted. But you really brought to light so eloquently the legacy I have talked about with some readers the last several months. As I said in a post at the start of the new year, my grandchildren will know me better for my Holistic Journey – AND for the mind-blowing comments (some, art in themselves) that have added dimension to my thoughts. Times like these esp, stats and likes are the farthest thing from my mind. I take my writing on this blog very seriously and you remind me of the power of carry-over into the following generations of what I put out here. Thanks so much, Paul. Wish I could give you more than that.

      As to your question, my worldview will be different from his. His life bears the imprint of God’s grace, both in the hardships he has overcome and the strength of hope he takes into his future. Through and through it’s all grace. That is what I meant in saying my world can be pulled out from under me any moment. He obviously wasn’t acting privileged – which I imagine you agree – but I believe we always have it better than we deserve. This last clause is a whole other post, if not a book. Off I go to swim through the other comments.

      Thanks again for being here.

  7. In the hierarchy of needs, perhaps creativity is lower down the ladder than the physical necessities of survival. However, as soon as the body is sheltered and fed enough to forget thirst or hunger for a while, the spirit seeks creative expression. Whether or not we have the luxury of choosing to spend the time we have on our creative expression, whether we only have the time to snatch moments of imagination, relate a story to a friend, listen to their tale, doodle an idea on the margin of a shopping list, imagination and creativity will find corners to squeeze into should we allow. As for me, it’s only as my children are grown, and with a husband who happily supports me in the decision to ‘downsize’ my career, that I can finally take the creative time I’ve craved. And guess what? It still doesn’t feel like there’s enough of it!

    • You describe the helpless artist in us, Julia. =) I was asking about the opportunity art needs not only to surface for air now again, here and there, but to thrive and last and grow. And I see that your story is that yes, there are seasons and circumstances that certainly make it more amenable. Your closing confession made me smile. In understanding.

  8. Very good posting. I remember when I was younger and my family was very impoverished and without lots of money I would write poetry on bits of paper I would find, or on the ends of old news paper. Sometimes I would write poetry or a short story on the blank page in the back of an old story book. I believe art can exist even without money but I also believe it depends on each individual and their resourcefulness. Have a wonderful day my good friend.

    • I was waiting for a comment like this. =) The relentless art and light in darkness. It was what I was referring to when I said my words are my water and air. They are AS basic and necessary. So would you say that being able to write on higher ground has affected the quality and quantity of your art (the more we write, the better we also do, right)?

  9. I have often thought about the ways that people, myself included,put off their creative pursuits until they retire, so that they have “the time.” Yet somehow when that retirement comes something interferes with their “time.” This of course, is fear, not “time.” I am fortunate to have the time now and to be able to devote my time to writing, photography and art. While I was working, however, I was also devoting my time to “creativity” although it was of a very different kind. I was a psychotherapist for 25+ years. It required all of my mental and emotional capacity for about 48 hours a week at the office, and I frequently did research and a lot of processing at home. As I am single, with three fur-kids to take care of, I also had the responsibility of a house and yard and everything that goes along with all of that. Was I creative during that time? My clients, I believe, thought so! I sure think so! I had to be creative with: finances, home repairs, shopping, time with friends, travel to see family, balancing everything, yard maintenance, and the list could go on! I do believe, however, that most of my creativity was with my clients, however. Most of them had been in therapy for years and nothing had worked. They were crying out for help and were on the edge of giving up. Finding a new and different way to help them was often challenging, yet rewarding for both of us!

    So, I do think that one finds one’s creativity in whatever they do, if they want to do it well. Your mother was very creative in the ways she found to “stretch” her money and her rice! She left that legacy to you, despite the fact that you are “creating” in a different manner. As the world/society changes, we change with it. After all, there are not too many people that are writing novels via hieroglyphics any more! I believe we honor our ancestors by doing the best at we can do at whatever it is that we do. We all have different talents and skill sets, and the way that we use them and the fact that we use them at all, is the most important thing!

    • I like your practical exposition on creativity. And when we feel squeezed and find ourselves flailing for resources is when we reALLy get those juices flowing, right? You’re a trooper, by the way. =)

  10. Beautifully written. I see a lot of truth in the ease that money gives artists and writers to maintain their medium, however they don’t need money to have passion and with enough passion and dedication artists can claw their way up.

    I grew up without much, raised by a devoted mother much like yourself. The poor city I lived in was filled with crazy talented characters that share their art in many different ways and I felt the area cultivated it by supporting artists and buying locally or going to shows to support spoken word artists or bands. They may not be famous folks that people in other cities know and care about, but they’re locally famous and making money off their art despite their predicament.

    I’ve always believed there was more of an art boom in the area I grew up in because of the poverty, we were just lucky enough to have so many people interested in sharing and folks willing to support it.

    I personally wanted to do more and moved to Chicago with nothing but a box of canned food, my typewriter and a garbage bag full of clothes. Although I dont have kids to worry about, I worked my way from literally surviving off canned foods to my much more comfortable lifestyle today. I’m not famous, but I make a living off my art and I blog to fill my writing appetite. It’s been a struggle and I’ve definitely put in more time working when I’m out of work than hanging out, but isn’t that what being the struggling artist is all about? Sacrificing some of the everyday that most people enjoy for something tangible to hold in your hands at the end of the day?

    So, in terms of Woolf’s theory, it seems a little narrow to me. I think it all depends on what someone considers success and what you’re willing to give up to reach it.

    • I can’t argue with the conclusion drawn by a bona fide struggling artist. Wow, quite a testimony – to the power of art and the human spirit. I love the picture of your old artist community. As I said in the post, there certainly are many of those around. And yes, the poverty – that thing, that longing in the air – helped forge what is wild, beautiful, and refined in that world.

      I wondered if men and women bloggers would respond differently to the questions I posed. The child factor is a really big one: I’ve been pulled away twice in the attempt to post this comment. And I agree with your opening thoughts on passion. It is that drive I explored in the series on greatness last fall and winter. I love stories of people busting through brick and hurtling walls higher than what they’d known growing up. But passion alone can’t pay the bills or carry you if they’re not paid.

  11. I am a poor person, lol. Not really well kinda, legally speaking my income is way below the poverty level. I have four kids, and the only time I get to myself is after the husband and children are asleep, (seriously the only time) but still I write, my life stories, poetry, and create things out of wood. At times it is hard, but Art is not supposed to be easily done. If it were everyone would do it.

    • I very well don’t have much to say to someone in your straits. Meaning, I dare not try. I appreciate your sharing a bit of your challenges with us. How you keep on with your art is beautiful and what you create is beautiful. My visceral reaction to your closing statement was agreement. But many believe we are all artists, as some commented under this post. It does depend on one’s meaning of art (that was Part 1 of Callilng All Artists, Thinkers….) =)

      Thank you for your precious time. Keep creating.

  12. Hey D! I think it depends on the person, and their gender. I am the type of person who finds it difficult to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. I tend to multi-task (a necessity of motherhood), but I don’t like to because of how scattered and disappointed I feel with my effort. It also goes against living in the present moment, something I am trying to incorporate into my life.

    Being a staying-at-home mom enables me to limit how often I am forced to multi-task. It enables me time to pursue personal passions like blogging. I don’t think I could manage that if I had to work, and would be a more bitter and resentful person if this freedom was absent from my life.

    I agree with Wolff. Women need monetary and time support to pursue their passions.

    And, like you, my mother did not have this freedom, and I mourn and am grateful for her sacrifice so that I have what she didn’t. I am also grateful to my husband, who is unable to pursue his own passion due to providing for our family. Sometimes, I feel selfish for enjoying freedom he cannot, but he loves me so much, he does not begrudge me this gift. Instead, like my mom, he is happy that his support makes my passions possible, Love that man.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post, and for reminding me of geniuses like Wolff.


    • You leave me with a wry, half-sad half-happy grin and the fuzzies. We’re alike in some important ways. Yes, we multitask (and as women I think are good at it) but are also intense and prefer to go all or nothing on things if we had a choice. You put your finger on it. The resentment is what I have struggled with at times (days the battle for time is bloodier than others) after tasting new air from the writing that threw open windows for me.

      You draw out and spotlight the critical truth that art and the pursuit of one’s passion costs time. And where our lives are bound to others, they (parents in their past) often have paid (through sacrifices that afforded us opportunity) or our family helps to in the way they support and free us to our other joys. Meaning, it is more than the simple equation of art = our own input.

      I’ll be sharing your heartwarming feedback with hubby.

  13. Amazing topic and great discussion responses too! For myself, one of the things I find is that a bit of pressure forces me to work harder on my art. Deadlines and needing to eat, force me to concentrate more. If I did not have pressure, I don’t know if I would paint as much. I go back and forth with this dilemma. I would love to have more time to paint and no pressure but I’m not sure what I make would be the same. The pressure seems to directly effect the outcome of the art. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes not so good. I think I will, also go back and read some more, Wolff. Thanks for the thoughtful and meaningful post. I have some thinking to do! 🙂

    • I know exactly what you mean. That was my m.o. in high school and college. Not very good, really, often meant cramming. But the pressure did serve as incentive. I am a slow writer. Intent and intense. I need time to work things through in my mind. It’s interesting, how the way I pursue my art shaped the kinds of questions I posed in this post. Though nothing mind-blowing, really. A simple reality that blog posts reflect the blogger.

      Thanks for thinking aloud with us. =)

  14. Thanks for another thoughtful post Diana.

    You do like to tackle the big stuff! I believe art can come from struggle or ease. To me, it’s a call to follow our inner passions, giving voice to the muse within. Some people create better with limits and others don’t. I like the traditional societies whose art was practical and part of everyday life. I think that’s part of the modern day disconnect. for example, I love beautiful art, but rarely indulge because most of it is expensive and decorative. If I had a bigger budget and the items were more useful like pottery. I love the growing public murals for this kind of expression, or painting on the walls or creatively decorating a home. There are many ways to be creative, which I would say is the more universal form of art. And I believe everyone is creative, but not always aware or encouraged to be creative. Mothering, business, how we cook, dress, do business can all be creative acts.

    • “Mothering, business, how we cook, dress, do business can all be creative acts.” Praw agrees with you, and Mommyx4boys’ sentiments seem to run the other way. I really like your opening position, that it can come from struggle or ease, and how you laid out your either/or. You know, speaking of space, you do open up my wondering to remind me of all the ways art is possible (here, referring to visual art of an artist) that can sneak around and beyond the constraints of money. Although I can’t help wonder if you might end up taking a stronger stance (in agreement that money does help foster the creative possibilities) if you were a mother. ^^ But there’s no use entertaining hypotheticals. Thanks, B.

  15. I recently read an interview with Francis Ford Coppola. He said if you look at history, most artists didn’t make any money. He said he thinks art should be free for the world and that artists should have jobs to pay for their lives. He said that’s why he opened his winery in Napa. Of course, it’s easy to say artists shouldn’t get paid when you have enough money to open a winery in Napa.

    I have a friend who is an artist. But he makes money by bartending. Every so often he’ll take 1-2 weeks off to lock himself in his place and just create his art. But here’s the kicker – he won’t sell any of his paintings. I’ve seen people beg him to sell some of his works to them, but he won’t. He does let the bar hang pieces around the place.

    I also did a documentary recently on Lap Ngo. He said the same thing – he had a painting in his house that he said someone offered him $30k for. He wouldn’t sell it. Though he does sell prints of some of his paintings in Hobby Lobby and the like.

    I’m recently interested in the new breed of artists that use YouTube to create. Like my buddy Flula. He has no job other than his ‘personality’. He creates videos for YouTube, music, books, calendars, haikus, etc. And somehow he makes a living just living off his persona. He gets some ad money from YouTube, but mainly people will pay him to be in videos, MC a battle of the bands, etc. etc. Crazy to have no back up source of income!

    • *Smile* You wOuld have a string of stories up your sleeves. I would tell Francis wine-making is an art and the offerings of his winery should be free. =)

      YaOW. I WISH L Ngo would SELL that thing for $30K. Now THAT’s something to think about, huh? It would make me proud that someone was so impacted by his art that they had to have it for that amount. A different matter from an artist pegging a sky-high pricetag on a work. Here, it’s the viewer who saw and was captivated to want to buy it for that much. At the same time, I understand Ngo. How that piece of work is his baby, his blood, life, energy, joy, dreams. He will sell that as easily as I can sell my boy.

      Yeah, the changes in the artistic landscape through the tsunami of cybermedia are no joke. You’d THINK some of it is, but people are harnessing the powers and ease of online connections for bucks. I didn’t realize how apropos your stories were to me until this moment. My husband and the friend who set me up on WP had hopes and expectations that I can make $ as a blogger when I started out last year. But the romantic, the struggling artist in me kicked that hope far out the field. Zero interest. I just wanted to write for art’s sake.


  16. I think we sometimes forget that many women of the past thought their place was in the home raising children and sacrificed because they wanted to–and to do that well is an artform. Most men weren’t artists or writers–they thought their place was to provide usually at mind-numbingly dull or very dangerous jobs (I’m thinking 19th century here).

    I can think of many male writers who suffered poverty or worked day jobs and wrote books, etc. Writing by candlelight in a grim little room after hours of work was pretty normal. I think of a procrastinating friend who used to say she’d write her novel once she finally got a laptop ( a room of one’s own in a way).

    George Eliot wrote amazing books as did Jane Austin. Do women have to make sacrifices for their art? Of course, but so do men. My experience with men is a happy one–most of them are happy if their wives are happy and men usually are willing to slog off to work without complaint. I’ve been a stay at home mother and a working mother. I wrote my novel on my lunch breaks at work as a teacher and in dentists offices. I did research at basketball games and during family vacations–I went to the library while everyone else went to the water park.

    I agree with Mikial that art can be made and is made by all classes. Only a handful of creatives have names we recognize. They weren’t famous and some of them were mothers who made great meals, cozy homes despite poverty and wrote poetry (though maybe never published in a big magazine).

    I think we all have a room of one’s own–it’s called life.

    • Adrienne, I love your even-keeled, matter-of-fact take on men and women. Really appreciate every bit of your insightful perspective as well as hearing how it is you managed to stitch your novel together. And yes, my own husband proves the type of men you remind us of who are only too happy to do what it takes to provide for their family.

      Interestingly, G Eliot was a pen name in the 19th cent when women wEre able to publish. But she wanted to resist or rather avoid the stereotype that women produced only fluffy romances. If she really wanted to make her point I would think she’d write under her own name, show the world what female writers are capable of. But then again, there was the married man she was seeing so that likely had something to do with her writing under cover.

      Woolf’s point has remained a vivid struggle for me as well as something I’ve seen played out elsewhere. Even in the postmodern culture that grants me more breathing room than women of the past, I am literally running circles around my husband juggling the kitchen work and all the things that go into raising our boy. And my husband is among the most helpful and accommodating men around. It is simply the responsibilities of a mother. Sure, hubby takes care of his set of things, freeing me up not to think about them. But…well, I don’t need to explain to a fellow mother. My mother seemed to have double the work my father did. He did not have to plan and prepare the meals, and she usu. cleaned up, while they both worked outside the home. Woolf apparently had in mind the contrast between the genders where men of a certain socioeconomic standing seemed to have an advantage. A room of their own was a given.

      Thanks for your two gold cents. =)

      • Thanks for the thoughtful response! I’ve struggled with these ideas as well–even considering a male pen name 🙂

        A few things–much of what we do for our kids–like running them around to every after school activity, closely monitoring every friendship (through the use of “play-dates”) and various other things women set up to inflict torture on themselves could be minimized if women weren’t so competitive with each other (in a negative way).

        Men complete don’t get me wrong but so much of the time wasters in our lives are of our own making. Debating about a rarefied upper class where men and women had very strict boundaries isn’t the same as talking about the middle and lower classes where the work load was and is shared.

        They did a study recently that somehow showed that in married American couples men and women work just about the same amount though their responsibilities tend to be different.

        My issue is that women seem to still believe the lie that if they want children they can also have everything else at the same time. The other day I overheard a man out with his young daughter get a call (the eighth one since he’d left home) from his wife who was checking up to make sure the guy hadn’t left the kid at the bar by mistake. She could have been writing her novel instead.

        I’m very sensitive to comparing ourselves to wealthy land gentry types–it just breeds dissatisfaction and gives us an excuse for not making peace with reality and leading an artful life just where we are at.

      • Wow, I’m so glad you didn’t go with a male pen name, A! Why exactly did you consider that? Ha ha all right, point well taken on women’s self-torture and competition. But I know I’m competing with no one – and I do happily write away when Daddy takes out my son. =)

        “for not making peace with reality and leading an artful life just where we are at.” I really appreciate this, Adrienne. Your clear position and the lovely way you remind us to embrace where we find ourselves. I’m not sure “a rarefied upper class where men and women had very strict boundaries” was Woolf’s starting point. Seems it was rather the great promise she saw in women that she noticed constrained by (lack of) societal permission (my reply to Whitehairedshooter, recent commenter) to tap it. The beauty of this discussion – or debate – is we can go on. =) Except I know you and I would rather be writing (prose) LOL!

        I’m glad you clarified your position bc I would’ve thought you believed women CAN have it all: children, family, art. That was the simple heart of the post, right? My struggle in the knowledge that we can’t. It’s interesting, I must say, how passionate the discussion can get when it’s about gender polarities.

        Love having you here, no-nonsense convictions and all.


      • My convictions are subject to change 🙂 I agree that societal pressures are strong–in a way even more so today where the media makes it seem like single parenthood is easy and attractive. Dan Quayle doesn’t seem like such a jerk complaining about Murphy Brown now–not to friends of mine who feel heart-broken because they can’t spend time with their children and have no one to share the joys and sorrows of parenthood with.

        I think we artists will always struggle with this stuff because unless we’re fabulously wealthy from our art no one will ever fully understand why we NEED to spend so much time on it.

        I wonder why men die younger than women? That gives us a few years extra to pursue our muses 🙂

  17. I work off of how I feel, lead by the Spirit. Most times it helps to have my own space so that I may hear clearly. But a lot of my work has been done while my boys have watched me draw… Writing is usually done in a corner where I can tune out noise if I am out and about with my electronic note pad. Words are different than pictures. But I have to be in the right mood to have an audience when I draw 🙂 I pray this helps 😀

  18. I don’t have children. He has 2 adult children who live in their own places.

    I do take my blog seriously, in so far, I can’t imagine publishing several times per wk. after I come home from work. Blogging is not my only interest, of course. Writing and composing with my own photos, requires focus. So I admire your energy HW with a child, household, etc.

    I need the comfort of money to cover for a place to live, food and general health (though Canada’s health care system is easier on its ciitzens than U.S.).

      • I started up blogging when I was unemployed…for 18 months. So really I no excuse not to learn a useful skill. My partner who is retired, learned blogging from me and then built abit more of his knowledge.

        His daughter’s bf is an artist for a living. Past 15 years. It’s tough because he must take odd jobs to supplement his painting sales. (Mixed media. He does huge canvasses.) He did his Master’s in Fine Arts at university.

        So in a way, art feels like a luxury. However if we stripped our world of art completely, we wouldn’t have something outside of our own imagination for inspiration and reflection. We need to be prompted by other perspectives –at a visceral emotion and intellectual level. What we remember of the great civilizations long gone, is the arts and architecture, permanent achievements of humans. Science and technology yes, which also can incorporate shape, line and colour. Like a vintage car or bike.

      • “We need to be prompted by other perspectives –at a visceral emotion and intellectual level. ”

        Yes we do, Jean.

        I love this: “What we remember of the great civilizations long gone, is the arts and architecture, permanent achievements of humans. Science and technology yes, which also can incorporate shape, line and colour.”

        You help raise a critical point, how many of us feel art is a luxury (many, along this line, would say an optional frivolity) when it has helped give life to the most essential elements of our life. As I wrote the post, a part of me also yelled, no life without it.”

        As I said in another comment (I think to Lively Twist), it’s a curious tension I find myself caught in, art between necessity and luxury.

    • Of course, Ian. You say this to one who has poured her heart all over this blog. But thanks for reminding us all. =) The question has to do with artists who might feel constrained from opening up their heart more fully, given their circumstances.

  19. Art is a way of life… Take an example of a Welcome ‘Rangoli’ at Indian doorstep or ‘Warli’ paintings on exteriors of huts of some local tribes in India! It is even manifested in the way you may decorate a flower vase in the Living room… As far as writing is concerned, agree that fulfillment of basic needs is an advantage; but all the same, your thoughts are always in your control! Time is a scarce commodity, true! Nevertheless, if you are passionate enough to share your Artistic expression with the world, you shall find it in abundance! Wish you enjoyment & good luck along the Holistic Journey…

    • It is even manifested in the way you may decorate a flower vase in the Living room…” I was waiting for this. =) A (very big) part of me considers the beauty of that flower vase – and the opportunity to decorate it – essential to the lifehood of that artist, that person. I embrace every word you have left. Thank you. =)

  20. Diana, I really enjoyed this post – you brought Woolf’s words to life – and the resulting discussion. I pondered this a little in a post about my own ancestors recently – most of my ancestors were working class people engaged in manual labour and I wondered whether creativity could have been a part of their lives after they’d come home from what would have been exhausting work. I also pondered the fact that when we look at old records, like censuses, the women are rarely listed as having any occupation other than ‘wife’ – which hides any creativity they engaged in, but I thought that some of the things that traditionally became seen as women’s arts were maybe their way of having creativity in their lives – cooking, sewing, knitting, etc. I don’t think money is necessary to create, but I do agree with your point that having money gives you the time to create. I don’t have children so have more time than many women, but I do still feel that I have two jobs – the job I go out to and the job of creativity, which sometimes doesn’t leave time for much else. Fortunately I love creating so that job is one I enjoy!

    • Am glad for your reflective feedback, Andrea. Thanks for letting me know the post spoke to you esp on the heels of your thoughts on your ancestors. The exhaustion is a huge factor in the question of art, by the way. It holds me back – rather tries hard to, though I often write right through it, and I..cushioned by postmodern comforts!

  21. Writing, for some people, is as essential as food, a compulsion so strong it cannot be ignored even if no one will ever read your words. I’ve always written in any spare moment I have. I’ve never made any money from it in real terms. Although I’ve written things to earn a living they are other people’s ideas or answers to other people’s questions. I’ve written in diaries, I’ve written on computers, lap tops and these days mostly my iPad. What will become of it all I don’t know but I know I can’t stop and I’m pleased that a few enjoy reading what I write.

  22. I personally don’t believe the word “starving” and “artists” should go together– and unfortunately it is a construct that I have bought into in the past. I have found that when I have to worry about how I’m going to pay my bills it is very hard to have that psychic space within I need to create. That said, I would say that for many of us making art is a necessity even though I know I’ve sometimes felt guilty to be able to enjoy the luxury of it.. but is it really when for some to not do it feels like emotional starvation? No conclusions from me, just thoughts, Diana.

    • So in leaner times what did or would you do to guard your spirit from being choked by worry? I’m glad to hear you echo the tension I feel between necessity and luxury, Diahann. Always comforting to know I’m not alone. Esp among writers. =)

  23. I’m writing this sitting in the lobby of my daughter’s ballet studio, using my brother-in-law’s old cast-off I-pad. After talking with my friends, the place clears out and I have an hour or so to work with no demands made on me and only pleasant music wafting from the studios. I agree very much with Virginia Woolf. I’ve had money and I’ve hadn’t had it. The constant anxiety of how to pay the bills wrecks havoc with the expansiveness of mind needed to write. I once had a room of my own where I sat uninterrupted and stared out the windows, listening to my music, hatching my plans. Now I don’t have such a sanctuary; maybe I will again someday. What has helped me persevere is the admiration I hold for people who have managed to break through despite the hardships. J.K. Rowling lived on public assistance with a small child dependent on her and yet she managed to create a whole magical world. The guitar group Dire Straits were given their name by a friend based on the serious financial constraints they operated under, yet they created some of the most brilliant music of 70’s and 80’s. They did it; it can be done; so I labor on. When I write, I inhabit the world I’m creating and escape the everyday. That can be a very good thing.

    • I smile, though a bit sadly, for the picture that enables me to see you (and A.T.) better. I appreciate your feedback, J, for the experience you’ve had in both worlds (richer, for poorer). Yes, the stories like the ones you provide are so inspirational. I’m sure JK was all the more motivated into a magical world where kids wield supernatural powers by her sense of helplessness in hers. It’s the pushing off our stumbling blocks, redeeming them as stepping stones. Possible. But very difficult. She also had a little help from something called talent. I’m also all the more grateful for your precious time on A Holistic Journey.

  24. Diana, as always your words are thought provoking. You’ve made me appreciate the time my working husband and teenage children allow me to write. When they were younger it was much harder to find time to be creative. But the years of home schooling our children fueled my desire for writing as we read so many wonderful classics together–all three love reading now.

    I think you’re right that it was much harder for women to find the time and space to create in former days (and difficult now for single parents). If I end up needing to get a full-time day job–then writing will become much more challenging for me.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

  25. I love this topic!
    I wanted to write when I was young, and up until I hit adolescence I did write freely, and that was with a passion.
    My muse was fragile, and the big wide world was not looking for what I could offer in creative expression, they wanted me to be productive and reliable.
    My writers stumbling block was not money or time, and I had the energy to overcome both.
    When I did try my hand at writing, my problem was experience. I really didn’t have much, and I compared what I tried to write and found it trite.
    I expressed myself in other ways, interactively with music and dance. I read voraciously. But I longed to write.
    My kids came along when I was in my thirties, and I still read voraciously, albeit a lot of that children’s fiction! I tried to write again, having more “life” experience, but something had tethered my muse.
    My imagination and grasp of language was not the problem. I believe I just hadn’t granted myself the “RIGHT” to write. I had run into enough roadblocks, lacked confidence.

    My thoughts were rich and imagination turned freely to prose and the words would bounce around inside my head in glorious abandon. Had I written them down they would have filled volumes.

    I blamed the lack of writing on being undisciplined. But that was not it. I was too disciplined, maybe, and too functionally oriented. The minute I would try to type or write, a little homunculus would writhe inside, and I would stop.

    I had the room, I had the means, I had the time. I just didn’t have the permission. From myself
    It wasn’t about having the kids, or the busy hectic job. I think once a woman makes the choice to USE that room, and grants herself the permission, then creativity flows out and into the written form seamlessly.

    Until then, her creativity still flows, but it isn’t channeled into a “productive” literary style.

    I unchained myself only when I realized that I have this ONE LIFE, and if ever I was going to realize that childhood dream I had to jump in with heart and eyes wide open and START. Without worrying about what else I SHOULD be doing. And the child within me is still there, with glistening eyes and eager imagination to see the World and all that is in it, and to SHARE it. I have more than permission, I have a mandate.

    Thanks for the opportunity to think and expound on this subject! You are a gem!

    • Well look who’s written. =) Gloriously.

      Permission: so very interesting. Seems that might be the heart of what Woolf was fighting for. Societal permission. Because her world and that of her ancestors had granted it to men in the form of ready means and opportunity but less to women. You do bring up a very important point: how much her peers wanted it for themselves.

      You do realize you’ve written a post here? Feel free to post it – edited or not – on your blog!


  26. Diana, food for thought. I haven’t read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, so permit me to speak from experience and expand the scope of the discussion a little. If writing is a dream, then everyone needs to finance their dream and fight to keep it alive. Money is one obstacle, but it is not the only one. Some have the comfort of financial freedom, and yet that comfort has been a barrier to chasing their dream as it has distracted them.

    So, the question, how sustainable art is and whether it can thrive where one’s pocketbook fits only so many coins and groceries and dreams?

    I work a 40-hour week to put a roof over my head. Many times I’m writing when my body is crying for sleep, but my ideas are crying for release. Vision and passion “force” me to work to fill my pocketbook and still write when others are lounging.

    One effect of this is that I am “slow” (a friend took four years to write his first novel because he worked long hours on week days and could only write weekends). But I understand that I should fight for my dreams so, I’m not complaining. I also understand that our paths in life are different, so I don’t compare myself to those who have raced past me.

    Another effect is that I am not always able to join the stimulating discussion on your blog. By the time I come around, I am several days late. 🙂

    Vision, passion, and focus trumps the obstacles on our way to self-actualization, in my view. You allude to this somewhat as you discuss the classic starving artist.

    p.s. @Mom was preoccupied with making rent and putting rice on the table.
    There was a time I was preoccupied wholly with raising kids. It was my passion and I gave it my all. It did not even occur to me to write a sentence, and yet the gift was there bidding it’s time . . .

    • I would submit that those who have been distracted by their comforts are not real artists. =)

      You knOw I get it, the way you honor the cry of your spirit over the cry of your flesh. But I wore myself out so much I’ve had to rein myself in. I’ve had no choice but to do an early bed this year so I can function and not reLeaSe the wrong spirit on my son the next day.

      “Vision, passion, and focus trumps the obstacles on our way to self-actualization”

      Love that. And yes, it is this determination I was exploring in the series on greatness last fall and winter. Especially since setting out on A Holistic Journey, I cannot turn back. I wOuLd keep on with the words should my world come crashing down. But it would be even more painful to have to slow the output, for my intensity which tends to demand all or nothing. An intensity I see in you, T.

      “It was my passion and I gave it my all. It did not even occur to me to write a sentence, and yet the gift was there bidding it’s time . .”

      Exactly. I was consumed with the passion of motherhood. And indeed your gift was there bidding its time, T. (You’re never late, btw.)

      • Lol@”I would submit that those who have been distracted by their comforts are not real artists. =)” I would tend to disagree, but it’s not crucial 🙂

        Yes, we must reach for balance. Passion demands focus, focus demands time. Something will usually give and wisdom is knowing what to give up.

        I will have to make time to check out the series on greatness. Diana, you are inspiring!

      • Timi, I reALLy appreciate your time here.

        “”I would submit that those who have been distracted by their comforts are not real artists. =)” There’s the all-or-nothing mafia. ^^

  27. Beautifully written, your thoughts are amazing!
    This subject hits close to home. I’ve always wanted to be a writer but my parents are traditionalists and say: you won’t make any money. Well, for a while I truly didn’t care and I wanted to be a writer still. Why would I care if I’m doing what I love?
    As I got older, I realized I truly can’t be a starving artist. Not in this economy anyway. I cannot sit and write in journal after journal and expect to be able to keep living the life I do.
    So that’s when I decided to have writing as my side job (for fun) and also have my “real job.” Still sometimes question it but it works for me.

    I think finding a spot you’re OK with doesn’t always equate to how much money you have sitting around. This day in age you do need a lot more money than before, where writing could have been successful for you (in life, not economy). It’s really important to do what you love, but it’s important to make a living as well.

    Again, thanks for your post!

    • Thanks for sharing your own st ru gg le between art and staying afloat to be able to continue that art. You spell out the literal place many of us find ourselves in. We can’t always sail straight through on what we love to do. It’s a toughie. I appreciate your time here and the follow. Welcome to this rockin’ community. *Big grin*

      And it says your site does not exist when I tap into your username here by your gravatar. Feel free to send me a link.


  28. Isn’t it about being able/developing the capacity – within a situation where there are many other demands and pressures (whatever these may be) to withdraw completely in order to be true to our creative inclination/drive. The problem is divorcing ourselves – even for five minutes from the tentacles of the everyday world. They just root into the mind, so you are never quiet enough to compose/be composed. That’s my excuse anyway 🙂

    • You reworded the question, Tish. Yes, I find it difficult to live in the moment when so many things are happening right then: the words inside, the boy to teach, husband I’m talking to…


      Thx for your two cents.

      • The small quiet space, and a decluttered mind. May be should begin by finding it for 30 minutes a day, and then build up. I’m beginning to think some sort of regular meditative practice – something like some yoga or better still Qi Gong might be the way in there.

      • Yoga and Qi Gong are amazing. Except they really depend on our emptying the mind or focusing it upon the rest of our body…It’s not recommended we let our thoughts run amuck. :/

  29. Diana, Thank you for giving voice so thoughtfully to one of my ongoing inner dialogues (and, at times, self-tortures). I have been trying to formulate a cogent–and concise!–response since I read this piece yesterday, but have yet to produce one, especially due to the desire for succinctness. Here’s hoping another night’s sleep will help me deliver the goods. Thank you for the inspiration to flesh out more fully my thoughts on all of this. xo

      • D, There is always a grade :)….that relentless inner critic o’ mine.

        I think about your questions constantly (as well as a corolllary of whether I can justify my dancing and writing when not everyone has food to put on the table, but will save that for another time). I now believe that the issue of sustainability involves a confluence of factors which varies from person to person, and even situation to situation. Factors like money, of course, but also other key resources, both tangible and intangible, e.g., studio space for me as a dancer. You could say I am splitting hairs, as studio space costs money. But more than money is involved, as I am currently experiencing in my struggle to find decent space that I have budgeted to pay for, but cannot find.

        A key intangible, which I believe Woolf and those like her so often lacked, is encouragement or support of someone or a community that the artist values. This afternoon, for instance, I feel like quitting my quest for space and and my solo, but am blessed to have an amazingly supportive husband who keeps urging me to keep going. His boundless emotional support has been essential to keeping my art alive.

        Long story short, as you and a number of your readers have indicated, some people have enough passion or talent or both to surmount other obstacles that would hamstring others. They work hard all day and create at night, while others have more resources available but may be tapped out more easily.

        I am reminded of some African musicians one of my kids just turned me on to, who have made this gorgeous music, even as they are nomads trying to find food and water in their ongoing existence. Do I have the passion to be achieving that? I don’t know. I do know, that like you and other readers, dance and writing have been my sustenance, and I have scrabbled to keep them alive in the face of a number of droughts. I don’t know what the tipping point is for me, and frankly, I’d rather not find it.

        Thanks for the inspiration, D. Shine on. xo

      • Chloe, you again leave me in wonder at your eloquent reflections here. I know you prefer shorter posts LOL and appreciate the opportunity to know of (and share in) your struggles, artist to artist. I can’t imagine you not dancing. And as I said, I appreciate your words.

        You leave us a whole post, an articulate summary of what I put forth. Tapped out is right. I have pushed beyond my strength at times – and have come to the point of just turning in early so I can function and do it all the next day again.

        Food, air, rain, drought, art, breath, time. The stuff of our life.


      • Thank you for all of this, Diana, and for the opportunity to thrash through some of the topic. The process (and you) helped me do so sufficiently for me finally to work through the post I had been trying to write for the past few weeks (“RELENTLESS: Life Lessons from Dancing”) Done! Cheers, thanks, love, C

  30. Pingback: Weekly Mind Cleanup | A Bringer of New Things

  31. Pingback: Calling All Artists, Thinkers, Writers, Part 2: The Luxury of Art | Life Redeux

  32. I believe the very nature of art itself-especially with all that you mentioned in your first call-makes it very challenging to combine art with business, let alone turning it into one. The Pirate was right when he mentioned how art is freedom expressed by the artist.

    I think that’s why those who express it in the streets do outstanding masterpieces because the busyness of life does not hold them back. Their minds are completely calm, focused and centered on that which they love.

    For me, my battle is time. Not some much the quantity available for writing but more quality use of it in order to produce quality work. Often times evaluating my own art can challenging because I’m left wondering whether or not I put all that I should have, despite knowing there is nothing else to display.

    • Actually, the street artists/musicians I’d mentioned were plainly hoping for money. They looked pretty bedraggled, apparently struggling for the essentials of clothing and food – let alone the luxury of time to craft their best. But they were absolutely brilliant in their work. So much to unpack there. Wild!

      Thanks for sharing your struggle in the artistic process. And for being here. =)

  33. D, I love this series and need to re read your post again before a comment directly on it. And I’m working on that other thing as well. Ok get at you later…Shazz

    • Ben, I’ve been slow to get back to you bc I’ve been swamped juggling multiple projects for the blog, editing with bloggers, while juggling the activity on AHJ and home life.

      I can’t promise I can showcase your post here. I’m bringing in other guest authors on the heels of the Race and I’d like to give those who’ve not had their turn a chance. Why don’t you write it up, plan to post it yourself? You might do it while you’re warm to the subject. =) Send me your final draft in the body of the email and I’ll see how I’ll go about it. I can always mention it and link to you. Let me know how this sounds. And I wondered if expats and visitors have taken the LiKe virus to Korea. Hope you can enlighten me.

  34. Ok, so after re-reading this post, I’m not sure where to begin on the answer. Wow, this post is packed, but here I go. I think that creativity comes out no matter what. Since I was a single mom of very little means. I had moments when my creativity would jump out of me and there was nothing I could do but express it. They were far and few between but I did have moments. Overall, however, I think you’re right, that it does take a stable financial situation to give you the freedom to hone in the artist in you. Which has happened to me since my daughter is married and out of my house so to speak. Also, I don’t know that my thoughts would have been as relevant when I was younger, I needed to mature in my thinking before I could write anything of substance. (Oh no who’s to say I have matured lol)?

    Especially when it comes to writing about what I think I know and that’s being a single parent. I had to be done with my main parenting duties, before I could look at it objectively. Also, I needed to see the results of my labor as a single parent to be able to have anything of value to say about it. And when you’re in the trenches doing it with very little proof of positive results at that time, it can make you leery of saying anything. But having said all of that, D makes a good point about our mom’s not having the same privileges that we had, and being in a totally different set of circumstances. Although, I saw moments of creativity come out of my mom as she was raising me as well. Maybe more so than D saw in her mom, and maybe that had more to do with the culture differences. Uh oh D, that seems like a whole other post right there lol.

    • Ha ha. I like how you can smell a post under the pile of words. Really love the input, S, esp for your experiences as a single parent. Very good elaboration on the need to mature your thoughts to be able to produce better art. Sounds wise to me. Yes, offhand I don’t recall marks of artistic creativity in Mom from those years. She really had no time. Her dream always was to be a singer and learn the piano, the latter which she realized in me and the former through church choir after I left for college (just realized to a greater degree the significance of the choir!). Thanks so much for adding to the post.

  35. Art is not that sustainable here. Only a few get to earn enough out of their art. Some go all-out and consider their art as their bread and butter, no matter how little they get in return — that is very admirable. Many choose to put art aside to be able to survive better especially if they have families — that does not make them less admirable. It’s really all about choices and we have to find what should most satisfy us and not regret the choice. Of course, the ideal thing is to hold on to our passion, but the world does not work that way. If we have people like children that depend on us, a lot of things would have to be considered.

    Here, the government does not care much about art. Some years ago, I was a part of a team trying to create an organization that should help push for artists’ rights and opportunities. One worked for the government and knew what were required to file for papers and such so we tried to came up with those. But the already few of us couldn’t really keep up. Meetings dwindled. Resources became more scarce. Reality was we each had other roles to play in our lives other than artists, we had responsibilities we could not simply sacrifice. Sadly, if the government had clear programs for the art industry, we did not have to try to create an advocacy group in the first place.

    • Really appreciate this heartfelt, Informative feedback. I really like how you put it:

      “Many choose to put art aside to be able to survive better especially if they have families — that does not make them less admirable.” (Of course not.)

      “Of course, the ideal thing is to hold on to our passion, but the world does not work that way.”

      Would you mind sharing with us what part of the world you’re referring to – for the readers who’ll get to your comment? Thanks for being here.


  36. Interesting post Diana, and far too many points to comment on. I’ll just say one thing as a feminist from way back, and that is that I really don’t get women – and I mean this in a polite, non-judgemental way – who don’t get feminism. Feminism is purely and simply about the fact that women deserve equal rights. It doesn’t mean we are the same as men, it doesn’t mean we hate men, but it does mean we deserve equal respect and equal rights to men. So, I’m there with Woolf in her feminist stance.

    When it comes to children, though, that is a choice. If we choose to have children we need to accept that there will be ramifications on the rest of our lives. As the bearers of the children, the ramifications are likely to be stronger – probably due to both biology and society – on we women. It doesn’t mean we have to give up the rest of our lives but we have to find a new balance. I agree that we middle class people are more able to do that. I think self-expression usually will out – in some form – but without shelter, sustenance and time, it’s going to be much harder, probably less productive and not in the preferred form, and maybe less quality because you don’t have the time and energy to work at it. How many people produce great work in an instant? Even great artists need practice and/or usually some reworking of their output, whatever form it takes.

    We are lucky – or, I am, anyhow.

    And there, I’ve rambled enough, hopefully on topic!

    • You sure were on topic. I really appreciate this, your staying the course in the heated “argument”:

      “It doesn’t mean we are the same as men, it doesn’t mean we hate men, but it does mean we deserve equal respect and equal rights to men.” Not sure if this may mean an unfollow but I’m no feminist. I embrace the point, though. Would be ridiculous not to.

      Yes, those of us who choose to have children and long to create art need to navigate our own normal. Quite a challenge.

      Lovely no-nonsense articulation. Thanks so much.


      • Of course I wouldn’t unfollow … Disagreement is fine. It’s rudeness and name calling from the blogger that would send me away. I’m intrigued though why you don’t call yourself a feminist? I think you are saying you do believe you deserve equal rights – to property, to health care, to education, to pay for the same work. And in being accorded equal respect as an artist. If I understand that correctly then what is it that makes you not a feminist? Asking genuinely.

      • Yes on all those points! I didn’t want to open Pandora’s Box but since you ask: simply bc many feminists insist on these rights out of a paradigm different from mine. They come from a defensive stance (and then get offensive), that society considers men better, worthier (which obviously is true where it withholds rights. Read on.) They go on to claim women are in fact better.

        The genders are plainly different. Same does not mean equal. This is my sounding board. We can retain our differences as we embrace them and understand men and women have (and so certainly should) enjoy equal rights. I see a literal truth, that women tend to be physically weaker, of course with exception. And so that keeps us at a disadvantage where we pursue some of the work men can handle with greater ease. But the weakness is not a value judgmt. Just our design, which comes with a whole load of strengths men don’t have.

      • Thanks HW. Now, here is my point. A lot of people say they are not Christians because they don’t like what they see done in the name of Christianity but I would argue that you decide to be a Christian or not on the basis of whether your believe in the teachings of (the Christian) God and Jesus. The same goes with feminism. If we believe that women have equal rights to men, then I believe we are feminists. It is too easy, I think, to recoil from a belief because of its practitioners. Am I being too simplistic here?

        If this is a Pandora’s box you want to leave closed, I am happy for you not to answer, and for you even to delete this comment. I won’t be offended and I won’t unfollow, because I understand that the issue can attract emotional responses.

      • I wouldn’t delete a thoughtful comment a supporter took the time to leave. This dialogue is what makes this blog A Holistic Journey. =) But yes, if I happen to be fielding responses with heat potential when I’m as tired as I feel this morning =) I will stay within the line.

        Your simplicity and matter-of-factness are what I loved about your previous comment. Your logic here indeed holds. But I can also choose not to associate myself with the term “feminist”. Which takes us to a most fascinating world. Of language, association, identity.

        Thanks so much. I think you woke up my brain a bit.


  37. You have raised an importan issue. The world is shaped by those who strive to make a difference by striving to understand the true nature of our purpose, by those who would have things only as it suits them, by those who allow the worst and those who do not support better. Out true nature is not preset but will be what we evolve to create.

    If there is any battle it should not be between our genders, race, creed or religion. The true battle is between those who would live free and think freely and those who shape our notions so that we are confined and preyed upon.

    Division between us is one of those notions and part of our weakness, where unity is our strength. It is true that such notions become a reality by their acceptance and application. If we have any power over that, it is by denying the generalisations and considering each person and notion purely upon individual merit. By that we escape the boxes that rule us.

    Art has it’s place in all this as it stirs thought and the best or worst of whatever has already impacted out characters. Money and a room in which to write are a benefit but I don’t think they are a necessity. Many have managed without. The freedom to write is more passed upon our own ability to think without confinement. Wriing about it, in a way that has meaning to others, is a skill that needs to be acquired. If there is any constraint upon these things, it is not having the the time to spare. That free time was bought by the best of our forebears. We repay by using it well and passing it on. 🙂

    • I appreciate the minitreatise on art. =) The thing is, time is often a luxury of class. You agree with the other readers in their reminder that we honor our parents and ancestors by redeeming the opportunities they purchased for us with their sweat and blood.

      Thank you for your TiMe. =)


  38. You have the gift of writing. For you, I say never let it go. I’m sure we all have time. We all just need balance. Just know our priorities, be in control of it and never let one overrule the other. Outstanding and honest writing.

    • I just walked in very tired, mindful of the kitchen work that will eat into the blogging I’ve been eyeing all day. And I get this from you. Thanks so much. This thing called balance is very difficult when you’re the principal and executor of your child’s learning (and you want to be the principal and executor of your art!). Your encouragement means a lot.


  39. Ok just a quick note as I reserved the right to blog (on 3rd day of no speaking) as you are amazing.. Diana just to get to read all of these comments!! . And yes I read every one!..I am just SO glad you can show your boy your “genius”… I think our art (no matter what form) ..mine happens to be connecting intuitively… raising the kids ….I too went from having time to volunteer at my daughters school.. To single Mom remarried Mom struggles.. One thing my Step girls and Daughter saw was raw …yet passionate ways to express from me.. Sometimes too late at night..after cleaning teeth all day.. I had a room in my friends house when I went through my divorce ..Creativity in the form of starting my own business .. Still being full time Mom and finding the passions of spiritual connections to keep me sane… Or sometimes coming out of insanity.. I will never forget the time Aly wanted to read me the whole series of Harry Potter and she said “mom you better go to the doctor because you keep falling asleep”…she had no idea I was simply exhausted and would give her what little waking hours I had to simply hear her… I am now after the tender age of 58 (34 years as a hygienist) . cutting my hours way back to share my spiritual Journey and enjoy the girls accomplishments..including Aly’s (daughters) passion in writing like Rowlings.. ( along with engineering ) In conclusion …. You are awesome!!! Having a buck to feed your child is for you… not letting your genius lay underground .. Allowing others to benefit so greatly from your huge heart and thought provoking writing!! I would not change much about giving my all to my “Art” my spiritual Journey.. and now writing angel insights .. It leaves me without much retirement money.. Yet I breath from it… As you do from your writing… I have found I can live on very little when I feed myself what I came here to “BE”. Heart to heart Robyn… By the way even my best friends and family think I am coookoo for going inside for 14 days of silence to feed myself that calm center… IE impossible when the kids were home… much love to you Diana.. I will follow your Journey on this thought provoking heart felt Journey.. We are all connected as one on this Journey and feel our world is better because we dare express!! So much for my short comment.. On my iPhone so not sure if this all ran together.. Yet I think you get my heart

    • I sure do get your heart. =) You journal with a desperation. Talk about gasping for air. And you really did raise amazing girls, Robyn. Thanks so much for this glimpse into your struggles to keep up work outside the mothering, the girls, and all those spiritual insights.

      I appreciate this:
      … I have found I can live on very little when I feed myself what I came here to “BE”.

      Thank you for the encouragement not to keep my gifts buried. It’s a bloody battle for time.


  40. One blogger wrote: “Wealth might make it easier to express or give us more opportunity.”

    Allow me to apologize if my thoughts seem shocking in this context. I write to learn—searching, revising, evaluating and searching more. Others write fiction or evaluative prose, which I am not good at. A couple of thoughts that come to mind are:

    • The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. 13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. 14 But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand. 15 As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. 16 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind (Ecc. 5:13-17).
    • The preacher (Solomon) sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. 12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh (Ecc. 12:10-12).

  41. Diana…I can’t express to you how healing this post is not only for me but for the many other people who were blessed enough to read it attentively and thoroughly.

    I had songs wafting in my headphones and I had to stop and reflect periodically to absorb the insights. I remember feeling so alive when I would put on my favorite songs and dance around the room.

    I have many forms of creative expression. I share some. Others, I don’t. The point is living fully and feeling my best and I know that the rest will follow.

    I could really unpack a lot of what you talked about here in this post. I pinned it to my “Share your voice.” pinterest board so I can come back to it, though. It’s just purely beautiful and timely for the season of life I’m in.

    Be well. Be happy.

    • Wonderful to hear from you, Sandra. I’m glad to know something of your own joys and struggles and would encourage you to do just that, unpack my reflections in a post of your own. =) Thanks for the pin and warm feedback. I am honored to be able to help bless you.


  42. I have so many thoughts to write back to this, but I’ll try to limit myself. First: excellent post. 🙂 It speaks to many of the thoughts I’ve had lately about having children. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few wonderful people who are able to balance work, writing, and children…but I don’t know if I’ll be able to spread myself that thin especially since my job also involves children (I’m a teacher). I know I’ll need to work to survive and I know I can’t stop writing. When I have children, I know my priorities will shift–I just hope I’m able to squeeze out a few words a day. 🙂

    You made me think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…and I guess as for as thriving is concerned, I know it’s very difficult when one’s pocketbook is light to get up to the level of self-actualization (I grew up in a working class household and rarely saw my parents achieve what I would consider self-actualization). But I guess that doesn’t make it impossible. Maslow should’ve added elevators to his pyramid. 🙂

    • I appreciate this thoughtful feedback, Michelle. And good connecting: I taught 5th gr and then elem GATE way back in my other life. What I posed is a question I live everyday, esp as a homeschooling mom. Yikes, I’M his principal and educator! I believe others brought up Maslow here, too. Yeah, that darn elevator woulda been nice. I often have more questions than answers and it was wonderful just hearing both sides on this one. We’ve had the passionate idealists on one end and the pragmatists on the other. And here I am walking the tightrope, somedays only eyeing my blog. It’ll be really hard when you have kids. But those of us who sign up for this thing called motherhood have to remember we’re signing up for this thing called motherhood! A breathtaking, irreplaceable gift and privilege to be able to grow a human being in and outside our body.


My Two Gold Cents in the Holistic Treasury

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