Why struggling artists needn’t struggle at all

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Why struggling artists needn't struggle at all

The social media Q&A site Quora posted an interesting question recently:

“Does someone have any tips for a struggling writer?”

Those who responded wrote, ‘don’t give up your dream,’ ‘practice writing every day’, ‘believe in yourself’ and all that other motivational stuff so popular in the 90s.

But it struck me as odd that artists refer to themselves as struggling at all.

Writers don’t struggle because of an indecipherable alphabet that prevents them from constructing a sentence. Painters don’t struggle because they can’t put paint on a canvas, nor do musicians struggle because their instrument is a puzzle.

Vincent Van Gogh was a prolific artist but he didn’t struggle to paint. He just couldn’t sell his paintings to anyone except his brother.

Van Gogh’s obsessive passion for painting, and poor mental health, prevented him from working. He couldn’t support himself and died in poverty.

Which means he wasn’t a struggling painter. He was a financially non-viable one.

Artists struggle to support themselves economically. Especially when they attempt to be a full-time artist.

Thus, the best advice one can give struggling creatives is this: get a day job.

You can still pursue an artistic career between work and sleep.

After reflecting on the most relevant response to the Quora question, I decided on the following:  ‘Don’t give up your day job until you can give up your day job.’

I hope it helped.


This video of The Myth of the Tortured Artist explores the misheld assumption that creativity requires madness.

A recent research study found that those working in creative industries were no more likely to be mentally ill as anyone else. What the research did find was that there was a small percentage of creative professionals that suffered from bi-polar disorder in comparison to other professions.

The slight prevalence of bi-polar disorder in creatives can lead to highly productive and prolific work.

Sue Bell

Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.

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