Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins is a book that reimagines the way we view artists, or, I should say, brings us back to an earlier time before the concept of the starving artist was formed.
While the ideas in this book make perfect sense, they felt big and scary to me. There’s a lot of big name celebrities and pauper to prince stories. I kept panicking that I was halfway through the book and still had nothing solid to stand on to get me from where I am to where I want to be.
To be honest, I think that the oft told tale of the starving artist made me feel good. We all love a good excuse for continuing to do things the way they’ve always been done. Not doing well felt expected for an artist. Success was for the lucky few, and it’d happen something like this: I would toil in isolation, and one day someone will discover how great I am, and sweep me off to the land of successful creatives, and we’d sit around drinking coffee in the afternoon, and we’d talk about what inspires us and make witty banter into the evening.
Athletes don’t play ball in their driveway hoping that a talent scout might drive through their neighborhood one day and discover them. Yet, here I was working on projects alone and in secret (lest someone steals my idea) hoping that if I build it, they will come. There’s a chapter on that.
Goins creates a list of myths and truths to help artists thrive using his Rules of the New Renaissance.
Rule Number 5. The Starving Artist waits to be noticed. The Thriving Artist cultivates patrons.
You see what I mean? These rules sometimes involve being more open and talking to people. No wonder I thought this book was scary.
I grew up, like most of you, with the image of an artist as a tormented soul doomed to share rented apartments with friends, always tight on money. As a teacher I heard countless students tell me that they were artists but wouldn’t pursue it as a career because they didn’t want to be poor; and besides, their parents had already explained that there is no future in the arts. So, when the book started discussing one successful artist after another, I got awkward.
I craved the comfort of familiarity. I wanted to see the artist tossing and turning and writhing in her bed. There was that long walk on the beach with F. Scott Fitzgerald, but still, I needed more suffering; people in the dirt. Why so much rolling about in despair?
Rule number 2. The Starving Artist strives to be original. The Thriving Artist steals from his influences.
I’ve often been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that it will take for me to finish a project. Sometimes getting started is the struggle because there’s much for me to learn and research takes time and brain cells fry with overuse. The result? I often never get started at all. The weight becomes too great; the task too monumental; the hours lonely.
Rule number 7. The Starving Artist always works alone. The Thriving Artist collaborates with others.
I know, again with the talking to people. But trust me, each of these rules have made a huge difference in the way that I go about my creative life and work. And with each rule comes guidance and real world examples from past and modern times.
I didn’t start off thrilled with this book, mainly because it asked me to do things I was uncomfortable with. But like the insistent rain in Spain, the lessons stuck with me, and they kept coming up in my life as a creative. I would be feeling stuck in some way and would remember, yes, there was a chapter on this and maybe I should actually apply it. And yes, I’ve seen the payoffs.
This book doesn’t scream at you. It’s not a carpe diem book. The ideas are practical and applicable for artists, creatives and entrepreneurs.
1. Seek collaboration.
2. You are what you say you are, and there’s nothing sleazy about speaking confidently about your talents and ambitions
3. Seek a mentorships.
4. Don’t be afraid of building a diverse body of work.
The chapters won’t take our hand and walk us to the publisher’s office. Hell, they won’t even walk us to our writing desk or studio. They do point us in the right direction, though. Society has been pointing us to the outdated notion that artists, real artists, must starve. This book points us in a different direction. And if the alternative is starvation, why not give it a shot?
Real Artists Don’t Starve doesn’t delve into the artist’s craft and how she might create work that draws success; neither does it reach into the realm of motivational speaking with broad concepts that might apply to any situation. It’s in the middle somewhere, right where we need it. The lessons are flexible, the action steps are doable, the concepts are obvious, yet revolutionary, old yet new. You’ll read this book wondering why you were ever convinced that you had to starve to be an artist.
If you’re interested in ordering the book and you click on the link in this post for it, I’ll get some fresh coins in my pocket to continue my own journey as a well-fed creative.
I really hope that you check this book out if you’ve ever felt like you’re toiling in obscurity or afraid to go after your creative dreams because there’s nothing on the other side but Poe and Van Gogh suffering. There are people out there doing it right and finding success. Until reading this book, I fell for many of the myths about what living a creative life looks like. I can gladly say that I was wrong, and you can too.
Are you an artist, creative, or entrepreneur? What have you found to be the most frustrating aspects? Would you like to share some tips on what has worked for you? Let the venting and sharing begin!
My name is Lyz-Stephanie and I want to inspire you to be more connected to yourself and the world, to find beauty in simple pleasures, and to have more adventures. Every day we can do something to make our lives happier and richer, make our minds more active and engaged. I’m on the journey. Will you join me?