Here's why money doesn't matter. And why you should (or shouldn't) care.
by Loren A. Roberts (guru of multi-hyphenate media)
I want to talk about our wrong-mindedness. Yes, I'm calling it out. You, and I, are constantly thinking about the wrong things. Specifically money. And it's stressing you out.
Why? Why do we spend so much time worrying about money -- something that has nothing to do with our art -- and therefore stresses us out so much that we lose sight of the reason we originally dropped everything to become an artist?
Stop it. This preoccupation with money is a distraction.
I'm not saying to let your finances go in the toilet. In fact, I'm saying the opposite. Go get some simple financial training. Take a class. Math is not hard, if you stick with it for a while. (The main reason that so many of us hate math is that many of our teachers in gradeschool were either scared of math themselves, or scared of their school's math curriculum. Honest. But that's probably another blog post.)
And here's the thing: making your monthly rent is infinitesimally small compared to the truckloads of money being thrown around on paper just a few blocks away from you or me (that's New York City and L.A.).
Okay, get ready for a wild, and completely non-scientific, comparison of your money to their money.
(Hey look: I got a Smash reference into this post!) In Hollywood, as on Broadway, many small people are paid peanuts so that a few people at the top can make millions. Just this past week, Los Angeles watched FX house Rhythm and Hues die (well, Chapter 11) a horrible death, because the major Hollywood studios have decided that they can make tons of money on the backs of small companies to do all the heavy lifting for their tentpole (massive summer blockbuster) films. And there are plenty of us who will bend over and take it in the behind just to get a shot at the celebrity of having the next "The Last Five Years" or "Pirates of the Caribbean," right? But I gotta tell you, it's not worth it. Rhythm and Hues found that out that hard way, and now lots of people (people I know) have lost their jobs.
SO WHAT'S THE ANSWER?
Make your art because you believe in it. Not because it's going to make you gobs of money or celebrity. And then handle your money shrewdly. If you don't know how, find someone who does know how to handle money -- that can be trusted -- and pay them to help you. And then stop spending (even I need to work on this one!), and save and save and save, and spend shrewdly only when you absolutely need to.
Why? Because I want you to have the space -- and place of rest -- to do your art.
CREATIVITY AND SLEEP
We have been told time and time again that rest and sleep help us be more creative. So what happens when you are worried about money? Do you -- literally -- lose sleep over money issues? I know I have. Stop it. Take a break. And if you don't feel you can take a break, then you haven't figured out how to manage your money well enough. Go back and do the math again.
SO WHAT ABOUT THIS WRONG-MINDEDNESS?
Check out that graphic above. I know I'm comparing apples to oranges to Fruit Loops, but check out how much money Apple has on hand. And how much NBC spends on each episode of Smash (it's probably a bit lower this season, or will be as soon as they look at their ratings...). And now let's look at ourselves. A 2-bedroom apartment in NYC could cost you $3,000-$3,500 per month (on average), or up to $42,000 per year. The same apartment in L.A. will cost you $2,000-$2,500 per month, or $30,000 per year. You are spending 1% of the cost of one episode of Smash on your entire year's rent. So get over the money, make the money work, and just get down to the business of making your art. Smash/Wicked/Apple are all a long way off from your reality, and should not be considered part of your income-generating plan. If you win the Broadway/Hollywood lottery, good for you; but most of us won't. And that's fine, as long as our financial house is in order. We can get our rest, be comfortable enough to have the energy and mental capacity to create, and go ahead and make art.
Why am I telling you to do this? Well, first, I'm writing this as much for myself as for you. I need to pull back and get my own financial house in order, and do it so that I can carve out space -- and restful space -- to be creative. But also I'm concerned for many of my friends who believe grabbing part of that Broadway/Hollywood lottery is the only way to succeed at being a performing/writing artist. It's not, and it's dangerous to get distracted by hopes for celebrity, when in actuality what you want to be doing is making good art.
So what are you going to do?
LOREN A. ROBERTS produces films, videos and music, designs magazines and logos, plays and sings in a Doobie Brothers tribute band, and is a student of what happens when science and technology and the arts and culture collide. www.hearkencreative.com
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