The Untold Story of How Money Affects Your Creative Passion
“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” ~ Andy Warhol
I’m certain you’ve heard the statement that making money from your passion kills the passion. How true is this?
Just like you, I’ve heard this statement bandied around many times. And I’ve taken it at face value without critically examining its merits and demerits.
As a result of this line of thinking, many of us creatives are torn between seeking out viable ways to monetize our creative works and sticking with just creating as a hobby.
But as I came to the end of writing part 1 of this series on Art + Entrepreneurship, the question came to my mind again. “Does money kill creative passion?”
So why don’t we critically consider this question now? First off, what is a passion?
“Passion is a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something”
So our original question can be reframed this way: Does money kill our strong feelings or enthusiasm about creating?
Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert’s cartoon, in a Wall Street Journal interview, explains that passion ebbs and flows because as our definition above has just shown, passion is about feelings.
For example, I heard a guy on the radio talking about how when his sons were younger, they got into different sports. And they’ll spend money buying expensive sports gear and uniforms only for his sons to lose interest and change their minds after a while.
I’m sure we all have similar life experiences which can make us relate to his sons. So one thing we can definitely say about our interests is this:
Passion is not enduring and therefore cannot be relied on.
Does Money Kill Creative Passion?
The truth is whether you make money or not, your passion for whatever it is you create, may come and go as it pleases.
There are several reasons why we lose interest in something. Scott Adams argues that failure is something that kills your passion.
The [projects] that didn’t work out – which was most of them – slowly drained my passion as they failed. The few that worked became exciting as they succeeded.
The easiest way for your passion be drained is therefore not by making money from it but to repeatedly fail at doing that thing. I find this quite interesting because it means passion does not guarantee success. Success, on the other hand, can fuel your passion.
Scott Adams puts it this way,
In hindsight, it looks as if the projects that I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked. But objectively, my passion level moved with my success.
He goes on to say:
Success caused passion more than passion caused success.
Put that way, it sounds jarring to the senses but I happen to agree with Adams. However, I approach this concept quite differently.
I call my concept, “the gift of progress” which I explain in this blog post. The summary of my concept is this. Making progress (or success if you will) motivates you, it fuels your passion for doing more and makes you accomplish bigger tasks.
Money does not kill passion otherwise, we’ll not have superstars. But failure can.
The Bigger Question About Money and Creative Passion
Having said all this, I think the bigger question we’re trying to answer is not whether money kills passion. It’s “how do we find meaning or fulfillment in our lives”?
We’ve somehow tied having a meaningful life to our passions. So it’s not surprising anything that appears to be a threat to our passion gets us all anxious about losing our life’s meaning.
The founder, Benjamin Todd, of 80,000 hours ( FYI: that’s the total number of hours you’ll work in your lifetime), believes we’ve got the order all wrong.
In a TED talk, Todd explains that we think our interests/passion matter more than they do because we underestimate how much they change.
“For most people, it’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion. “
The current order we follow in deciding on our life careers is this:
Todd argues that finding a fulfilling career does not start with following your passion. Rather, true meaning in life is found when you master a skill and use it not for only yourself but for the good of others.
Answering The Question About Money and Creative Passion
Dilbert creator Scott Adams and 80,000 hours founder, Benjamin Todd, are separated in age by probably a few decades. And while Adams speaks from a lifetime of experience, Todd speaks from a short youthful experience backed by loads of research, yet they both come to the same conclusion.
Passion is not what you focus on when you want to build a meaningful career. Start with skill/ mastery and working for the greater good.
Neither money nor passion give our lives meaning. It’s how our skills benefit others that gives us true meaning.
In conclusion, if you decide to monetize your creative work and turn it into a career (not a hobby), do what’s valuable.
That’s to say, focus on getting good at something you like that genuinely helps others. Then your success will fuel your passion and in turn, give your life meaning.
Part 4 of the series will be on “The Secret to Maintianing Your Creative Focus in a Commercial Environment”
What are your thoughts about money and creative passion? Does the fear of killing your creative passion stop you from going professional with your creative work? Do comment. I really want to hear your opinion.
You may also be interested in other topics in this series:
1: Making the Decision to Monetize Your Creative Work
2: The Truth About Art and Creative Passion
3. The Secret to Maintaining Your Creative Focus
4. Seven Practical Ways for Textile Artists to Make Money
5. Art & Entrepreneurship – Interview with Melanie Brummer (1)
6. Art & Entrepreneurship – Interview with Melanie Brummer (2)