Recently I wrote about musicians, labour and payment - Making Money from Creativity. In summary of the previous post: it’s the choice of the artist to be paid or work for free, but they have a right to earn.
Cool creative type Deane @ReceiverITW, someone whose perspective and creative endeavours have inspired me for years (check out his ideas and thoughts here) commented and something within it resonated. I will give you the full comment for context:
“I have over 20 years invested in what I do, and still people think that the fact I know them gives them the right to ask for a freebie for their charity, their church or their [insert thing they don't want to spend money on, but will benefit them].
I have found an export business (online sales) that lets me bypass most, if not all, of the locals. I sell to businesses who understand you pay for things, add value and on sell them.
Is what I’m selling art – absolutely. It can be done.
Do I get paid for all of my art? No. An audience is reward enough for me – and that is my greatest weakness, that it’s more important that the message be sent, than payment. But it is also my greatest strength, because I can ignore the money and say anything, with no thought to pleasing people’s wallets – only challenging their thinking.” (emphasis is mine)
An audience is reward enough for me… that’s it’s more important that the message be sent.
To address the issue of money briefly: it gives you more opportunity to deliver your message; to get your work to a wider audience; it allows you to continue to do what you are passionate about. Every artist has to come to his/her own decision on this topic because an artist will create regardless of recompense.
Fundamentally, every artist must examine his/her motivation: why am I creating this piece of work? What is its purpose? What is its message?
The sense of having a purpose, and of having a message (some would label it a “calling”) is the focal point of a creative person’s existence.
Purpose is the reason for which something is created or for which something exists. An artist’s PURPOSE is to create, just as it is the teacher’s purpose to teach and the nurse’s purpose to heal. It is the reason we do something. In the act of creating we find purpose.
I see two types of purposeful creativity.
The first purpose is to create for ourselves. It is practice and dedication to the discipline of the art we have chosen. The act of creation gives the self a great sense of satisfaction. As writers, artists, musicians, painters, sculptors, filmmakers it fulfils a basic and fundamental need in our lives.
The Book of Genesis puts it this way in relation to the completed work of creation, “And God saw that it was good.” Beautifully understated.
The second type of purposeful creativity is for the benefit of someone else. Returning to the Book of Genesis, the creation is given over to mankind, to replicate the creative act by caring for the creation. And for mankind a helper is created (there’s a reason why sex is so much fun – to quote Shakespeare, “There was much sport at his making”).
An artist must create. It is our purpose.
I am a writer. My purpose is to write.
An artist must have a message. But what is my message?
Having a purpose requires the clear articulation of your message. A creative work without a message is static, a resounding gong or clanging cymbal, a discordant noise shouted into the maelstrom of pedestrians streaming past.
You have to ask yourself, “What am I trying to say?”
As a writer, it is not enough to “tell a good story.” I want the story to have a purpose, to have a message, framed by good narrative technique. I practice, draft, edit, rewrite so my message is clear.
The individual message may vary from project to project, yet underlying your corpus is a core foundation of beliefs and values that will influence your creative endeavours.
Is your message:
- the redemptive power of love and sacrifice
- encouraging others to speak for the voiceless
- to rally people to bring justice where there is injustice
- the power of light to overcome the darkness
- the strength to have hope even in the midst of hopelessness
- to demonstrate laughter is indeed good for the soul and a subtle way of making a political or social point
- the undeniable pain of grief, and in doing so, to mourn with those who are grieving and to help them find comfort and solace
- the healing power of reconciliation where there is division
But a message with no audience edifies no one. Creativity requires an audience. Even if it only an audience of one.
As artistic and creative people, we want our works to be appreciated by others, for others to gain enjoyment from what we have created. Writers, artists, filmmakers turn to blogs to share their work and find an audience.
Our purpose is to create works with a clear message that arrests the attention of our audience.
Our work should be something that causes people to harness themselves, tie onto a secure tether and help them navigate their way through the treacherous digital abyss that seeks to swallow them whole.
Our creative works should give our audience meaning through its message. They should be a lighthouse in their darkness, a compass in their distress and a fellow traveller’s hand to hold for security, comfort and companionship.
The purpose for our creating sustains us and gives us life.
The message of our creation sustains and gives life to our audience.
As a creative person: What is your purpose? What is your message?