All about the money?

Posted on August 15, 2012


With fierce competition and often dismal pay, being creative for a living can sometimes feel like banging your head against a brick wall while being pelted with kippers. In the snow. However – prepare your smug faces, penniless artists – according to a new study published in Psychological Science, respect from your peers is a far superior source of happiness than wealth could ever be.

Psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, found that being respected and admired by others had a profound and lasting effect on wellbeing whereas the joy we get from money is shortlived. Having long since realised that a career in the media wasn’t going to line my polyester pockets with copper, let alone gold, this got me thinking about the old issue of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. We all know what it means to Aretha, but what about those working in the arts? Do we all need a pat on the back occasionally, or is it enough to simply be doing something you love?

Any writer, painter, film-maker or musician will assure you they’re not in it for the money or their own office with a sea view – earning big bucks in a soulless 9 to 5 won’t waft you away to nirvana on a tranquil breeze of contentment.  Success comes in a myriad of other forms – but is respect and admiration one of them?

Creative recognition’s a wily and seductive little minx. I know it well. That twinge of joy every time someone comments on an article I’ve written or a photo I’ve taken. Hurrah! Someone out there actually gives a hairy frog’s leg about something I’ve so lovingly crafted! The world is mine! In short, it’s blooming lovely to get affirmation of your arty talents and if it also means you can pay the rent doing something you love – that’s pretty amazing.

But we all know relying on external opinion to underpin your work can be dangerous – and not just because the Dalai Lama says so. If I’ve learned anything throughout my creative career it’s that for every person that ignites your ego by complimenting your latest project, someone else will snipe that your short story’s the worst thing they’ve read since picking up a Louise Mensch novel. Andy Warhol once said ‘don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches,’ and the funny little popster had a point.

If you want lasting bliss from your art, don’t wait for someone to tell you how great it is – just keep creating it. In my experience, using other people’s opinions as a barometer for the amount of satisfaction you get from your work just leads to a shitstorm of confusion and self loathing. Believe me, you don’t want to clean that up.

After all, if Van Gogh, Kafka and Bach are anything to go by, not being recognised in your time is an accolade not to be sniffed at. At least that’s what I tell myself.

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