IMHO Installment #72: Artists Can Be Money Motivated

13 Jul 2007


I'm almost finished! For the past several weeks, I've been working on writing something for a big contest. There's one prize: $1,000. Maybe there are a few consolation prizes -- honorable mentions and such -- but only one real monetary prize.

Today, it struck me that, of almost all the things I've written: (1) I've really tried with this one, paying attention to every detail as though the smallest individual phrase is as important as the larger themes; and (2) this has turned out far better than most of the other crap I've written. I don't know what that says about me as a person or "artist," but apparently I'm simply money motivated.

So, I've come up with a new personal maxim that I'm going to begin employing in my creative efforts (and, no this doesn't necessarily apply to blogging, which I usually squeeze in when I can). The maxim is:

"Always Write As Though There's a Large Cash Prize at Stake"

Maybe this is why I didn't win the Nicholl fellowship for screenwriting a few years back. I could've still tuned up some lines, could have re-thought the marketability of the piece, etc. Back then, I churned out an "art piece" of largely personal interest instead of a more mainstream artistic work. But this new thing, while brief, is polished. It's the most god damned polished thing I've ever done. And I'm pleased, both artistically and with the confidence required to submit it. So, even if I lose, I sort of win anyway.

Just thought I'd share. If you're basically money motivated, maybe you can leverage my maxim, above, for your own artistic efforts. After all, if you aspire to be an artist, you generally need to get yourself to a point at which you're making enough dough to live on via your art. This means you're responsible for bringing art into the world that the marketplace will respond to favorably (at least until you're "established" at which you can do whatever you want creatively). This is old wisdom, of course. Many screenwriting books advise that much ("write mainstream, marketable, high-concept screenplays; save your indie arthouse masterpiece for later in your career").

Just to be clear, I'm not criticizing art that's produced by those unconcerned with the marketplace, or even encouraging others to put the marketplace above their own aspirations. I'm simply sharing a personal story of success found by paying attention to the marketplace and also noting that this could well provide artists with a valid path to financial security, a place that will ultimately allow them more artistic freedom than they might otherwise have enjoyed.

Original Comments

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On July 13, 2007, anandamide wrote:

you now share a personal maxim with Phil Collins.

sorry, low blow ... ..

On July 13, 2007, anandamide wrote:

actually I totally agree that art and commerce can co-exist. it just cracked me up thinking about phil collins sitting at home writing dreck like "one more night" while dreaming of a big sack of money. or perhaps writing one of those lovey ballads TO money.

On July 15, 2007, Dragon Laugh wrote:

Ah, and that should be, uh, "creativity," by the way. Darn c and v keep switching places on my keyboard I swear.

Unless I say I was being creative, of ourse ... then vreativity is the new "in" word.

On July 15, 2007, Chris wrote:

Dear Mr. Gas,

Greed is good.


Gordon Gekko

On July 16, 2007, pezda wrote:

I always pursue my art as though ... Ah who am I kidding, I can barely muster the motivation needed to do the dishes let alone pour my emotions into some form of art.

On July 16, 2007, Evil Genius wrote:

I wish I were motivated by something. Money sounds good, but contempt for the rest of the world is all I can muster.

On July 17, 2007, Winter wrote:

So did you win already?