Freelance and Business

Sustaining The Practice of Art

“The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.” ~Kurt Vonnegut

Chase Jarvis recently posted about his Create-Share-Sustain paradigm. I’ve referenced it, linked to it, quoted it several times this past year. In that paradigm, the notion of sustaining the create-share cycle is generally seen as a financial one. It’s the grease on the wheels that allows you to keep going – whether that’s working at Starbucks or a day-job you love, or even making photographs as a career itself. But there are other means by which we sustain ourselves. Man, Jesus once said, does not live by bread alone. Of course, He was referring to prayer, a sustenance of the soul.

Art too sustains the soul. But how do you sustain art?

I’m ending, as you know, an incredibly busy year. It’s been exciting, and my work has certainly sustained and grown my soul, to use the words of writer Kurt Vonnegut. But you know that bit in physics: every action has an equal and opposite reaction? It’s like that in metaphysics too. As a result this year and the work I did, has also had something of a draining effect. I am tired. I am running out of images and words. I’m feeling it. So what do you do when the thing that sustains you begins to tire you? What do you do when the shelves are bare?

I think you go back and put stuff on the shelf. For the creative soul I think the way we do that is a little counter-intuitive: we shoot more, write more, we go back to the well and fill it with the same bucket we use for drawing water in the first place. We get intentional about the process and stop worrying about the products. We stir the paint. We take more risks. We work more, not less. If you’re a VisionMonger and your work feeds you literally as well as metaphorically, it means you take the time to do personal projects and create something for you and not only your clients. It is not just as important that you feed your own creative soul before you feed your market, it is more important.

I’ll tell you my plan in the coming days, but for now I’m curious about you. Forget resolutions and plans for the new year for now. For now, forget the steps you’ll take to improve your business. What do you do to stir the paint? Where do you go to fill your well?



VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography

Last week my new book got rolled out on, which means two things. Thing One: I can now talk about it. Thing Two: I guess I need to start writing this sucker now. Just kidding. Almost done, promise. VisionMongers: Making A Life and a Living in Photography is due out in November/December. Amazon lists […]

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