It’s a curious thing, that in popular media, the more broke you are, the fancier your dwelling. From movies to tv, we’re constantly shown the bankrupt scientist living in the flashy New York penthouse, to the struggling waitress/wannabe-actress in the huge apartment in a trendy LA suburb.
It’s no different when it comes to we creative folk. For some odd reason, we’re frequently depicted as living in swank lodgings – bizarrely, in ultra clean, expensively minimalistic homes, which does make me wonder whether these people have ever met an artist in their lives – with dozens of the shiniest and newest gadgets at our disposal.
Don’t we all wish.
The reality for most of us – especially those of us just starting out – is closer to being crammed in a small space (a studio or workroom for the luckier ones, a cluttered bedroom for those of us not) and while I’m sure there’s many (some? maybe?) creative people who are fastidiously neat, it’s been my experience that we’re generally not, so that room is going to be filled with the detritus of projects past and present and probably a half dozen coffee cups.
(We probably do have a whole lot of excellent tech though)
It’s also far likelier that it’s 4am in the morning, not a socially acceptable 11am, and that we’re not getting paid anywhere near enough to justify that.
That said however, there’s a fairly large amount of us that come from mundane day jobs that share a good deal of these qualities, especially the low pay and unstable hours part – can anyone say ‘retail’?, and in many ways, the perks can outweigh the downsides.
(Plus, hey, we can always hope for that holiest of Holy Grails, the stable studio job)
A glance at one of the many, many joke lists that populate the internet, lists that are usually entitled something along the lines of ’25 things NEVER to say to an Artist’ reveals many of the similarities we in the respective disciplines share.
From frustrating clients (I think we all know the rage that comes from hearing “well, I’ll know it when I see it”) to the age old “oh, we can’t pay you, but you’ll get loads of exposure! (can I pay my rent with exposure? buy food?) and even everyone’s favourite ‘So when are you going to get a real job?”, we frequently see the darker side of the “work as play” mantra. There’s a remarkable amount of people -a disturbing amount of them within the creative industries no less- who seem to be of the belief, that if it’s enjoyable, then it’s not really work, and why should they get paid for their hobby?
But then, on the flip side, we do this kind of stuff because we love it. We’d be a special kind of crazy, putting up with this if we didn’t. The love for our respective disciplines is what gets us through the bad projects and the lean times, keeps us constantly seeking out fresh knowledge and finding excellent buddies in our peers, and puts that little extra spark in the work that we create. It makes it worth it.