He reads a script and within 24 hours has a beautiful sketch. After a director approves his sketch he makes some minor changes and then puts it into his computer. He does some magic with numbers and proportions and then he disappears for five weeks. I see him at nights when he comes home smelling like sweat and sawdust, tired and ready for bed. Then, I go to the show.
Those 70 or so pages of text have morphed into a three dimensional, two story, brightly colored reality. The set strong enough and large enough that adults run, jump and dance on it for a few weeks. Then he tears it all down and starts all over again. It’s hard work. He has literally put blood, sweat and tears into he does. It’s amazing.
Art for Art's sake
He does this full time for a local community theater. It’s good and steady pay for him to do what he loves. But there’s this pervasive idea out there that artists do "art for art’s sake." That they didn’t get into this gig for the money because “everybody knows that artists don’t make money.” It’s victim blamey and gross.
So artists starve. They do their work for peanuts while working a barrista job on the side. They take what work they can, even if it’s less than what they value their work for because at least it’s something, right? And the cycle continues.
When we lived in an artists’ co-op we saw this demonstrated on the first Friday of every month. Our co-op would open its doors to the public and they could come into our homes - for free - to look at the things we had made. And usually they’d walk back out again saying, “Who would pay $2000 for a painting? Why would I pay $500 for that vase?”
But they fail to realize that painting took a month of work and that the supplies aren’t cheap. Or that the sculptor had to rent kiln time, pay for clay that didn’t make it into the final piece and may have scrapped dozens of other vases to reach this final result. And they don’t see the six weeks of work my husband put into a show that they watch for 2 hours and complain about paying $20 a ticket for. He’s just one of many people that gets a show up and running and all of them have bills to pay.
Healing for Healing's Sake
There is a similar attitude in the complementary medical field - that we get into things like teaching yoga or practicing massage because we “want to make the world a better place.” I guess it makes sense that the further to the left you get on the hippy spectrum the more you’re going to see attitudes that are “above money” and about doing things for the “good of humankind.”
I embrace my hippiness. I’d love it if money were not an issue and that I could do what I do for free. I want to be above money. I want to do this for the good of humankind. But that’s not the world I live in. The world I live in requires money to survive. Gone are the days I could be a midwife living in a hut the village provided trading my services for food and goods. I have student loans, rent, grocery and other bills to pay for. I can’t turn away money.
Your work has value - see it. Ask for it.
The idea that you have to be a starving artist or an dirt poor healer is bullshit. You’re not selling out because you want a roof over your head and food in your belly and you shouldn’t be ashamed of surviving. You value your work, if you didn’t you wouldn’t be doing it. That means that your work has value. Whether it’s art or healing - you are making the world a better place. We live in a fiscally focused society and it’s time that we accept that the only way we can convince our customers and patients that our work should be appreciated is to put a price tag on it.
Related links and posts:
Another way we devalue our services is discounting our services for the sole reason of bring people in. Check out this awesome Being Boss Minisode - Discounts are Bullshit
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How do you demonstrate to your customer base that what you do has value?