Weekend Edition – On Art and Money Plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

Money: Taboo Topic or Merely Impolite Conversation

elephantThere’s an elephant in our midst.

I didn’t notice it right away, but a recent conversation with friends brought its hulking, gray-green presence to my attention: the beast known as Money.

Money and art do not typically make good bedfellows. For the vast majority of creative types, there is a fairly substantial (some might even say, “monumental”) gap between The Work and Worldly Compensation. Hence the stereotype of the “starving artist.” The world, it seems, does not appreciate art as much as it appreciates, say, hedge fund investments or large manufacturing operations.

And yet … there are artists (and writers) who have clearly found a way to make a (very nice) living with their craft.

One of the friends with whom I was discussing the whole money issue shared a bit of link bait that was actually quite interesting: 21 Ways Rich People Think Differently. The article is a compilation of excerpts the book How Rich People Think by Steve Siebold. Scanning through the list of observations, I was appropriately horrified to discover that I hold certain unfounded prejudices against money and the wealthy. For instance, the first two sub-heads from the post are:

  • Average people believe money is the root of all evil. Rich people believe poverty is the root of all evil. – “”The average person has been brainwashed to believe rich people are lucky or dishonest.”
  • Average people think selfishness is a vice. Rich people think selfishness is a virtue. – “If you’re not taking care of you, you’re not in a position to help anyone else. You can’t give what you don’t have.”

My not-so-original point is this: If you’re holding a secret grudge against money, maybe you’ve got the wrong mindset for making money. There’s a bit of a guilt factor (something we talked about last week in the context of the writer’s fear of self-indulgence) in play, but there’s also a kind of reverse snobbery that can sabotage your earning ability without you even realizing it. Think about it. If you believe, deep down, that money is the root of all evil and rich people are, therefore – by association – also evil, how on earth could you possibly develop a positive mindset about money?

I am by NO means a money whisperer, guru, or expert. Like most people, I’ve got plenty of baggage when it comes to money. I do, however, make my living with words; and I’m working my way towards making my living with artistic words. I still have plenty of emotional and logistical hurdles to clear, but I’m pretty sure that just acknowledging my knee-jerk prejudice against money is a good first step. And I also think that talking more about money – more frequently, more openly, more truthfully – is also a step in the right direction. You up for that?

What I’m Writing:

typewriter royal conwaySo this past Tuesday I finally made it to the Fiction I Grub Street class that I had to miss last week due to my daughter being home sick. Though Grub Street is based in Boston, this particular course (taught by the lovely and very helpful KL Pereira) is being held in the writing center’s “satellite” location at The Salem Athenaeum. And what a satellite it is. The place absolutely reeks of literature. (Next time I will take pictures to share.)

Although I haven’t begun the actual writing yet, I learned on Tuesday that I will be submitting two pieces (complete or partial, up to 25 pages each) to be workshopped by the class. Although this discovery made me wince a little (mostly on the inside), I know that this fabricated deadline combined with forced participation is just what I need to motivate me. There’s nothing like the risk of embarrassment to inspire me to spring into action.

Complicating matters slightly is the fact that our submissions are meant to be short stories, a genre I’m not all that familiar with. As a matter of fact, until this class, I could likely count the number of short story collections I’ve read using only my ten fingers. But, I’m learning – through reading and follow-up class discussions – just what makes a strong short story, and I’m ready to start experimenting with my own.

My biggest challenge at the moment is trying to choose which story to work on. I have a couple story ideas from years ago, and a few more from recent musings. I’m just not sure which one to pick. I’ll be mulling that over this weekend.

Meantime, while KL is full of all kinds of great information, explanations, and examples, I think I’ll save the bulk of those for other posts. I would, however, like to share a great resource she mentioned: The Fiction Writer’s Character Chart by Rebecca Sinclair (via Eclectics.com). This is similar to  (but a bit more categorized than) the 90 Things to Know About Your Characters Before You Start Writing post I shared from Kathy Temean last week. In either case, I challenge you to complete either (or both!) of these questionnaires for your main character and see if you don’t get tripped up. My lesson of the week: I need to know a LOT more about my characters before I really KNOW them.

What I’m Reading:

book diving bellesThis week’s short story reading assignment from class was “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor. While I realize it’s a classic piece of American literature, if I’m being honest, I didn’t enjoy it. I hear O’Connor is an acquired taste, but I don’t expect to be clamoring for more of her stories any time soon. Or ever. The whole experience made me feel like I was back in some college lit course.

Still – I can see the value in reading and studying well-written stories, even ones you don’t particularly like. Class discussion about last week’s read (“Moving On” by Diane Cook) included analysis of character, conflict, and context – the basic building blocks of any story, short or long. I was particularly intrigued by “context,” which is an element I have not read about as much as I’ve read about character and conflict. (More on that later.)

In addition to my “homework” reading, I’m also enjoying (though slightly baffled by) a collection of short stories by Lucy Wood. The tales in Diving Belles are eclectic to say the least. Loosely based on Cornish folklore, Wood has played with the traditional characters, themes, and elements of these ancient stories to create new, sometimes twisted, always interesting versions.

As someone interested in magical realism, this collection appeals to my desire to blend the fantastic with the everyday. I’m only a few stories in, but I can already sense that this will be a book I will return to for inspiration.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin get the money

Here’s to developing a healthy mindset about wealth, writing even when you’re scared, trying new things, and getting the money. 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

39 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – On Art and Money Plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

    • I’ll have to agree to disagree, but I am learning to develop a better relationship with money. It’s not evil. It’s just an inert object. It’s “goodness” or “evilness” comes only from the actions of human beings. Artists having money is, I think, one of the better ways money can be put to good use.

    • Always nice to “see” you, Steven. Loved the video you posted re: the photographer using Google Hangouts to share his photo walks with bed-ridden people. What a great story and what a wonderful use of social technology.

  1. I hope you keep writing about this new way of looking at money and our relationship with it. You write about it so clearly and have no agenda except to improve one critical element of your own quest for a healthy life.

    There is nothing evil or selfish about achieving financial independence or self-sufficiency. You cannot be in full control of your life and your life choices without it.

    Thoughtful discussions by writers like you might begin to change that mindset for others. While “starving artist” might carry a romantic illusion, there is nothing appealing about poverty or financial dependency.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Sammy, and for sharing your thoughts on the topic. I agree that there is nothing inherently evil or selfish about working towards and achieving financial independence; but – sadly – there continues to be a cultural tendency to think of money as a contaminating agent, especially when it comes to its potential influence on art.

      As I said in response to a comment above, I would rather see money in the hands of artists than many other traditionally wealthy groups. I wonder how wealthy artists might choose to change the world if they had the means to do so. I wonder how different their vision might be from that of, say, real estate developers or stock brokers or manufacturing moguls.

      • That is an interesting observation – it pushes me to make a notation in my journal to do some research on wealthy artists , including authors, (they do exist) to see what they are doing with their wealth to impact societal issues now.

        In fact, I just read a fascinating interview with Pharrell Williams that made me think “this is one of those self-made artists who is going to influence societal norms during his lifetime”.

        I would object to making a comparison between artists and what other wealthy individuals do, and I would object to even questioning whether the other wealthy categories you mention make a difference now. They do. Bill Gates is one of the most reknown who works on social, health and educational causes. But if you research almost anyone in the business fields you mentioned, who is “self-made wealthy” you will find enormous generosity and impact.

        It is a huge leap from convincing struggling artists that financial self-sufficiency is a worthy value, and discussing the virtues or evils of the ultra-wealthy.

        Frankly our world would be far healthier if we backburner the latter and focus on the former.

        Thanks again for initiating a valuable conversation. I hope it’s one others will think about and join. And I hope you continue to share your lessons and experience because I truly believe you can guide others walking your path.

      • There is SO much to dive into here.
        Thanks for calling me out on my continued (albeit subconscious) prejudice against the wealthy classes. You are right to object to my automatic assumption that the philanthropic activities of those made wealthy by traditional business means would be any less than wealthy artists. In fact, I’m sure there are plenty of wealthy artists who are as stingy as the day is long. Bottom line – I shouldn’t jump to conclusions or profile anyone based simply on their bank account balances.

        I’m very much looking forward to your comments on the piece I have simmering on the back burner for next Saturday’s weekend edition. It’s related, but expands the question even further.

        Thanks for the great conversation!

    • I hadn’t heard that particular quote. It made me giggle.

      I find it challenging to agree or disagree.

      On the one hand, the writing I currently do to earn my living (copywriting and content marketing) is absolutely writing I would never do except for money.

      On the other hand, I do plenty of writing without any monetary compensation: my personal journaling, the blogging I do here, my column for the local paper, etc. Each of those does come with its own rewards, sometimes it’s about having a creative outlet, blowing off steam, or connecting with like-minded folks.

      But I would also say that writing is something that is worthwhile even if there is no immediate reward. Non-writers would, I bet, have a hard time perceiving the rewards of journaling, for instance; BUT I still believe that for them to write would be a valuable exercise.

      Interesting question about what motivates us to write different things and at all. Thanks for bringing this to the conversation.

    • Good distinctions, Curt.
      I love how this topic is bringing up so many interesting perspectives and ideas. Thanks for contributing to the group brainstorm. 🙂

    • Hello, Silent! 🙂
      Of course now I’m wondering which book you’re interested in. I have a few that were mentioned in that post, and I also made notes of a few which I don’t (yet) have, but want to explore. Books on the writing craft are a weakness of mine.

      Hope you’re enjoying your weekend!

      • Yes…it’s a great weekend. I finished my first draft and I’m going crazy looking for something (I want) to do. Ha.

        Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft

        I have the other books. I just wish I could understand all of them at the same time. And…be able to do what they say when I’m in a scene.


  2. Hi Jamie – for some reason your 2nd comment never came through my notifications so I couldn’t “reply” above. I look forward to your next post. This site has been such a terrific “find” for me.

    We each come at these complex issues with our own personal upbringing and experiences. We also are aware of what our own sacrifices have been in order to make choices about our path. What’s not so obvious is understanding the sacrifices someone else has made who chose a different path.

    Nevertheless, I commend you for understanding that taking personal responsibility for your financial health, and developing an informed attitude towards its role in your well-being is key to living a better life.

    • You bring up such a great point, Sammy. Each of our stories is unique, and therefore each of our perspectives is unique. I guess that’s why there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for overcoming any kind of issues (money ones included).

      Thanks again for adding to the conversation.

      • Looking forward to more conversations, Jamie. As I said, this blogsite is not only a terrific writing resource, but I’m enjoying each featured writer as well.

        See you this weekend 🙂

  3. Hello Jamie 😊 I loved that article about the difference between rich and poor people, and not only because it was Australian 😄 It made me think of the differences between people who are what I call ‘awake’ and the people who are sleeping their lives away. Very interesting! Your writing class sound intriguing, and they seem to require a fair bit of you – no wonder you needed to take a deep breath before you committed. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it, and what you are writing. Have a good weekend!

    • Hello, Sara! 🙂
      I know what you mean. I’ve always thought that far too many of us “sleepwalk” through our lives – path of least resistance and all that. It’s a terrible waste.

      Happy to keep you in-the-loop on the class. Heading there today and looking forward to my time away from reality.

      Have a great week!

  4. Somebody above said that “money is everything”.

    Well it’s not everything, and I don’t mean it as some trite phrase coming from some personal anti-wealth campaign, it’s simple and pure fact. It’s not everything, never will be.

    Money can buy you a much more comfortable, easier, stylish, all that contemporary society considers appealing life…. but those are just attributes – comfortable, easier, stylish, appealing… – what about the noun in that phrase, LIFE? Can anybody buy life? And once there is no life any more, you’d trade that horror for the most modest and limited life imaginable, you’d give your arms and legs to bring back the person you loved very much, but there is no turning back. Nobody and nothing can help there. Money especially. Money can perhaps help you extend life, for a year, two, decade perhaps… but in the end, ultimately, we all die. If money were everything, Steve Jobs would be still here, he surely didn’t lack the means. Luciano Pavarotti too. Patrick Swayze as well. And my father, to name just a few people. Now you’ll wonder what a poor, anonymous soul like my dad had to with all these world famous, rich, immortal characters. Very little, apart from the fact that they all shared the same diagnose. They all died of some form of ominous and deadly pancreatic cancer, cancer that kills over 95% of its victims within no more than 2-3 years from the diagnose, usually what you get left is measured by months. Even if discovered early, even if you had all the money in this world, it’s usually inoperable and highly unresponsive to any currently available treatment. And the biological way it eventually kills is among the worst on the Planet, I don’t wish on anybody to witness what I went through. Money can do nothing there. It can give you perhaps some very cool and fancy palliative care which you won’t give a damn about as you imminently decline, but all the same my dad had all the love and 24 hour care from us he could possibly need, even though we live in such a poor country like Serbia. Fancy care or modest home, death is death. I still wait for him to come back even though he passed away exactly one month ago. I still can’t fully grasp what happened to my family. All my past fascination related to shinier and fancier life, all stupid purchases that in fact bought me nothing more than some temporary “fog” I don’t even remember any more, all that lost meaning. I lost a person, and will always miss that person. it feels as though half of my body is missing right now. So money isn’t everything. It is some sort of instrument for fulfilling some of our Earthly dreams, but as soon as we people fulfill a dream, we turn back to another one, human being can never be truly satisfied, especially if satisfaction comes purely from things that money can buy. And in order to buy, you first need to be alive, healthy, loved, living in stable relationships… you need people from whom to buy and you depend very much on their good will. Sometimes even if you have money, you simply can’t find a person who would do a job for you, or at least do it properly. Sometimes you’re cheated, robbed, deceived. And sometimes all your material possessions vanish into thin air in some unpredictable natural or human induced disaster. But I guess we all need to first live situations like that to fully realize how much that loved, worshiped and needed money doesn’t actually play that much crucial role in our lives as it may seem.

    • I am so sorry for your loss, Tamellu.
      I have no other words except to thank you for sharing your deep perspective on this topic. I appreciate you taking the time to bring your story here in the context of the conversation at hand.

      Be well.

      • Thank you dear Jamie for your kind words of support and appreciation… I just felt that need to speak up, because up until something really really bad happens, we all somehow at least to some extent take the most important people and things we have for granted. I would have never believed that such thing could happen to my family, we’ve never dealt so closely with cancer before. I just wanted to point out how money definitely can’t be or buy everything, maybe my story can help somebody use better the time he or she has on disposal with the loved ones. I’m trying to live the best I can, it’s still very early. Thanks again and you too be well. Tanja

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  7. Living on Art is not Living for Art – However, I think money follows authentic art by default, so my view is sell if you can, create because you can, forget all that 20th century ‘Money& Art bad mix’ guilt trip thinking.
    Artists from all centuries have taken money from anyone – why change now?

  8. Thanks Jamie Lee for this interesting read: i have started to write, believe me some 10 years back, but never got to finish it as I am also working and busier than ever. Maybe I will finish it before I die or maybe have a mindset to really do it. Keep on writing.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I hope you do keep writing. Even if it’s only for your own enjoyment and sense of accomplishment. Busy is the bane of my existence. I’m super busy, but have decided (though it may prove that I’m insane) to amp up my writing WHILE I’m so busy. The “push” hurts, but also feels good.

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