Passion cannot sustain art

Writing2I’ve been planning to write this post for a while, but it became even more relevant to my life–and the lives of a few hundred other people–last week when my beloved publisher, Musa Publishing, announced that they are closing their doors. Despite publishing the highest quality books that earned four or five star ratings everywhere they went, over the last several months we’ve suffered from reduced sales.

Combined with the rising costs of doing business, this has brought about the end of an incredible publishing house devoted to empowering authors. Musa truly was a publishing house like no other, and everyone involved is mourning its early demise.

This is a common problem in arts-based businesses. With more and  more free content available, more distractions, and a higher number of people struggling to survive on crappy minimum-wage jobs, people simply aren’t spending the same amount of money on art as they used to. This causes arts based businesses of all kinds to fail.

Most people in the arts are struggling to make ends meet. And this isn’t necessarily limited to the artists themselves. Theatre directors, owners and editors of small publishers, pretty much anyone involved in a small arts-based business. I would argue that this problem is created by an increasingly popular belief that art isn’t essential.

Artists know the truth because to us, the arts are essential in a much bigger way. I write like I eat. I can’t imagine my life without writing. Well, actually, I can: I would be another soul drifting through life without any passion, working boring jobs I hated and wondering what the point of life is on a daily basis. My stories are a vital part of who I am, and any dedicated artist feels the same way about their art, whether they’re a painter, a custom jewelry artist, a photographer or another writer.

We work for almost nothing because we have boundless passion, but passion does not sustain art. A healthy human body and a clear mind sustain art. The freedom to stop worrying about whether you’ll be able to pay rent next month allows you to create art. The ability to take care of yourself and your family if you have one sustains your ability to create art, and in the end, artists sustain art. They can’t do that if they’re starving.

Have you ever stopped to think about what the world would look like without art? What if art simply ceased to exist a few hundred years ago because nobody could afford to create it? How would we connect with past generations? How different would our world look now? How dull would it be?

What about if you never had the opportunity to read a novel? Or a book of poetry? What if those things simply never existed? Books provide a crucial chance to either escape from reality or connect with another person’s reality. Can you imagine how boring life would be without them?

If you believe a world without art or books would be awful, take a moment to think about how you can support the arts. When was the last time you bought a book or an art piece? Even if you can’t afford to go out to buy some art today, there are always things you can do to help an author or artist you love sustain their career. You can review books you enjoy, share your favourite artists on social media, bookmark fantastic artists’ websites for when you do have money.

Here’s the thing about the arts: you might not see the arts as necessary, but your life without  them would be incredibly dull. And even the most talented, most passionate artists can only create top quality work for so long without making some kind of money from it. Sooner or later day jobs suck the creativity out of people and depression slips in. Seeing your friends’ careers advance around you and failing to see your own do the same is pretty soul crushing.

How do you support the arts? Can you do something–even something small–today to support an artist or author you love?

2 thoughts on “Passion cannot sustain art

  • Your post made me sad all over again. I think the availability of free content hurts artists and those around them. I buy books very often and buy music on iTunes, rent movies and go to craft shows but every time a bookstore or a gallery closes, it reminds me how tough this business is. Even when you do everything right like Musa did, it doesn’t mean success will follow.

  • dlgunn

    I feel like to some extent that can be said of any industry–there are a thousand different reasons why businesses in any area fold–but it’s more pronounced in the publishing world and the arts in general.

    One of my friends made a comment that was very pertinent: there’s a young generation of potentially enthusiastic, avid readers who are simply unable to purchase books. Many people close to my age are unemployed or underemployed and struggling to make ends meet. Their lack of purchasing power has a very real impact. To empower authors, they need to first be empowered themselves.

    Here’s hoping that will happen sooner rather than later.

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