You may think you have two options: 1. Be creative and broke OR 2. Be rich and be dead inside. If those are your only 2 options, you will never be satisfied. Let’s talk about your other options so you can have a creative career, make more money, and feel fulfilled.
If you want to be creative, make money, and be fulfilled, there are 4 ways people try to do this. By the end of this post, you’ll know which one is right for you.
OPTION 1: Follow Your Passion
If you know me at all, you know I am not a proponent of Follow Your Passion as a reliable, sure-fire way to choose a career. AND: This CAN work. We have examples of successful artists, actors, musicians, writers, poets, tarot readers, and sculptors.
But as you may have discovered, following your passion can also take the joy out of the thing. Because following your passion is about your enjoyment of an activity. Some people put NO thought to how it may be valuable to others, and then get discouraged or even offended when the world doesn’t pay them for using their gifts.
To be able to make a real living from a creative pursuit takes way more than talent. You have to become JUST AS skillful in the business of the thing as the craft of the thing.
So should you, personally, follow your passion?
Here are some questions to ask:
- Are you willing to make this your focus, even if there is never any significant financial reward?
- Are you willing to make this your focus, even if you never get the recognition and acceptance you wish your work or point of view to get?
- Are you willing and able to have a consistent, separate source of income for part of all of the time that you make this your focus?
- Are you interested in becoming just as skilled or MORE skilled in the business of things as the craft of the thing?
If you answered YES to all of those, then follow your passion. If not, keep listening.
Let’s do a quick SCORECARD on Option 1: Follow Your Passion:
Have a creative career: CHECK
Make more money: possible, but no guarantee
Feel fulfilled: possible, but no guarantee. Can end up burned out, resentful, and out of love with the passion you tried to monetize.
OPTION 2: Take a day job and use your creativity outside of work
You might put your creativity into side hustle or creative practice, and then the day job would be more “practical.”
Sidebar: Do you know the real definition of practical? In regards to careers, it’s shorthand for “predictable”, but it REALLY means “likely to succeed or be effective in real circumstances.” Ask: Is a career that does not use my creativity likely to be successful for me in the long run?
Have a creative career: NO
Make more money: Possible
Feel fulfilled: Toss up. Usually not fulfilling long-term.
There is no shame in choosing this. What’s in YOUR heart? What is YOUR standard? What do YOU want?
OPTION 3: Switch between practical and creative work
A lot of creatives experience this. Here’s how it goes: You stick it to the man and follow your passion, you love it, you feel powerful and rebellious, and then eventually the wear and tear of financial or administrative stress leaves you defeated, depleted, and demoralized, so you reluctantly take a Job Job. Something practical that will be a steady source of income, and that feels comforting for a while. But eventually, the wear and tear of having your soul stifled, not using your gifts, and not being able to be yourself at work leaves you defeated, depleted, and demoralized, so you rev yourself up to quit! And go follow your passion! Maybe a different one! Again.
I call this the ping-pong. You may you through rounds and rounds and rounds of the ping-pong.
Remember how I said that if your only 2 options are 1. Be creative and broke OR 2. be rich and be dead inside then you’ll never be fulfilled? In the ping-pong, you’re just in this never-ending trade-off of meaning vs. money. It’s exhausting.
Have a creative career: Sometimes
Make more money: Unstable. Creative thing doesn’t get the time needed to be able to grow into anything, and neither does the practical career. So there’s a sense of “I can’t get any traction because I keep changing.”
Feel fulfilled: Shorts bursts, but overall exhaustion
If you want to have a creative career, make more money, and feel fulfilled, then:
OPTION 4: The Purpose Paradigm
- Instead of pitting meaning vs money
- Instead of pitting creativity vs stability
- Instead of thinking passion vs. practical
We zoom out and drop that binary, where the ping-pong can’t even exist. Because we’re not longer thinking through the lens of passion (which is all about you) and instead we’re thinking through the lens of purpose (which is all about you in connection with others).
And because it’s in connection with others, there will be a need for it so it will offer money and stability. And it will require your creativity, your heart, your connection, your humanity, but probably not in the ways you’ve always thought.
Starting from purpose is not just about the thing you do. It’s also about why you do it, who you do it with and for, how you do it. It’s holistic, which means that ALL OF YOU is getting taken care of in some measure. The part that needs money, the part that wants to make a difference, the part that wants to use your creativity.
What is wild is that this works for people who have been trapped in the ping-pong, following their passion or the day job scenario for YEARS. I am my first case study (having previously been in the follow your passion camp, but this has not just worked for me, it works for my creative, multi-passionates, and for my folks who have some kind of creative impulse but would never label themselves “A Creative” or “An Artist.”
Have a creative career: CHECK
Make more money: CHECK
Feel fulfilled: CHECK