What Are You Willing to Risk for Your Art?

Entrepreneurs love to talk about risk, especially the risks they take to bring their products and services to market.

They always seem to be talking about money. They invest heavily in their creation and if it doesn’t take off they could lost it all.

I have yet to hear one of these risk-takers say they’ll lose everything they own.

Even that isn’t what’s scary.

If running out of money is the worst thing you can imagine you don’t have much imagination.

Maslow's Heirarchy: the higher you go . . .

We lived without a home for 2 years. Not on the street, not sleeping in our car. When we realized there wasn’t going to be any more money, we set ourselves up to care for other folks’ homes for a while. Always had a place to live and internet access so we could work for food (though not in the cardboard sign on the freeway offramp sense.)

At least once, we stopped at a Starbucks where we couldn’t buy anything to wait for a client to pay their invoice so we could fill the gas tank and continue our journey.

Twice, we spent an entire month with dear friends who never uttered a word about the fact that we didn’t have money to contribute for food or utilities.

Those times, it wasn’t the lack of money, it was the lack of emotional independence. It is not our nature to surrender to the support of others, to depend on them for food and shelter.

We survived it. And if we had to, we’d survive it again.

Here are the two things that really scare me about taking time away from paying work in order to create my art:

  1. What if it’s not good enough? What if real professionals (whoever they are) mock me because I reveal that I’m a rank amateur? What if even I realize it’s dross?
  2. Worse, what if I can never make myself write the things that really matter because I’m afraid of what they’ll reveal about the dark scary things stuck in my head? What if I give in to fear and spend the rest of my life only writing what’s happy and safe? What if my best art dies with me?

Take a look at Maslow’s Hierarchy. Theory is the higher up you go the safer you are.

That’s only if you’re not risking. Risk, and the higher you are, the farther you fall, the harder you hit bottom and the more it hurts.

Taking risks at the levels of esteem and self-actualization is far more frightening than simply losing food, clothing, and shelter.

Risk up there and you’re risking your self.

4 thoughts on “What Are You Willing to Risk for Your Art?

  1. Okay, then, Joel, let’s get philosophical (and you don’t HAVE TO reply!): I say the higher you go or the more you risk–then the more you “risk” seeing yourself as who/what you really are.

    I suspect that’s what you’re actually saying yourself, though, eh?

    Thus, the highest point on the phone pole, the Real Risk, is the only place anyone needs to be scratching toward in my book.

    But possibly, the word “risk” needs to be defined VERY clearly first.

    1. Not what I meant, but totally valid perspective. And a very different definition of risk.

      Up at the tip of the pyramid, you have no choice but to strip away the veneer and see who’s in your head.

      There have been times I refused to do that. Right now, I’m struggling with certain perspectives; especially with the idea that I can see darkness and not be dark; I can, for instance, recognize anger without being hateful.

      Seeing what’s really there. Someone wrote that a writer’s job is to see the truth without flinching.

      1. That’s excellent, Joel. You’re good at this stuff, very relevant reply–plus, it makes it so clear how words, bloody words, are taken to mean sometimes something 180 degrees different from the next guy. Even though both are correct, right!

        I Love that comment that “someone” made about the writer’s job.

  2. Great post. One must first feel secured, before taking a leap of faith. Following Maslow’s Hierarchy, your Physiological needs must be met, if you are to reach Self actualization. Should you forgo these needs, you will continuously feel inadequate, as you will feel ill equipped, when attempting upward mobility. One step at a time, and always fully equipped. Blessings.

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