A few days ago, Patreon’s social media folks posted this in the Discord chat as a “Thursday Thought Starter”
And I kind of went off on this. Because I am a person who has spent a lot of time, effort, and money on organizing my life such that my creative work is a major part of it – but holy shit there are so many other things that make me happy:
Cuddling my SO. Reading a good book, whether it’s an old favorite or something new to me. Going out to see some live music (really a thing I gotta start doing more again now that the pandemic’s over). Dancing. Riding my bike aimlessly around the city and the park. Sitting outside a cafe nursing a drink and watching tourists. Answering questions on the Illustrator subreddit and having people say “holy shit that not only solved my problem but showed me new ways to work much faster, thank you”. Eating a good meal. Getting cross-faded and having some Adult Fun, solo or with a friend. All of these are things that contribute to “creating” being maybe about a quarter of a realistic graph of “things that make me happy”.
Today a friend posted a lengthy rant about how her buying into the idea that studying hard, then working hard, would be the key to a happy and successful life left her her frazzled from overwork and almost completely lacking in any kind of friend circles: constantly turning down social invitations in college because she had to Study Hard Tonight eventually resulted in the invitations stopping, and it hasn’t gotten any better in the ensuing years after ending up at various toxic workplaces that loved to take advantage of her immense guilt around never feeling like she’s working hard enough. She’s making enough money to live comfortably in one of the most expensive cities in the US but on the rare occasions she has any time to herself she has no idea what to do any more because so much of her energy’s gone into work, work, work.
Whatever the hell you are doing, however much you love it, there is a whole bunch of other things that you need. If you can find a way to get some of these things along with your work, great – now that the pandemic’s over I need to start scheduling time to hang out with art friends working on various projects together, for instance – but always remember to make room in your life for things that are Not Work.
If you are working for someone else, be wary of their attempts to get you to spend more of your time working for them for less money. And be wary of demonization of things like unions, too.
This goes for me, too: I am a freelance artist who derives a large part of my current income from drawing whatever the fuck I feel like drawing and keeping a tip jar out – but that tip jar is on Patreon, a website run by a corporation based in one of the most expensive cities in the US, with multiple millions worth of venture capital dollars pushing them to find ways to increase the revenue stream from supporters to creators that they take 5-12% off of. The graph I opened this post with is one of many bits of messaging they send people like me, some more subtle, some less, all focused on what worked to get their biggest earners to the point where their life is completely consumed by cranking out content a lot of people are willing to pay for.
I think this is the point where this little rant trails off. I will close with a link to one of the other things that sparked these thoughts today: an article from 2008 on the origins of modern consumer society about a hundred years ago, and the efforts by various coalitions of manufacturers to sell work as the center of life. https://orionmagazine.org/article/the-gospel-of-consumption/