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Creative Power Episode 21: How To Reframe The Starving Artist Mentality

Are you tired of lowering your rates or working for exposure? Are you exhausted, struggling to pay your bills through your creative work? Do you feel like you’re always begging for a sale? Do you wonder if you’ll ever be a success? Are you wondering if you should go out and get a ‘real’ job?

Stop right there! What if I told you all of this was part of our mental programming in our understanding of what a creative life is like, called the starving artist and suffering artist mentality… what if you could ditch these limiting beliefs and start charging your worth? What if you could walk around with a confident, successful, wealthy creative mindset?

In this episode, I’ll be unpacking the truth behind the starving artist mindset and talking about the practical steps we can take on an individual level to break ourselves out of this suffering to become wealthy, successful creatives.

PDF of how to hold your ESR points: https://geni.us/ESRhandoutEmilyTuck

To work with Emily Tuck visit www.emilytuck.com

Got a burning question you’d love me to answer? Send me a voice message and I’ll answer in a future episode at https://www.speakpipe.com/CreativePower

To find out how to work with me visit www.camillafellasarnold.com/creativepower

For episode transcripts visit: https://camillafellasarnold.com/category/podcast/


Welcome to Creative Power! For the last few weeks, we’ve been on this journey since the Spring Equinox as we’ve seen new ideas popping up to the surface. And I’ve been talking about how we can deal with the feelings of impostor syndrome and limiting beliefs that can come up alongside these new ideas.

The reason I’ve been doing that is because in a couple of weeks time we’ll be reaching Beltane, the May Day festival on the 1st May. It’s the midway point between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice and it’s when we move into fire in terms of the Chinese 5 elements.

Emily Tuck will be joining us to have a more in depth discussion about how it will affect our creativity but in a very general sense, it’s when we’ll be getting into real action. Summer is coming, we’re all pumped up and raring to get going, there’s lots of forward momentum. We want to clear out any obstacles or potential self-sabotage before we get there so we’re free to go full steam ahead knowing we won’t encounter any icebergs that could sink our efforts.

Previously we’ve been talking about the inner child and play a lot, last episode we explored how meditation and yoga can open the creative mind and today, well, it’s going to get a bit serious because I’m going to touch on something that massively affects creatives across the board. It’s ingrained into our psyche.

I’m talking about the starving artist and suffering artist mentalities. They are like our Achilles heel in the creative industry. Its what keeps us playing small and stands in the way of us claiming our true creative power as individuals.

So let’s unpack what I mean by starving or suffering artist mentality.

The starving artist mentality is the perception that we’ll never get rewarded fairly for our work. That we’ll always be poor and unseen. The carrot that dangles and keeps us in hope is the dream that one day we will be noticed but deep down there’s the expectation that it won’t happen. That success doesn’t happen to people like us.

This path is well-trodden. Look to the likes of Vincent van Gogh – he sold but one painting in his lifetime. Now his paintings sell for millions the world over. And like many artists and creatives, that is seemingly all we can hope for… right?

Or what about the designers fighting for a crumb. I know what it’s like because I spent years in the freelance trenches. And the rise of places like Fiverr (which literally does what it says on the tin, you can get work done for as little as $5), how can we compete regardless of our talent?

All of this undercuts our sense of self-worth.

But wait, occasionally we get to see someone who makes it and it gives us a renewed sense of hope. Like the recent massive hit Squid Game. It was originally conceived in 2008. It was released on Netflix in 2021 and became their most watched series, won critical acclaim and had 1.65 billion hours viewed within its first four links.

Amazing, right?

At the time I remember seeing posts telling creatives not to give up, that 13 years later and with a whole lot of self-belief and patience, the creator had made it.

Once again, filling us with this false sense of hope that one day we might be that lucky.

But what it said to me is, what a shame that it took so long to get picked up and seen by the world for what it was, what a shame that it took so long for the creator to be recognised and rewarded for their incredible talent. 

What a shame that the creative industries are engineered in such a way that it is SO hard for genuine talent and really incredible ideas to be heard above the noise. The industry has been rigged to ensure the creator themselves doesn’t win unless society wants them to win, because everyone loves a hero after all.

This leads to the other mentality that perpetuates; the suffering artist mentality. That we must metaphorically bleed for our work. Because while society loves a hero, it also loves a martyr. And so many creatives happily oblige, dying at the altar of their creative works, for free, over and over again.

But seriously folks, we’re not Jesus. We live in a world where you are allowed to be paid for your work. 

And creativity is not a gift from the Gods that you’re born with or not, it’s a set of synapses firing in the brain that we interpret in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways.

So you may have seen some of yourself in all this. Maybe you’ve lowered your rates to peanuts or worked for the promise of exposure and repeat work.

Maybe you’ve written until your fingers bleed or channelled that crappy memory into your painting so many times your heart feels raw.

Maybe you’re utterly spent, exhausted at struggling to pay your bills and feel like you are always begging for a sale. A sale of which grants you pennies from a print on demand supplier.

Maybe you’re beginning to wonder if your family is right when they tell you to get a ‘real’ job.

Maybe you feel like throwing in the towel because you know your work is better than what is out there, if only people could see it.

Maybe you’re so sick of pouring your soul into your work for no reward that you’ve started churning out anything and being a yes person to your clients, just to get some cash but you feel numb on the inside.

Maybe you have a love-hate relationship with your creativity now.

Maybe you hate your creativity now and wish you weren’t so ‘gifted’.

Maybe you’re just tired of people asking how it’s going and if you sold any books recently.

Whatever it is, some part of the starving and suffering artist’s mentalities resonates with your soul. It’s an intrinsic part of our makeup as creatives.

It can seem like we’re fighting against the tide. 

And to be honest, if we try to eliminate the starving/suffering artist mentality in one fell swoop, then we will be fighting against a massive tide because it’s so ingrained within both us as creators and the rest of society who think that’s the way this shit works.

It’s also a massive block that stands in our way of achieving our creative potential and allowing our creativity to really flow.

Because while we hold these beliefs that we’ll never be well paid or recognised for our work, we sabotage ourselves.

That could look like letting a project you know is incredible stay on the back burner so you don’t have to face your deep-seated limiting beliefs.

It could look like never getting that book written.

It could look like never starting the book in the first place but always dreaming you will do it one day.

Now I know this issue is a big one and isn’t going to be solved overnight.

I had a conversation with a local creative recently and I was telling them about the change I wanted to see in the creative industries around the eliminating the starving, suffering artist mentalities. I got very passionate and then finished my monologue with, ‘I don’t know how to actually do it yet though’.

Rightly so, it’s a massive issue to tackle if I want to make big change all at once.  

His response though, changed everything when he said, ‘but you are already doing it, one person at a time’.

And there’s the crux of this whole episode. The concept of the starving artist and the suffering artist sucks and it’s a wound we all carry within us. And maybe it’s a big ask to change an entire mentality overnight for everyone.

But we can work on it for ourselves and change our own mindset. We can heal the wound in ourselves.

We can reframe suffering artist to healed artist. Contented artist. Happy artist. Flowing artist.

We can reframe starving artist to satiated artist. Abundant artist. Wealthy artist. Rich artist. Successful artist. 

When we no longer hold that wound in ourselves, we carry ourselves differently in the world. We set the terms for how people interact with us, not the other way round. We can make our own success and change the industry one step at a time.

Because our individual actions have a ripple effect that goes out towards other people. We can inspire them to heal this wound in themselves, they’ll inspire others and so it goes on and outwards.

So how can we reframe these damaging, limiting mentalities?

This is where developing a strong sense of your own internal authority is crucial. 

Everyone has an opinion on who you are and what you do. Everyone, period.

But the one person that gets to see all of it and spends the most time with you is…. Well, it’s you.

So if you are the only person who is ever going to see everything you ever do, then the only person you need to listen to is yourself because everyone else just sees your highlight reel and judges based off that.

They haven’t seen how many hours you’ve poured into that painting. Or how much money you spent on that course to get your degree. They haven’t seen the blood, sweat and tears behind your creativity.

Because let’s face it, a lot of people who don’t see themselves as creative, think that creativity is some magical wand we wave and boom, there’s the winning idea.

We know. You and I know, creativity doesn’t flow like that. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, your cat could come up with a better idea than you.

Sometimes no matter how long you work at a design, your technophobic grandma would still be able to make it look better.

So why let other people who don’t know how this works, dictate your creative life? Ditch that weight of their opinions and judgements immediately and turn inwards.

And when I say turn inwards, I mean go deep. Don’t listen to your ego that also likes you to play small because it’s comfortable there. Get really quiet. What does your soul say?

Skip back one episode and listen to my thoughts on meditation and yoga to help you really open yourself up to this inner voice of yours that has been quiet for so long. I promise what we discussed in that episode isn’t about how you need to sit for five hours cross-legged chanting ‘om’. In episode 20 I discussed my own meditative practice and honestly, it’s a journey into wonderland on a daily basis, no joke.

So step one in ditching the starving suffering artist mentalities, tune into your intuition and ditch the noise of everyone else.

Step two is look at what memories and limiting beliefs are holding you back. Was there a time someone made a comment that you were charging too much so you reduced your rates?

Maybe someone laughed at your dream of being a dancer and said you’d never make it because (insert 50 dumb reasons here).

Remember, these people are projecting THEIR fears onto you. What they said wasn’t really about you at all. But you stepping out in that big way with your big dream and luxury rate made THEM feel uncomfortable so they asked you to go back in the tiny box to make them feel better. And you did it.

So go back to those memories and work with them. How can you heal those wounds? There’s plenty of ways you can do that such as journaling (see episode 14 if you want to know how to use journal therapy in a really powerful way). There’s things like EFT tapping and other subconscious tools you can use. 

In episode 16, Emily Tuck shared with us a really powerful tool called Emotional Stress Release, ESR, which is surprisingly simple to do but makes a massive difference when you use it while thinking about those memories to dissipate the stress they’ve caused. I’ll link to the ESR handout she kindly gave us in today’s show notes so you can see just how easy it is to use.

The other thing you can do is work with a therapist or holistic practitioner like Emily or a coach like myself to walk you through this because here’s the thing, the world told us the creative path is a lonely one.

I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be. You are allowed to get help and be supported.

You are allowed to charge your worth.

You are allowed to charge whatever you want.

You are allowed to be successful.

You are allowed to be seen, heard and recognised for your incredible talent.

You are allowed to be confident about your skills and abilities.

You are allowed to be a happy, creative being.

You are allowed to have a rich and abundant life off the back of your creativity.

But YOU need to believe you are allowed to first of all. After that, all things are possible.

I’ll be honest, this mindset shift doesn’t happen overnight. Uncovering all the ways in which you think you have to be a poor, suffering creative person takes time. And it’s painful working through it.

I know because it took me months to even feel ready to face my own stuff. And then more months chipping away at all those limiting beliefs. But as you do, you regain a sense of flow. You activate new levels of creative power in yourself.

You find your true voice and realise you’re not afraid to use it loud and proud.

And if my words today help just one person, if you listening to this resonates with what I’ve said and it spurs you to start reclaiming your title as a wealthy, successful creator then I consider that a job well done.

Because change starts one person at a time.

So be the change. Look within, listen to yourself because you really do have all the answers.

And if it feels scary to look at on your own, tell me. Send me a message on Speakpipe with your questions or topics you’d like me to discuss and I’ll do a future episode on them. Or if you’re really ready to ditch the starving artist once and for all, let’s work together – I’ll leave links in the show notes for how we can get started.

The final step I want to mention today towards getting rid of the starving suffering artist mentality is this; tell your friends. The more people working on healing this to create something new for us as creators, the quicker things will change. So share this episode with your creative friends. 

Let’s ditch the starving artist mentality once and for all and see what kind of creatives we can really be!

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