Becoming a Thriving Artist

Just because you have a desire to create art, doesn’t mean you have to starve. Long Beach Literary Arts Center co-founder Nancy Lynée Woo helped participants unpack the cliché of the starving artist at a free workshop at Ruth Bach Neighborhood Library based on best-selling author Jeff Goins’ “Real Artists Don't Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age.”

Supported by the California Center for the Book, which invited programming surrounding one of the books on creativity donated to the library, the workshop attracted twenty poets, prose writers, visual, and other artists.

Participants were invited to examine limiting beliefs associated with the “starving artist” myth and replace them with “thriving artist” convictions. Woo, a Long Beach poet and workshop facilitator, said the book helps answer the question: “How do I make a living doing what I love?”

Divided into sections on Mindset, Market, and Money, the book invites readers to change their way of thinking and embrace newfound confidence to create a sustainable life as an artist in what Goins calls “the new renaissance.”

First and foremost, is re-examining beliefs we’ve internalized about the difficulty of making a living as an artist and the idea that creating art is not “a real job” that can generate a long-term livelihood.

“I believe the world needs more art, and to that end, artists need to make more art,” said Woo. “This book is based on an idea that it's possible to make a living as an artist - if you do the work and think strategically.”

Part of the work is shifting negative beliefs into positives and changing your personal narrative. In order to act differently, we need to think differently. And to set the foundation to live as a thriving artist, it’s important to know what you want and what you’d like to achieve.

“How do we shift a negative belief into a positive? If you don’t believe you’re going to succeed, you’re not going to,” Woo said.

Learning to value our art sets the foundation for attracting patrons and supporters who will also find value in the art we produce. “We need an audience; we need to find people who care,” said Woo. “If you want to support someone’s art, buy their work.”

Artists usually have no shortage of ideas. Rather, it’s the time or money to execute those ideas that’s lacking. Many expect artists to work for free. Shifting to a business mindset and becoming an “artist as entrepreneur” can help combat that notion.

Sometimes working for free can have non-monetary benefits, such as networking or gaining exposure. But it’s important to learn when to say no and when to say yes.

Drawing on her own personal experiences, Woo, a 2015 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow and author of two chapbooks, said it’s possible to create a life that nurtures creative expression and also provides financial security. Woo teaches poetry workshops called Surprise the Line, works as a freelance ghostwriter, copywriter, and editor, and said she looks forward to waking up in the morning and doing what she loves.

The Long Beach Literary Arts Center  seeks to centralize the city’s literary arts movement by providing a space for local writers to connect, create, and collaborate. The California Center for the Book helps librarians develop and expand adult and multi-generational programs that promote reading, community engagement, and lifelong learning. (4/8/18)

--Margo McCall