As soon as you’re old enough to be asked what you want to do with your life, you get caught in the never ending tug-of war: should I study what I love, or study what will help me make bank?
We make our lives more difficult by always framing it as a mutually exclusive proposition. “You can do what you love, or you can make money.” Even if that’s how it feels, that’s generally not at all how this scenario needs to play out. It’s all about that shitty, yet necessary, word: compromise.
What people never told you about adulthood is that it’s all about balance. That’s it. Balancing work with play, balancing your budget, balancing friends and romance, studies and sleep — everything requires balance. So the study for love or study for money binary is more of a teeter-totter, and the right balance depends on what you want to do.
Raise your hand if “Artists don’t make any money,” “You’ll never be published,” or “Broadway is really, really competitive, I mean, you’re no Lin-Manuel Miranda” sound eerily familiar to you.
The binary is enforced by the prevailing economic view of creative works and the “artsy” subjects and careers, which is to say that for the average creator, there is no economic enticement to create your art, whatever it may be. To put it bluntly, our Western economy doesn’t know how to assign proper value to writers, artists, performers, etc. Because of that oversight, people who want to pursue the arts are met with derision.
OK, so let’s get onto the part where I tell you that you can do what you love and be paid for it. It just might not be your first love, or your second. The thing is that, for any skill set, there are ways to apply those skills outside of whatever role you automatically associate with those assets.
You don’t have to choose between money and happiness, you can study and have both.
For instance, are you a novelist, but no publishing company takes an interest in you? You can self-publish, but self-published stories rarely reach the same heights of traditionally published books. Instead, you can take those writing skills, that desire to create a world that’s different (and possibly better) than your own, and apply them to other roles.
Have you ever considered learning to code? Developers spend hours writing code to create virtual pockets of reality, whether that’s in video games, for a website, or to create the latest app. You’d still be writing and creating, and developers make some decent bank.
Artists also have massively transferable skills. While it may be hard to move your fan art, or sell your canvases via Etsy, there are other options. Take some designer fields, for example: graphic or interior designer, art or design director. They all require a sense of how the viewer responds to details, the impact of negative space, and what will look good.
Actors, dancers, musicians, and performers can all make bank doing similar things, if not exactly what they love. Maybe it’s not attending Juilliard and becoming the best in the world. Maybe it’s using those crowd-pleasing talents to be in charge of social media and communication or marketing. After all, to sell something, you need to be able to sell yourself, and who would be better at that than a performer?
So maybe the economy hasn’t clued in to how much art improves and enhances our lives. Money can still be made if you’re open to a little compromise and balance. You can make all that dough doing something adjacent to what you love. Your money-ridden career may be your new number one love, and it may be waiting for you right around the corner.