Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Redefining Earning a Living

I've always felt a calling toward creating. Painting, photography, writing. I was always told those weren't legitimate choices. People like to throw out the much overused "starving artist". Then they pick some poor artist or writer who remained unknown until his or her death to use as an example. You'll end up like that, they'd say. So I've always held on to the belief that as long as I pursued these callings I wouldn't make any money from it. And, guess what? I've never really earned any money from any of these endeavors. I mean, yeah, I've earned a little here or there, but not really what I was worth. Because I wasn't expecting to.

Our American society, and perhaps all societies built on similar economic systems, holds that the only worthy way of earning a living is by sacrificing your time and your dreams. It's the American dream you are supposed to be going after. Big house, nice car, pretty things. You get a J-O-B working for someone else at least 40 hours a week. If you are lucky, it's something that both pays well and brings some level of satisfaction. If you are lucky. If not, you slog away your days for someone else just so you can keep a roof over your family and food on the table. In our society it's never been about what brings you joy. It's how much money you make and all of the things that you can buy with that money.

Earn a living. The word "living" should never be associated with monetary worth. That's where we have gone horribly wrong. You earn an income for the deemed value of your work. That value often seems arbitrary to the whims of society, e.g. starving artist.

There is another way.

Minimalism and the tiny house movement are a part of this revolution to rethink and redefine what it means to earn a living. If you have less stuff, you need less money to maintain or replace that stuff. You can work less or chose work not by how much it pays, but by how much joy it brings you. That is liberating, especially for someone who doesn't fit in with this consumerist mold.

Someone like me.

And now here I am J-O-B less. Falling into the same traps. Hearing those old voices. You can't make a living blogging. No one wants to buy your art. The photography market is over saturated. You can't earn a living that way. You need to get a real job. Rent is coming due and you are broke. Get real.

I've given up on those dreams too many times. I quit art school. I stopped painting for a while. I stopped writing, stopped trying to get published. I gave up my photography business because the ex told me I needed to get that "real" job. Start. Stop. Start. Stop.

I'm tired of stopping. I'm angry at those voices. It's time to prove them wrong.

I've read about people young and old who sold everything to live a mobile life. Some earn a living through their computers. Some live off of the funds from selling everything that held them down. I've read about people who live off a small plot of land, modern day homesteaders who need very little from the outside world. There are the urban minimalists who live in small apartments and use their time and money on experiences instead of filling up an oversized house with stuff. These people are truly redefining what it means to earn a living. If they can do it, so can I. If they can do it, so can you.

Embrace your joy and earn a livable income. The two aren't mutually exclusive, contrary to what we've been taught.


  1. So. Much. YES. I can so relate to this!! I hope the months since you wrote this have proved fruitful!

    1. I'm still arguing with those negative voices and still struggling to make a go at it, but I'm pushing on. Thanks :-)