How Money Improves Art

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If you speak at an event, should you expect to be paid? To at least have free admission? Taylor Ellwood started a good discussion, and others have interesting additions.

For me, this is part of a bigger discussion about money and art. Here’s where I stand:

Do what’s best for your art.

Usually, money improves your art. (Why? Keep reading.)

It’s scary. Do it anyway.

Your Art

Art isn’t just painting and writing. Art is whatever creative work you do: Energy healing, ritual, teaching, event promotion, engineering, computer programming. Whatever you bring to the world, that’s your art.

Do what’s best for bringing that art into the world.


Money refines artistic vision.

Yes, really. Free speakers can be mediocre. But if you expect someone to pay, you need to be compelling.

So decide to be paid. Then do the work to get there: Read and take classes on speaking. Practice, at free venues and toastmasters and wherever you can. (“I’ll speak at your event for free, but I need a recording of my talk so I can review it and improve.”) Write, to learn to explain your ideas and to build your resume.

Those are all hard and scary. Deciding to make money forces you to face them. That’s the point.

These days, my art is Healing Lab. I want to be paid to develop new healing techniques. And getting serious about money has been excellent:

Before I was serious about money, I thought about doing healing sessions some friends, getting some referrals, building up a small practice. Unremarkable.

Then I embraced my goal: To develop high-price healing techniques for people with serious conditions. And realizing that, the path changed. I’m focused on publishing double-blind studies to demonstrate my techniques. I’m focused on refining healing techniques through case studies, so I feel confident publishing and selling them. And I’m practicing explaining my system of healing, in writing, and among friends, and among strangers at toastmasters and other venues. All of that is hard and scary. But all of it is necessary.

It’s Scary. Do It Anyway

Whatever your art, getting good is scary.

At a minimum, it requires honestly assessing where you are right now. Every time I’ve done that, I’ve been less good than I thought I was. And I’ve repeated a mantra:

I’d rather become good tomorrow, than believe I’m good today. Recognizing a weakness doesn’t make it any worse. I’ve gotten this far with those weaknesses, so fixing them will take me even farther.

(Money forces an honest assessment of how good you are. That’s the point.)

Getting good also forces you to face your limits. Can you become so good at public speaking that people will pay for it? (Answer: Yes, but it’ll take 10,000 hours of focused work.)

Can I develop healing techniques so obvious and reliable, I can demonstrate it to university researchers, doctors, and investors? I don’t know. But I’m committed to doing it anyway.

(Why don’t I say “I’m going to try?” Because my goal isn’t to have tried. My goal is to succeed. Good post on LessWrong.)

Getting good is scary. Do it anyway.

Artistic Vision

What about visionary art? Doesn’t money poison that?

I’m not qualified to say. But I want to share two images. Before Picasso did this:


He did this:


The first step is getting good. The visionary art comes after.

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3 Responses to “How Money Improves Art”

  1. Julie says:


    The topic of your post really hit home for me. I had a recent experience that supports your idea – money improves art. Well, first this idea makes sense because using inexpensive art materials are frustrating to use and the colors aren’t great. So, we have to start with high quality materials if we want good results.

    When it comes to intention, the art has to come first, the money is icing on the cake. The Universe provides for us when we’re truly following our passion. I’d rather not have a paycheck than get one from a job that makes me unhappy. The key is to get paid for doing what you love!

    Artists (of all types) should be paid what they’re worth and what the job is worth. We shouldn’t feel like we’re in a “lesser than” profession. What makes doctors deserve to be paid what they’re paid? True healing comes from the inside. I’d pay a shaman before I’d pay another doctor. And some psychiatrists throw pills at problems instead of attempting to heal inner turmoil. Don’t get me started. I’ve gotten off track…

    I recently hired an editing team to edit my non-fiction manuscript. I knew I couldn’t self-publish without proper editing. At first, the money seemed like a lot to spend, but I never would’ve been able to improve the manuscript without the developmental editors help. It was a wake-up call, forcing me to look at my strengths and weaknesses. And I had to let go of several chapters.

    The manuscript is much better now. I just spent a month doing revisions, pushing it one step further, and now the copy editor/proofreader will do his thing. Next, I’ll be hiring a formatter/cover designer to do the layout and cover. But, it’s worth it. They deserve to be paid for the work they’re doing. I don’t have their skill set, so they are valuable to me.

    Making art is scary. Criticism is scary. Being vulnerable is scary. Regret is worse. Fear is worse. Darkness is worse.

    Money talks. Putting money on the table makes people accountable. It made me take my project seriously, and I had to find people who I knew would do a good job. They care, and I’m paying them to care. So, it’s all good.

    Your thoughts about Picasso, I agree. You have to know the rules before you can break them. I’ve seen this to be the case with poets, musicians, and athletes. Once you learn the basics, you can develop your own style.

    Thanks for letting me comment. I hope it was helpful!

    Have a great week,

    • Thanks Julie. I’m really happy this resonated. I particularly liked this in what you said:

      Making art is scary. Criticism is scary. Being vulnerable is scary. Regret is worse. Fear is worse. Darkness is worse.

      Well said.

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