Monday, February 14, 2011

Art for Art's Sake

That is my new mantra.

I recently read Patti Smith's book, "Just Kids" and I realized that I had not been creating art for art's sake. Somehow I had lost the thread, was caught up in other things, and the point had been missed. Instead of creating just for the sheer joy of creation, I had gotten caught up in something strangely insidious: the need to make a living as an artist.

I know that sounds perfectly ridiculous when I say it out loud - or type it on this heretofore blank page. Everyone has to make a living, right? You gotta put food on the table, buy a few sturdy pairs of shoes for the kiddos, pay your cable bill. Totally reasonable.

NOT reasonable.

Not when art ceases to be art and becomes money. I don't want to live my life that way, where conspicuous consumption overshadows my need to be creative. I want to make things because I am moved to make them, not because I am trying to please someone, or I am trying to sell said art.

It just seems stupid to chase after art like it's a business.

I make the stupidest shit when I'm doing that.

This thought has become even clearer in my head as the days wear on. Especially now that we live in a time when, for me, being an actor isn't really a legitimate way to make a living anymore. I haven't made enough money as an actor in the past three years to support myself. If I wasn't writing books and signing my name with a sharpie in echoing convention halls, I'd be living in the spare room at my dad's - sorry, dad, I know that you would love to have me and the space is great, but somehow it's not quite right for me...YET. Who knows, I may be in that spare room sooner than I think.

I still work as an actor, but when you make 100 bucks a day (or no money 'cause it's deferred) and the work is super intermittent at best, well, you ain't buying your baby a new computer with that. Occasionally, the Gods smile down on me and Shonda Rhimes calls - then I make enough money as an actor to keep my Health Insurance. But those gigs are getting fewer and far between. And not just for me, but for every working actor.

Now, I'm not really complaining - yes, you are, a little voice in my head says - but all of the above seriously puts a damper on me supporting myself as an artist. And the crappy thing is that I have it way better than the majority of artists...they're REALLY starving. At least I've got a roof over my head and food on my table.

I don't know what the answers are. I just know that I have to start creating things for myself and if other people dig what I'm doing then great. But I can't make art because I want fame, fortune or casual sex with groupies - actually, the casual sex with groupies has never applied to my life, but even if it did, it would not be a good reason to make crappy art.

I guess what I am going to do is continue to write my books (which are art, too, so when writing them I just gotta write what moves me) and put my food on the table that way and then I can act if I want to, make movies if i want to, write internet porn if I want to and sit on the couch doing absolutely nothing for long stretches of time if I want to...and if none of these other endeavors never makes a dime...well, who gives a shit. I'm just gonna let it ride.

All I know is that I don't know nothing.

Oh, and that I'm making art for art's sake, so screw what anyone else thinks.



  1. I see where you're coming from. Certainly I'm far from making a living at writing, with just one book sold and part time pay as a humor columnist ... as far as the artistic aspect, most writers don't make a lot of sales if they try to follow what's popular and write just to make money. I think with most art -- especially with writing -- people can tell if you're faking it, and your work won't be good enough to make you a living, anyway. You have to write what moves you.

    Just the same, except for my occasional forays into fanfiction, I do try to sell what I produce! But like acting, writing jobs are becoming harder to come by.

  2. Here, here! Us starving artists just have to stick to what drives us... the need to create because we just can't help ourselves. It's a disease really.

    Personally, I love your creations! And I make an effort to acquire yours as I can. It's sad that something as simple and as trite as money keeps us from being able to do what we love as well as keeping us fed at the same time. *sigh*

    My mother grumbled behind my back to my sister the other day about my latest painting saying, "I don't know why she has to keep painting all those... women. No one will ever want to buy her art." Thankfully, my sister gets it and simply responded, "Mother, she doesn't paint them for money."

    I say your recent sentiment is spot on and you should create what you love, how and when you want! And, if you do post internet porn... I will always want to know about it. *wink*

    An immense fan,
    Willow Enright

  3. That's the only way to do it - for you because it pleases you to have created something entirely yours. I started writing with more in mind than just the assignment in high school because of the Theater magnet program I was in. I've had small things published that you will never, ever find, lol. That's ok with me, I don't expect to spit out the next great American novel, but I enjoy what I've got, and have found a way to fund my writing addiction in a way that it sorta profitable in the meantime.

    It is what it is, at least for now I keep writing. It makes me happy.

  4. money isn't just makes everything a hell of a lot easier. lol Follow your heart and you'll never regret anything. <3

  5. Sorry to hear the acting thing isn't going so well for you right now. I've always heard it's a lot tougher than most people think. I guess I just didn't know quite *how* tough.

    I'm glad you have the writing to fall back on, though, and that you seem to enjoy it. And I think you're absolutely right about "art for art's sake." I do some writing myself. My first novel (for the Kindle) was just published a few days ago. I didn't write the thing to make money and even priced the book at the lowest amount Amazon would let me get away with. I wrote it because I enjoy writing, because I thought I had a story to tell that I thought people would enjoy reading, and because I dearly loved the characters I'd created. So far, it's only sold a couple of copies, but I'm happy. I've heard from one purchaser who told me she loves it; and I know you must get how it feels when someone tells you they like something you've created.

    Good luck with your continued endeavors. I hope you continue to enjoy writing and that at least it helps pay your bills; but I will confess, I also hope to see you continue to get to act too.

  6. I absolutely agree. And when you realize this and tell others that you want to have normal job (I mean the jobs that other people call meaningless) in order to spare all your ideas for yourself a for the creation itself, others just tell you that you have gone crazy.

    The best stuff I have ever created is the stuff I did just on my own. Because of this I stopped to attend my school. I realized that I wasn't really pleased with any work we did the past year - it simply wasn't me. And I certainly didn't want to support our school system when I would see people around me keeping their student status just because they don't want to work yet and so they create so called art only to pass an exam. Thanks to my third knee operation I have come to this conclusion and now I am happier than ever.

    I know this way is going to be much harder... But the thought of my own creative freedom gives me enough strenght to make it.

    ..I love "Creativity - unleashing the forces within" by Osho.. this book gave me inner strenght when I didn't have much.

    Stay creative as you are!

  7. Your "reasonable" voice is exactly that, I think. It's been true since long before Virginia Woolf wrote it that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction". But sometimes Art falls under the "the heart has its reasons.."-label. And when you add up how little of what we consume is needed for our survival...

    Couldn't resist adding what I wrote above, and still I feel that whatever I write is superflous here. What you wrote looks a lot like a declaration of independence. It sounds like you are committed to art because you are commited to do right by yourself, no matter what I or anyone else wants to add. Weren't you saying on twitter recently that you were waiting for your third ephipany? It sounds like you found it :)

  8. this post is spot on. i have been steadily studying over the past few years to actually be able to get a job which will support me as an artist. but in the past year i really havent had a chance to do much art. when i think about doing art, i always think about all these ideas i have and how they will translate or be accepted, or if anyone will buy them, or even like them. after reading this i realise im overthinking this way too much. so i think i will just shutup and create.

  9. You're in very good company. This could be a summary of my day to day job as well. For me, the thing holding me back from truly creating the art I want to create is fear of failure, and my own inhibitions about expressing what's really inside and how that will affect the people around me.

    You seem to be focused on the right things, though; the key is just finding the balance between work and art.

    And every time you say things like "write internet porn if I want to" and "casual sex with groupies" it makes me giggle. I am apparently a teenage boy. :)

  10. As a wise woman once said, 'Do what makes you happy.' If you're going to be miserable for money there are more reliable ways of doing it than showbusiness.

  11. You're making art for art's sake, Amber, and do not let anyone tell the contrary. It's always easy to criticize but it's difficult to create something and I have the deepest respect for the creators.
    I'm glad you found your way as a writer, as a creator of universes. I follow you since almost 10 years, from your little comic-books short stories to that beautiful piece of art that is "Among the ghosts", one of my last year's favorite book. You don't follow any trend, you're writing the things that moves you, that's the feeling I have when I read the pages. You're smart, independant and tremendously talented. But talent is not always paid for its true worth, we all know that.
    But your post shows that you will always stay true to yourself, to your independance, to your love of books. Even if I miss you on the screen, I will always have the books (and hopefully, an other comic-book someday, I love comics).

  12. Chin up. Your work enriches the lives of a lot of people in many different ways. I think you should be proud of yourself.

  13. Amber,

    You have always impressed me with your integrity and passion for your art.

    While I love seeing you get more acting jobs, I would rather you happy in what you do. Plus the selfish side of me then gets more "Death's Daughter" books and that is always great.

  14. I'd guess this would strike a chord with a lot of my field, it's pretty unlikely that I'll make lots of money, but I'm there because I have a passion for it; it's like I'm more alive simply because of being there. And if that means we don't have money for a car, well, so be it. At least we have money for food and rent.

  15. ... Just Friends was a really great book, it painted a fascinating picture of New York City during that time period.

  16. ...traigo

    desde mis


    CON saludos de la luna al
    reflejarse en el mar de la



  17. Love you, Amber!!!!

    Wish you luck and possibilities to find what exactly moves you and that you would still have a lot of fans and you could make money with it!!

    And wish you everything good and shiny, and happy in your personal life!!!!

    Happy Valentine's Day!!!!! May Love be filling your life!!!

    Kate, Ukraine

  18. The above mentioned good Amber, pleases me that you do the things for which you like to them and not only for the money or sew this way, because of it it is that I admire you so much!! You are incredible =)

    Happy Valentine's Day!! That you have very much love in all your life!! You you deserve it!!

    It loves you: Adri!!

    Kisses from Mexico!!

  19. *Fist Bump*

    Fuck the haters! Do what you love, girl!

  20. Joe aka AmberAddictFebruary 14, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    It's always intertesting reading your it's honest and intelligent. If you're unhappy with you're life then make a change it and do what makse you happy. Looking at it from a selfish point of point of view but I hope you keep writing and acting. The reason is this it makes people happy! Okay so right about now you're thinking I've missd the point of what you were trying to say and maybe I have but stick with me I will make a point that will make sense I hope. I work for a charity that helps with disabled people but the problem with my job is yes I can complete the objectives but will it make a difference to the people I work for? I could work hard for years and never know if I've made a difference to one! At least when you finish a book or film someone tells they have enjoyed it. Yes praise may not be why you do what you do but you can go to bed at night in the knowledege what you did made a difference. Those of stuck in a 9 to 5 (including me) really enjoy what you do and it makes a difference to us. If you think I'm bais then you're right but remember it's not just me there are 1000s of Amber fans and wouldn't be if your work wasn't good, we can't all be wrong! That may not answer your doubts about some the work you but don't feel bad about making people feel good. Did any of that make sense? I hope you find projects that interest you! Even if you quit it all tomorrow I'd think you are one most amzaming people I've had the chance to meet!

    Joe aka AmberAddict

  21. And this is merely one of the many reasons I adore you. Your words resonate with a truth that cannot be upended. It cannot be argued. And great writers throughout history have concluded that writing for money will get you no where.

    I am your aforementioned STARVING artist, living in a spare room at my mother's house and trying to help my family keep afloat in this diminishing economy - work, where I live, is nonexistent and trying times are knocking on my door. The only thing I have to give to the world - of which I give freely - is my art. My voice. Like the poetry contest from December that you helped me get votes for - that money didn't go to me but to the cause for Eliza's birthday. And the book that I self published, I decided what few proceeds I'm getting from that are going to The Ronin Thompson Foundation to fight Nueroblastoma. I am also attempting to collect writers willing to donate children's stories for a book I want to self publish dedicated to Ronin with ALL proceeds going to his foundation.

    My art is not for profit... it is my gift to the world. And it is a release from the things inside that plague me. I've always written for me.

    Such a beautiful post here - thank you for it. <3

  22. Amber,

    I always love reading what you have to say. I've been a fan since Hush. Actually, you were the reason I started watching Buffy in the first place. I've read all your books, have all your movies, and if I lived in the US I'd probably be the one you called security on at your book signings :).

    Art for the sake of money is prostitution. Do what you love, what speaks to you, and sustenance will come. You are a wonderfully talented woman and I can't wait to see what wonders the future holds for you.

    New Zealand

  23. Another starving artist here - I act and I dance, and neither of these ventures has ever turned a profit for me so I keep a roof over my head working retail. For me, it's imagination and possibility of what could come to be that keeps me going. I'll be at my "day job" and hear or partake in a conversation, and just marvel at what comes out that no screenwriter could ever come up with. How life is stranger than fiction, truly. The other day, my wise-ass response to something my boss said was to start doing pirouettes. No words necessary. It's a good thing he's really just as weird . . .

  24. Isn't this the problem artists (in any medium) have had pretty much as long as there have been artists? And the reason why the words 'Starving' and 'Artist' have tended to go together. We each have a mind and a soul (however you wish to define that), but unfortunately we each also have a stomach that needs to be filled from time to time.

    Unless you can find a patron or marry someone very rich and almost dead with no existing dependants (I'll call if I ever win big on the lottery :-) ) you need to do something to make the filthy lucre. At least you have the option of doing so in an artistic way.

    Have fun and remember that a lot of us really value your work, even the art for money.

  25. As a throwback myself, have you considered branching out and doing radio theater or trying to get involved in more stage work as far as art for arts sake?.

  26. I recently saw an interview with William Shatner done by Henry Rawlins and Shatner talked about there being stages in an actors life. The big three he said were the early starving period where you struggle creatively and try to get noticed.

    Then the commercial period where you say 'okay I've got to make some money' and then there is the third tier where you perfect the craft and really hit your peak by having years of experience to grow and mature.

    I even remember a while back where William H Macy said publicly that he needed to make a living and art wasn't paying so 'no more art.'

    As something of a throwback might I suggest doing radio theater or trying to get involved in more stage work as far as art for arts sake? There are some really great national and international production crews in radio theater right now.

    Also you could always try teaching. Now that your an author you could try volunteering to get in the door of an arts or English program at a local school.

    You might want to speak to some other people who have had similar struggles. Tim Powers who is a protege of Phillip K Dick and a fantastic syfy writer in his own write but doesn't have notoriety yet manages to make a pretty good living and teaches creative writing in Orange County.

    I hope everything works out for you though.

  27. Yes, ultimately anything you don'
    t think is worth doing will turn out as nothing anyone wants to buy. Pullin' for ye, lass.

    And when I think of all the jobs I'd hire you for if I suddenly became Samuel Goldwyn's reincarnation; you, and also Mercedes, Emma, Megahn and Alexis, my recently concussed brain boils.

    Here's a non-commercial but interesting notion. Get ahold of some 19th Cnewtury costumes and a knife that squirts blood, have CoRo plus you as guest soloist, do a video of "Banks of the Ohio," using the version of the words Olivia- Newton-John recorded, where it's *the Girl* who comes back. Nice turnabout for "Seeing Red." DaddyCatALSO

  28. Some people don't seem to get why I like you as an actress and a person, but this blog post is many reasons why I do. You do things because you want to, not because of others or money (But it's understandable to sell art if you need the money), you are your own woman in my opinion.

    I am a writer myself and like writing stories, but often or not I plan on making a story I could publish but never finish it. However there is one story I don't plan on publishing that has 6000 pages, now your post made me wonder if it's because the former is trying to publish something I can get for money, rather then passion and writing for the same reason you do. Don't know if I am making sense here but the point is you have got me thinking about why I can't seem to finish a book to publish (Although perhaps one day).

  29. If all else fails...make your OWN damn acting work. If you have to write/act skits on YouTube, and hope that you manage a "Dr. Horrible" with them...go for it.

    I am a non-practicing solitary Wiccan, and one of the first things I learned came, interestingly enough, from Aleister Crowley (not the greatest moral icon, but hey): the will is doing that thing you can't not do.

    Keep doing that thing YOU can't not do. And in the meantime... love and be loved.

  30. From one struggling artist to another. "I hear you Amber!" I'm still trying to get my first book deal signed so at least you are ahead of me in the game there. I'm starting to sell some paintings which is good (but honestly I don't charge nearly enough for my artwork)But like you said, It shouldn't be about the money.

    Good luck, keep writing and I do hope you keep getting acting gigs. I like your work.



  31. Whenever people ask me what I would really like to be doing with my life 99% of the time I dodge the question, the other one percent of the time my honesty takes over and I admit that I'd really like to be writing. I LOVE to write, I always have, pretty much ever since I was old enough to - well - write. Unfortunately I kind of suck at it (with a little less of the "kind of") so I know my chances of ever making any money out of it are nil which is OK since I'm not in it for that. I just like to tell stories even if I'm the only one who will ever read them, but at the same time I've got bills to pay and that means I had to get a day job doing something that people will actually pay money for me to do. The only downside is that it takes so much of my time and energy that I never seem to write any more. I'll admit that your post shamed me - I've been letting this slide far too much for the last decade, so here I am at 00:30 when I should either be doing paid work or sleeping so that I can get up early tomorow to do said work but instead I'm sat here with a copy of Word open and the first 403 words of a new story filling the screen, and writing a blog comment to woman who has no idea who I am but managed to shame me into action. You know something? It feels good :)

    Think I'll go write some more.

  32. Ideally there should be more government support of the arts. We provide subsidies to corn and soy farmers, but ignore the artists in this country. That won't change any time soon, unfortunately.

    A lot of artists have "art" they create to earn an income and the works they create for themselves. I think the important part is to make sure you allow enough time for the art that inspires you.

  33. I know how it feels! In this material world to keep up pace with the rising expenses you can't just rely on your creativity and live in your own world.

  34. Hi Amber,
    enjoying your blog and looking forward to working with you on Cables, a film by Lance Catania, which I am producing. Film is a passion for Lance and me. We can't wait to get started. All the best, Noel

  35. Wow!@that was the most honest piece of writing I have read by someone who is quasi a public personality. I REALLY do feel ya, and agree with you 100% (It bugs me when people write 110% when 100 is the most.

    You have to see what it is that makes acting jobs not come. Maybe some butt-kissing with previous ppl you've worked with or changing your perspective about what you really are as an actor in reality. Maybe there is something else you want to do..dare I say a real job.

    Who knows, tomorrow might bring a another tv series knocking, I mean David Boreanaz is still working. What about the Willow character girl? I'm sure she has something going. Maybe approaching everything differently is the cure. Like changing it all. Shake the bag so to speak. Good luck, I think you're terrific

  36. did you ever think that creating art for money in itself is a form of expressing behind what you are doing is the need to survive.. so on the outside what you have created was basically to sell but look deeper at the edges of your art and you see the inspiration and beauty that this was created from a survival basic instinct which in itself is quite beautiful and natural.

  37. Okay, I'm incredibly glad I found your blog at this exact moment in my life. In short, I've been struggling with finding a way to pound it in to everyones heads (friends, family, strangers that call me mean names) that I'm not working for anyone right now, I'm working for myself - even if it doesn't seem that way because I don't get up and leave my house, sit in traffic, complain about my boss, etc.

    Sure, I make shit for money, but I'm happier than when I was in a steady job with health insurance provided by signing on the dotted line. I am able to sit up late at night and write about things no one thinks about but me, and I'm coming to terms with it as a career choice.

    I'm happy to read that there are amazing people out there that can say "to hell with it, I'm creating art and I'm happy for it," and hopefully part of my subconscious can wrap around this idea and stop moping every time someone says I'm a bum, or working at McDonald's is a more noble line of work. Yep, that last thing actually happened within the last week.

  38. Hey Amber,
    I am just finding your blogspot now. I'm so glad you are blogging. I usually make my real-life living on the production side of theater, helping others make their dreams and visions come true. But currently, since a financial layoff in my "field", I find that my acceptable "day job" allows me more time on nights and weekends to devote to the art I want to do, which currently is an LGBT fairytale musical.

    I think it is always good for an artist to at least spend half of their creative time creating art that inspires them no matter the bredth of the audience-sales demographic-babbly wabble. I don't think you can't create the next greatest thing while actively trying to create the next greatest thing. Keep those juices flowing and remind yourself of your manifesto any time you are in doubt or uninspired. You are an inspiration to me and many.

  39. Yay Auto-Correct! I meant to say: I don't think you can create the next greatest thing while actively trying to create the next greatest thing. This is why I am not a writer. :)