Daniel Cook at Lost Garden has a blog on the Minimum Sustainable Success for a video games company. It’s a fascinating read that pulls no punches. Admittedly, indie video game development is possibly the most costly of independent creative endeavours, but the lessons in the post can be applied elsewhere.
Many creatives do not make a cost benefit analysis to their lives when they begin their career in art, music or writing. I know I didn’t. Despite the good advice of my parents, I persisted in choosing to go to art school. It’s a decision which I harbour some regret over, as the quality of education I obtained was dismal. Luckily, I left school with no debt and some technical skill, and was able to find employment outside the creative industry.
Since I planned to take a year off to make concept art at FZD school, I’ve been wondering whether I’ll be able to turn it into a career. Creating art is an expensive profession and can come at great costs, both financially and personally. Whether my art can support me, or whether I will have to support it, is a long term implication I can’t ignore.
Being able to weather set backs, I think, is key to success. J.K. Rowling credits the British welfare state as a safety net that helped her when she hit rock bottom. Many of us won’t have this privilege, and will need a plan to ensure that when we hit that moment, we can bounce back. Daniel Cook suggests some ways to “Survive the odds” in the video games industry, which are also applicable elsewhere.
I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr. Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. -JK Rowling on taxes
Every artist thinks their work deserves recognition, and of course there is an audience for every artist (even if its just yourself). But I ask myself this question all the time; What are the chances someone else will a. want to spend a portion of their day being my audience and b. pay me money to make the thing I want to make?
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. – Thoreau’s Guide to Living More by Spending Less
That said, the cost of perfecting a craft cannot be compared alongside the cost of everyday material things. Lots of times, even if nobody wants it, you still have to make it. The act of creation itself helps me to live life fuller, whereas the cost of most other things takes away from the experience of living.
Sometimes I wonder if I could increase my chances of success by giving up everything else to focus on making art. But I’ve come to realise that that is but one aspect of my life; albeit a very important one. “Follow your passion” has slowly been going out of fashion. Possibly since the teenagers raised with that mantra (my generation) grew up and realised we didn’t know what our passions were in the first place. A better goal would be to find Ikigai – and that can only be found through trying lots of different things, and pursuing them in depth. Who knows where it’ll take you?