“Starving Artist Syndrome” & creative entrepreneurship

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Starving Artist Syndrome[This article was written by guest contributor Jamie Leger.]

What happens to a plant when it doesn’t receive the proper nutrients required for it to grow strong and healthy?

It will shrivel and wilt, and eventually either die, be stunted in its development, or somehow find a way to receive those required nutrients and recover.

But a plant doesn’t know exactly what it needs, does it?

Sure, on some scientific, instinctive level it understands how to execute its functions once the nutrients required are provided; but what’s needed in order for this little plant to grow is known as a development system, an external systemic dimension, something outside of the plants control, that delivers the nutrients it needs to do it’s job.

For our plant to become a strong, healthy plant that fulfills its purpose in the eco-system and the universe, God (or the scientific philosophy you believe in) created a development system.

But what does this have to do with ARTISTS, you might be asking yourself?

Well artists are the same way. They require development and growth to… develop and grow.

But much like the plant, most artists don’t realize (let alone communicate) what they need in order to develop and grown, at least at the systemic level.

Most of us will have some idea of something that we “need,” before we can have or do something else. For many artists this takes the form of funding, new equipment, or other external resources. These are all extrinsic.

Yet, the problem isn’t usually the lack of resources as much as it is the lack of resourcefulness.

That intrinsic (internal) characteristic is fostered and developed as a systemic idea or belief, a mindset.

But regardless of the reasons, the cause of the problems, and the apparent symptoms, there are some simple facts that clearly present some unacceptable problems.

Artist development in the modern world. Good thing we’re not plants.

Many artistic talents will work their freaking tails off this year without receiving the proper nutrients required to sustain and nourish their growth and expansion. Much like the plant without oxygen, water, and sunlight, these artists just won’t make it.

The unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of the brilliant, creative souls who walk among us will indeed allow the weight of life, the pressures and demands of their regular existence, the discomfort of taking a bigger leap, the risk of exiting mediocrity, the beliefs that limit their growth – to drag them down. They’ll settle, missing opportunities to express their true musical/artistic vision.

Further, of the few who do leap out of their comfort zone and take the risk, only a very small percentage will get it right, because very few will even know what to do once they find themselves in that make-or-break transition period where they can go from good to great, or back down and sort of settle for something less.

This is a very real problem. But the good news is that while most artists can’t recognize the essential nutrients required to grow a prosperous, strong and healthy music career, the majority of these elements are in fact within their control, and unlike the plant, once one human being understands something, we can communicate it to others so that they too can use that knowledge to solve their own problems. We can even do it via blog post!

The nutrients needed for a thriving career as an artist or creator in the modern world

The biggest problem with being an artist in the modern world isn’t the lack of opportunity; it’s the fact that we’ve recently transitioned from a world where most artists thought they needed to rely on some external dimension to be successful. And although many now realize that they indeed can become successful on their own, most still don’t really understand the essential elements required to do so.

Again, we’re not plants… and that’s a good thing for us. We are the CREATORS of our reality. The designers of our lifestyle. We are artists in the modern world with an unlimited suite of communication formats, distribution channels, and tools to tell our stories and produce our content.

In this post, we’ll begin to look at what it takes to become the master and creator of your artistic content, lifestyle, and financial freedom.

Why most artists are and will remain broke.

At the most practical level, the single biggest problem I continue to encounter with artists and creators is monetary. It’s getting paid enough to do what they do, which in turn allows them to develop, expand, and contribute to their audience at greater capacity.

In my experience working with thousands of artists and creators over the last 7 years, I’ve learned that passion, talent, and even the driving ambition required to succeed in todays world are NOT the problem that they are struggling with most. Despite what some of the critics may report/surmise, it’s not typically an issue with an unwillingness to do the work, but rather one stemming from sheer overwhelm, lack of guidance, training, and strategy.

You see, both the problem and the solution begin with our mindset.

It all starts and ends…  inside your mind. And as much as I harp on this with my clients and students, I don’t think it’s always received with the transformative power I intend it to. The fact is that the quality of your life shapes the quality of your career, and determines the impact you can have… Period.

“Starving Artist Syndrome” is stealing from your soul

Make no mistake about it, modern artists and creators aren’t just a vital part of our culture, they are a vital part of our new global economy.

Yet historic cultural beliefs have evolved into all kinds of silly ideas lodged into the craniums of creators in the modern world. Most of these value systems and beliefs are little more than imprinted phrases and unconscious “estimations” about what making money means for an artist. Especially for musical artists.

Going to your nearest farm, pulling up a plant by the roots, and covering it with a bag could for all intents and purposes be considered “stealing,” right? It is stealing from the farmer, robs the consumer, and kills the plant!

A codependent series of things are effected because of it…

Well, the single biggest artist growth trap that is stealing from our SOUL’s ability to grow and prosper is an epidemic we call “Starving Artists Syndrome.”

The #1 Artist Growth Trap: Starving Artist Syndrome

It is such an enormous threat partially due to it’s pervasiveness, but mostly because of it’s deceptive ability to infect without detection, making it’s diagnoses uncommon, therefore it’s existence tolerated.

It can fill us with all kinds of shame and doubt around being compensated with what we deserve, and guilts us into feeling bad for being self-promotional. Again, this is a really deep-seated little virus that has long been “wired” into our brains.

But the clash of opportunity and limitation in the 21st century have caused a friction that has forced us to confront so many of these paradigms as we finalize this transition into the modern world and the CREATORS economy. Still, so many of us have struggled or are currently struggling with this insidious little bugger at some level.

One of the problems is that many artists and creators confuse financial return with the actual nutrient required for growth. It is not. It is merely the compensation for creating, producing or providing value to someone’s life.

Yes, getting paid is an element within the nutrient, but is not the actual nutrient.

The actual nutrient is an exchange of currency. As an artist in the modern world, your CONTENT is your currency. It is this value that you develop and then trade to your fan for both financial compensation and emotional connection. This is the cycle which generates value to both you and your fan, which sustains your ability to grow and your audience’s ability to experience the fruits of that growth (i.e. new music).

In a very real, practical way this is the sunlight that helps your artistic plant grow. It’s much more than a dollar figure; it is validation, emotional support, and the seeds that allow an artist to continue to develop their content.

Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms of “Starving Artist Syndrome”:

Limited Thinking:  “O, ya, well i’m an artist, of course i’m broke.” Even seemingly harmless little cliches like this can cause conflict for us.

Hope Marketing Strategy: Not thinking that they need a strategy or a plan for their career. They’ll just wing it. “If  i’m just a good person, or if i just get better at what i do, then surely my luck will improve.”

Not committed: Unwilling to do what it takes, for as long as it takes to achieve whatever they want. This is one that most people don’t actually realize that they are making, but by inaction and not committing to something, they are making the choice to ultimately “settle” somewhere down the line.

Not taking care of yourself: This is often a result of some deeper sense of “unworthiness,” or being undeserving. Not being the protector and guardian of your vision.

Being a Victim: This is when we accept or tell ourself stories or excuses that justify why or how we cannot have what we want.

Sabotage: This is a tricky one where we can often inadvertently derail our progress in one way or another. Everyone has done this in one way, shape, or form, so don’t be so quick to think it won’t happen to you.

These symptoms sometimes show up as one or more of the following ideas

* It’s not ok to make money doing what you love.

* I don’t need any training. business, technology, finances, marketing… that’s not what i do, man!

* If people can’t see the value in my work, then that’s their fault…!

* Money is the root of all evil!

* I don’t need a plan or a strategy – Seriously, all my friends and family say that i’m awesome… So it’s just a matter of time.

* I’m just waiting for my big break – something’s gotta give.

* I’d have to sell my soul – or compromise my values.

* I just need someone to handle the “marketing and sales” side for me. I can’t be troubled with that kind of stuff. I can’t ask people for money.

Do you recognize any of these symptoms? I’ll bet a few of them may have even resonated with you! 🙂

Truth is, they are actually more common than uncommon. I myself am a recovered “Starving Artist” and I want you to realize that it’s not entirely your fault. Your intentions are good, but for many of us, the first step is in actually acknowledging that there are ideas, beliefs, and unconscious thought patterns that may be harming, hindering or restricting your ability to breakthrough to the next level, to artistic and financial control.


I’m truly proud to be serving thousands of modern artists and amazing content creators with trusted, time-tested tools and skills training. If you would like to receive more insights about being a modern artist (along with proven strategies for creative success) sign up for my free newsletter.


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[Busking musician photo from Shutterstock.]

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