9 Excuses Starving Artists Tell Themselves

Many artists having a hard time finding success. Here are some excuses that starving artists tell themselves.

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Starving Artist Excuses

What Is A Starving Artist?

“Starving Artist” is a term used to describe creators that primarily focus on their craft at the expense of material and fiscal comfort. This typically also means that the artist has not found a way to be successful with their art.

While this idea is often romanticized by the average person, it is not always fun to be a starving artist. In an ideal scenario, every artist would be prolific and successful with their craft.

However, sometimes the biggest obstacle is our own way of thinking. Today I wanted to talk about excuses artists give themselves that act as barriers to their own success.

Starving Artists

8 Excuses Starving Artists Tell Themselves

1. “People don’t understand my work.”

I hear this one often. Artists make the excuse that their audience isn’t big enough because there just aren’t enough people who are into their work. They feel that their style or content is too niche, and therefore they are competing for a very small pool of potential fans.

However, I feel that this is a myth. It may have been true a few decades ago, but that isn’t the case anymore. The internet has given us the ability to share art and reach people all over the globe. Your fans are out there waiting to discover your work. You just have to find them.

2. “The right people will eventually find my work.”

This is one of the most infuriating excuses that I hear, especially with the regularity in which I hear it. Many artists have a very basic marketing strategy. They sometimes post on social media, and that is about it.

Too many artists feel that posting on social media is the only way to find success. They believe that the right people will find them if they post their work consistently. However, this is not the case for the majority of artists.

Many of us are allured by the idea of “going viral” and achieving overnight success. This is more of an exception than a rule. Putting all your eggs in the “go viral” basket is the artistic equivalent of buying a lottery ticket.

3. “I’m not successful because I don’t ‘sell out’.”

This is something that I have never experienced myself, but I have seen others experience. For example, an artist will be open to commissioned art, but won’t change anything about their art for their customer. I have also seen artists turn down entry level art jobs that could help further their careers.

While taking every job that comes your way is not required, there should also not be a stigma against artists who adapt their work and expand their horizons. While taking on art jobs may not be your purest form of expression, you may be surprised by what you learn and the people you meet during the process. Tattoo artists are an excellent example of why this excuse doesn’t work.

4. “I can’t be prolific because of my 9-to-5.”

The old “I could be successful if I just had the time to put in” excuse. Let me preface this by saying that there are most definitely people who do not have enough time to put work into their art.

However, I feel that people who make this excuse often do not fall into this category. A lot of time-constrained artists I have worked with have plenty of time to make great art. What they don’t have time for is the hours of television and video games they partake in every week.

The ultimate question here is: How badly do you want to make art? If you want it bad enough, you will find the time.

MORE: 23 Time Management Tips From Creators and Entrepreneurs

5. “I don’t need to change anything about my strategy.”

I have two issues with this excuse. First, this argument makes the assumption that the world (and the people in it) are static. If this were true, a good marketing/promotion strategy would work forever. However, the world is a constantly changing place. Your strategies need to adapt accordingly.

Second, if the artists’ strategy is working, then they would be growing and finding success. Since this article is based on those who are struggling, I don’t believe that their strategy doesn’t need any changes.

6. “It is phony to care about the business side of my art.”

I see this excuse all of the time, especially in indie art communities. Many artists have a sense of pride in the fact that they do not put any effort into turning their art into a successful business. However, I also see these same artists getting frustrated that they are not making sales of building their audience.

This excuse is often framed using the false dichotomy fallacy. You can either focus on art or business. However, this is a flawed argument. The relationship between art and business isn’t all-or-nothing. It is a gradient. Successful artists find a healthy balance of business and art.

7. “I am not good enough to sell my art.”

This is an excuse that I struggled with for a long time. When it comes to art, it can be very difficult to get to a point where you feel confident. We are constantly growing, learning and evolving.

My advice here is to just put yourself out there and work on your confidence. Having confidence in your work is a skill unto itself. Just like any other skill, it needs to be harnessed through practice and persistence.

Instead of not making yourself available for sales, put yourself out there and let your audience to decide if they want to purchase your goods and services.

8. “I can’t make good art because I don’t have expensive equipment/supplies.”

I don’t hear this excuse that often, but I do see it occasionally. While specific art forms (such as filmmaking) do have a higher price for admission, good art can be made with almost anything.

I have read photocopied zines that have made a huge impact on my life. I have also commissioned artists for pieces that were made with a single Sharpie in under 5 minutes. Good art is good art, regardless of how much money the artist puts into their materials.

9. “Starving makes me a better artist.”

Many starving artists feel that pain and suffering is the key to making good art. While this can be true for some artists, many creators put out quality work regardless of their current environment and circumstances.

I also feel that this sentiment is based on a self-defeating premise. Artists complain about not finding success, then point to their lack of success as some sort of virtue. This is fine for artists who only create for a hobby. However, for artists who want to make money from their efforts, this excuse can be a huge barrier to their success.

Starving Artists Excuses

Are You A Starving Artist?

Are you an artist who is having a hard time finding success? Are there any excuses that I missed? Let me know on social media!

Further Reading

12 Things All Starving Artists Believe (at The Abundant Artist)

7 Mistakes That Are Keeping Starving Artists From Thriving (at Huffington Post)

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