How to Live as an Artist

1. Message first.
2. Money second.
3. Money is still important, as it helps you get your message out. So don’t ignore it. But don’t put it first!

For a while, I have been stepping into my identity as an artist. As opposed to a marketer or businessperson.

What I mean by *artist* is, someone who is moved primarily by a message, and spreading that message, not by earning money or building a repeatable, systematized business. (Can art truly be repeated or systematized?)

And yet, the stereotype and reality of the “starving artist” or “struggling artist” persists. I certainly paid my dues on that front, as a seriously struggling writer in my 20s. Though I was never close to starving, I certainly struggled plenty as my career as a writer emerged.

I’ll let others judge the value of my art (which I express in my writing every day, and in what I’m co-creating with all of you in my tribe every day.)

But I do believe I’ve created something truly of value in my own lifestyle—in the way I’ve learned to *live* as an artist. I have never felt so creatively free, never felt that my message was reaching as wide an audience, or never felt as materially abundant as I do right now.

I’m not an insanely wealthy man in a financial sense. But I have enough resources flowing through my life to live very comfortably. And more important, I have the resources flowing through my life to invest it back in spreading my message, via media, Web, PR, travel, networking, connecting, relationship-building.

(Something those of the “starving artist” mentality neglect: if you don’t have money to buy food, you probably also don’t have money to buy a nice web design or travel to an important networking conference, to spread your message. When living an integrated life, money—and the getting of it—*supports* the spread of art, rather than taking away from it. Be your own arts patron!)

And, most important, I have the resources to make time and space to devote myself to creating and spreading a wider message that is important to me.

The creative life, the artistic life—without the struggling or starving.

That is what I seem to come upon, and that, I am certain, has value for a lot of other people besides me.

Yet, when I look around me, I see very little serious business/marketing/branding advice aimed at people who primarily identify as artists (in the sense I’ve described above), instead of identifying as marketers or businesspeople.

I once purchased an info-product purportedly aimed at helping book authors market their books—and the resounding message from all the speakers in the training was: don’t fool yourself trying to be a book author! Become a businessperson with a backend and a niche and a bunch of upsells! etc etc.

Yes, but what is left then for the foolish ones? What is left for the crazy fools like me? The ones who do not wish to identify as businesspeople with backends or niches or upsells, but as… artists? With earth-changing messages to spread?

I would like to fill that gap. I’d like to start offering advice on how to build the creative/artistic career and lifestyle I currently enjoy, *including* living a life of material comfort and abundance (not insane $$$$, but exactly what I said: comfort and abundance).

And achieving that material abundance in a way that actually *supports* your creative mission, rather than forcing you to compromise it.

I’d also like to help people navigate questions such as:

–> How do you balance engaging with fans, with the isolation & contemplation necessary for serious artistic creation and inspiration?

–> How do you bring in money in a way that doesn’t feel like a soul-draining “day job,” without requiring that your art be fantastically commercially successful either? What is the in between? Here’s a hint in the next paragraph:

–> The art of consulting *around* your art form (which is neither “art” nor is it a soul-deadening meaningless day job) but a lucrative place in between which funds and your true art.) i.e., the art of self-patronage.

–> How to stay consistently inspired to create art every day. Hint: it ain’t about forcing yourself to sit down at your desk when you’re uninspired. It’s about getting *away* from your desk regularly, and finding ways to connect to your creative source, whatever that might be (I can show you how)

–> How the artistic life intersects with love, relationships, and marriage. How to relate and create household harmony when you and your significant are both artists and have very different creative processes and styles–or how to co-exist when one of you identifies as an artist and the other doesn’t.

–> How to develop a personal brand as an artist—which is very different than developing a personal brand as a business. (Absolutely *ZERO* discussion about finding a “niche”: ARTISTS DON’T HAVE NICHES!)

–> How to develop an audience. (Note: I said audience. I did not say “Twitter followers” or “Likes”.) One can have a lot of Twitter follows and “likes”—particularly through dodgy manipulations—without having an audience. And one can have few #s in your Twitter/Facebook count, but have an audience.

–> And my personal favorite topic of all, I think the root question all artists struggle with: How to change a system, while living inside that system.

I’ve been meaning to teach a class for a while.

So here it is, just birthed recently:

How to Live as an Artist
A Course on All the Topics Above
by Michael Ellsberg

–> Mon, Sep. 10th, Mon Sep. 17, Tues Sep. 25, and Mon Oct. 1st – with optional bonus sessions after.
[ALL course sessions will be recorded and sent to all students after each class. If you sign up after the course has started, you still get access to all class recordings.]

–> Surprise Guest Teachers (the most awesome Abundant Artists I know of!)

–> 8PM-9:30PM Eastern, via teleseminar; 45 minutes discourse per session, 45 minutes Q+A

–> $150 for the series: Pay via this PayPal link. (Once your payment goes through, click “Return the Michael Ellsberg” from the PayPal confirmation page, and that will take you to the course Welcome materials.)

–> Oh yeah, I’ve also created a private Facebook Group for all of us, so we can discuss/meet/interact with each other, and keep the dialogue alive after the course.

Thank you, my tribe, for creating the space for me to express my creativity process and share my most cutting-edge thoughts in this way. I hope to see a lot of you in this course—and to completely turn your life as an artist (or aspiring artist) upside down.

No more “striving” artist. How about *thriving* artist?

No more lifestyle of “aspiring” as an artist. How about a lifestyle of *inspiring* artist.

I’m super excited to *meet* any of you who are passionate about learning how to live as a constantly-inspired, materially comfortable, message-bearing, earth-changing, audience-delighting, successful ARTIST!

Sign up here (Once your payment goes through, click “Return the Michael Ellsberg” from the PayPal confirmation page, and that will take you to the course Welcome materials.)


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  • Reply Ania Fizyta August 22, 2012 at 7:01 AM

    fuck yeah!!

  • Reply Lynn Daue August 22, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    what a fantastic, well-timed course! I particularly like the bullet on learning to integrate an artistic life with love, family, and marriage. My husband and I are both Type A creatives (I’m a writer, he’s a brilliant, brilliant programmer) who have very different manners of Getting Things Done. It creates tension on a recurring basis, especially when it comes to balancing the kids and his day job with our pursuits. Do you plan on addressing children in the course? I understand that you two don’t have any, but I would bet money that other people have the same problem with craving out time to create when committed to raising responsible citizens …

  • Reply Jonas Ellison August 22, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    Damn. I may have to enroll in this one. Clearly defined and very important issues we all could use some help on. Spreading art is what it’s all about. So tempting to get caught up in the whole ‘online marketing’ minutiae with all the latest SEO guidelines, etc. It’s nice to just focus on relating to the tribe and being genuine. A course such as this one would be great to focus on that skill. I like the part about artists not having niches. Very well said. Hope you get a huge turn out!

  • Reply Kim August 27, 2012 at 5:54 AM

    I’m new to your writing, but really enjoyed your piece re: identity / shrinks for entrepreneurs. I’m traveling and can’t attend this course, but it sounds great. Not sure if you’re familiar w/ Skillshare, but your course would be great there. . . and then I could add it to my Watch list :)

  • Reply Ed Botsko September 12, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    No more lifestyle of “aspiring” as an artist. How about a lifestyle of *inspiring* artist.
    This is an inspiring statement….

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