Tuesday evening, a writer pal and I attended an event that featured representatives from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). The event’s focus: a new book co-published by NYFA: The Profitable Artist: A Handbook for All Artists in the Performing, Literary, and Visual Arts, “the first complete ‘how-to’ guide to being a professional and profitable working artist. This handbook features techniques in the areas of strategic planning, financial management, marketing, fundraising, and legal issues including contract law and intellectual property.”
I’ve gone ahead and ordered the book, so I haven’t read it and can’t yet comment on its content. But I’m already struggling with what it means to be a “profitable artist,” and how the book (or NYFA, for that matter, despite its noble intentions) can help me (or anyone) attain that status.
NYFA’s Executive Director was present on Tuesday evening, and he didn’t seem entirely pleased when I posed these questions during the Q&A. He did helpfully note that the book is intended to provide resources no matter where you currently find yourself–whether you’re an artist with a day job who basically needs to learn all there is to know about the areas the book covers, or you’re a self-supporting artist who could benefit from some extra tools and tips. But as for getting from one level to another–sort of my dream–I was told that “it takes discipline.”
You know, I do have a fair amount of discipline. I suspect that the same is true for plenty of you. Moreover, I’m not exactly at Square One when it comes to certain aspects of the writing business. What I don’t have is a lot of time. What I won’t have, without my day job, is a steady stream of money going into my checking account. What I still don’t have is a sense of exactly how the book may help me, or many other writers I know.
I’m probably not doing myself any favors by posting this: NYFA, and its Executive Director, may well read this post when it pops up on a Google alert. NYFA may not like what I have to say, and I do currently have a(nother) NYFA fellowship application filed. But I think it’s important for us to be realistic as well as optimistic. Meantime, it seems that the soundest way for me to be a steadily “profitable artist” is to keep my day job.