The Wages of Love

How to fly a horseSo I’m still trundling around Scotland (with limited internet–sorry), and that means I actually finished reading “How to Fly a Horse,” among other books. One of the topics dealt with in that little tome was how to inspire people to their best creative efforts. The author’s conclusions reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with my sister Maire.

Maire-Maire is a very talented quilter, and has an eye for what fabrics will make an interesting combination, and what patterns while join them in the most pleasing combination. She quilts by hand, and enjoys every aspect of the process, from choosing the fabrics to top stitching the final seams. She made me a quilt to celebrate the birth of my daughter 27 years ago, and when I sleep under that quilt, I feel safe and warm and loved.

Author Patience Griffin's "Gandigow Star" quilt

Author Patience Griffin’s “Gandigow Star” quilt

Maire works terribly, horribly, awfully hard in a management capacity at a medical practice. Long hours, big stress, many sad stories, and there’s Maire, with one of the kindest hearts you’ll ever meet. I asked why she didn’t sell her quilts, and look for a job that was less stress.

She said that the quilting was for her soul, and attaching a dollar figure to it would take some of the joy from it. The quilting was “hers,” and turning it into a business would take some of that away. At first, this struck me as not very sensible. Here’s a lucrative skill she enjoys plying, and there’s a job that’s really hard. The money was by no means the same, but money isn’t everything, is it? A quilt business might lead to a quilt shop, some extra savings, quilting classes, articles in quilting magazines… why not follow that dream?

child-problem-solvingTurns out, Maire was onto something. When experiments are run that offer some people monetary prizes for coming up with creative work, and other people are offered nothing for tackling the same problems, the people who stick to the challenge because they’re enjoying it come up with much more interesting and viable solutions than the wage earners.  These results were easy to duplicate, too.

ipad-workerThink about that. On the one hand, if we want to kill creativity, the best way to do that is pay somebody a wage in coin. On the other hand, we define success most often in terms of material wealth and financial security, not happiness, life-satisfaction, and creative self-expression.

Though, of course, the spider who spins is a she, not a he...

Though, of course, the spider who spins is a she, not a he…

watering canNo doubt, this is an area where common sense and balance play a role. Children need to eat, the bills must be paid, but sooner or later, the soul must be nourished too–though nobody tells us this, (and nobody especially tells our menfolk this). I’ve learned to reject big advances for my books, because I don’t want to “owe” anybody a book. I’ve so far always met my contractual obligation, but having that dollar sign hanging over my head was only creating anxiety and distraction,

Is there an activity you keep safe from the dollar sign? One you’ve thought about making commercial but shied away from? Is there a job that killed your creativity, or–it’s been true for me–one that brought it out?

Again, I might not be able to respond to comments, but I do want to hear what you have to say!

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23 comments on “The Wages of Love

  1. My main area of creativity is acting. So far, the experiences I’ve had working for money have been less enjoyable than the ones undertaken for love of the craft. But I’m confident the difference is all in my attitude, not the actual role! For some reason, when doing it for money, I count the cost of every hour. When I do it for love, I seek to find three greatest joy possible in every moment – even the hard ones.

    Now that I’m pursuing more professional roles, the attitude I take will mean the difference between fulfillment and frustration. Thanks for the reminder!

    PS – the one thing I keep for pure enjoyment would never do for money is reading. I don’t want to ever “have” to read something. 🙂

    • Interesting observations, especially about reading. My audio narrator “reads” for money, and does (I think) an excellent job. For every hour we listen to him, he’s spent at least three in the booth, or researching and rehearsing. Good audio narrators can earn $400 an hour and upwards, but even that’s not adequate compensation in my eyes (ears).

  2. I don’t think I have a creative bone in my body, but I do know how to appreciate those that do.

    I just finished reading THE DUKE’S DISASTER and I loved it. So, what is the deal with Erikson? I’m betting (hoping)that he has a story lurking in that creative mind of yours.

    • First of all, you DO have creative bones. That’s part of the theme of, “How to Fly a Horse.” We ALL create. We make do in recipes, find toys for our children in settings that appear toy-free, we scrounge around for a way to tell Granny she’s talking with her mouthful without actually saying those words. We’re a creative, problem-solving species. It’s not for the elite few.

      Secondly, I have written myself into a corner with Noah and Thea. They came along (he’s actually a half sibling to the Darius, Trenton and Leah, but got separated from the herd), and only now–NOW–when they’re on the shelf am I realizing I’ve written the fourth book a series. The sisters must have stories, and yes, even Erikson. He’ll end up with the governess, but as for the rest of his story…. Anybody speak Regency Dutch?

  3. I have a little book review blog with friends and I am learning to say no to authors and authors assistants when they ask for a review.

    At first, it was pretty neat to have an author email or friend you on Facebook. It’s hard to write a review when the book doesn’t resonate with you. And I don’t want to owe anyone a review either. It’s hard for me to say no….I am learning.

    Our idea for the blog was to write about books we absolutely loved and not be writing 5 reviews a week. Writing a review for a book I adored keeps me honest as does buying books from authors. It’s a creative outlet for our group.

    Loved the a Dukes Disaster and I am wondering if there are books in the future for Ericksen, Noah’s brother, Thea’s brother and sister and so on….

    Loved you photos from The Isle of Skye!

    • Sometimes, saying no is the kindest thing you can do. A lot of times, when it comes to reviews. My favorite “blog” if you can call it that is HEA. From the name, to the tone of the articles, to the interactions you have the folks there, it’s all upbeat, it’s all… HEA.

      And that probably takes saying no fairly often.

  4. I will sing for my supper, conduct for dollars, write concert reviews for moola (and the occasional program notes or choral articles)and enjoy sharing my expertise doing so. What is difficult for me is when people tell me I SHOULDN’T be paid because my musical talent is a gift from God…..blah, blah, blah. In fact, knowing some think that way doubles my energy to prove what I do many cannot, and I should be compensated for it.

    Music is my profession and I love doing what I do but I worked and studied and practiced hard to get where I am. Creativity is my coin, so to speak, and knowing I have to perform sparks my creativity. Deadlines, looming concerts and having to be ready to perform by a certain day makes me that much more efficient in my practice or organization.

    I will write reviews of concerts but I don’t think I could write fiction book review and have not ever done so, even on Amazon. I become invested the characters (I LOVE your Thea and the whole Duke’s Disaster *cast*)and it would be tough to criticize a book when the characters mean something to me.

    • You bring up the other side of the coin, and it’s not always a bright shiny side. Creativity is NOT highly valued, though it’s essential for quality of life on this increasingly crowded planet. The arts and letters have encouraged needed social change, comforted the comfortless, stirred hearts and minds from time imemorial… but they’re seldom well paid. The rock star is the exception.

      I wasn’t a member of my last church for two months before I was playing piano for nearly every service for free. I was the only single mom in the congregation, one of two moms with a small child, the only mom running my own business full time… and apparently, the only person every to learn to play the piano in that bunch. Right. That attitude of, “you can’t say no,” was part of what drove me away.

      And don’t get me started on internet piracy. The hoopla over keeping the web “free” (full of profitable traffic for major corporations), means every author I know has been pirated not dozens of time, but tens of thousands of times. Multiply that times forty or fifty books for some authors, and tell me again how well they’re ccompensated…

      • I had a huge church job, Grace. Four choirs….adult, children’s, bell and a liturgical dance troupe. I planned six months in advance, handled egos (including the organist who had as big an ego as I’ve ever encountered) and worked with a pastor who was never *quite* satisfied. The last straw for me came when that church was having financial difficulties and several in the congregation cornered me to tell me to give up my (pittance of a) salary. My husband is a physician and they thought I should just doing this for the *Glory of God*. What they didn’t know was my husband had just bought a private practice and we were in hock up to our eyeballs and needed my salary. I stuck it out–with pay–for a little more than a year after that but couldn’t take it any longer. I got a less stressful church job ( but not as challenging or fulfilling) and took a breath. Fast forward a few years; turns out, the reason the church was having financial problems was because the church’s treasurer was embezzling. My small salary would not have made a difference but all folks could think of was to get rid of music to make ends meet, not to hire an accountant like they should have!

        I understand your concern about internet piracy… sorry!

  5. I love crafting with paper. Making cards, boxes, bags – – the whole range of Paper Arts. I teach a group of Seniors, as a volunteer. It’s a joy to see the creativity come, when they say, I am not creative. To see something they have done, beautiful, a card to give, or maybe keep and admire. I love it and in year #11 doing this being creative is my life. Loved the last book, however my friend Judi and I feel that Hess has been left behind. Big brother of Worth, he deserves his own story. How about it ?

    • Yes, Hess and Casriel have been left behind. So has Ashton Fenwick (Hadrian’s buddy), and Hamish MacHugh (the Scottish meatwagon from The Captive). As it happens, some author or other is writing stories for all four of these earls… and Uncle Tony Windham and Aunt Gladys just happen to have four red-haired daughters. Not sure where this project will go, or if it will go (earls are stubborn fellows), but I’m keeping my ears open for a grounchy, lonely hero or heroine who wants to give me a clue.

  6. I’ve done many different crafts from crochet, knitting, needlework, sketching, etc. I never had the confidence to actually sell anything so gift giving is my thing. I do think that the best of all worlds is able to make a living at what you love but I was taught early on I had to have a real job.

    • A “real” job. For me it was, “in the real world,” as if working two jobs, finishing a degree in two separate majors, and keeping body and soul together through college was somehow fantasy land.

      When I dropped out of the endocrinology major, my dad gave me the lecture, “But how will you make a living with a degree in music?!” By then I’d been teaching piano for nearly five years, had accompanied ballet classes for two years, had been playing wedding receptions and class reunions for three years… I WAS making a living with music, had BEEN making a living with music, hadn’t taken a dime of my father’s money for more than two years, and he still asked me that. There was a very REAL part of me (at the time) that my father couldn’t even see, much less respect.

  7. I alter, repair, remake or sew from scratch, wedding gowns for the exact reasons your sister stated. It is great fun to fix up a dress that was clearanced for $99 from $1200 because of a major flaw. I get to watch my friend or their kid glow with delight on the big day. I get to use my skill @ seeing & implementing the solution and I don’t have to put a price on it. Started 40 years ago.

    • That is SUCH a kind thing to do, Sue. That’s probably the most important article of apparel a woman will own, and often the largest expense of the whole shindig. What a fabulous contribution to a very important day. I hope you have a scrap book of your creations, but they’ve made a very great difference in many lives.

  8. I’m not the most creative person out here, and in all honesty I’ve never had a job that either fostered or encouraged creativity.

    The time that I was able to channel my creativity was when I was a stay at home mom and a school volunteer. I sewed costumes for the kids and did a lot of organizing for book fairs where we made costumes and built everything around themes. I am proud that I had young adults on the verge of graduating high school who told me that those book fairs help spark their interest in reading and helped them through school.

    • Oh, books! I owe my sanity to books, and if you could read the letters I get from some of my readers…Julia Quinn says a romance novel might not change lives, but they can change an afternoon.

      She’s wrong. Mary Balogh, Loretta Chase, Judith Ivory… they changed my life. They gave my daughter a better mom, my clients a better lawyer. They gave me one reliably safe, sane place to end my day for years…

      And they still do.

      So if you turned some young people toward reading, you made a very, very important contribution to world peace. Yes, you did.

      • Thanks, Grace. I am a firm believer that books CAN change lives and that there are books out there for everyone. If someone doesn’t like to read, they just haven’t found the right book. All it takes is one good one to get started. 🙂

  9. I used to craft until my eyesight made threading a needle (even the easy threaders) difficult. Since it was an activity I enjoyed most in solitude (another thing I have little of) I would buy the pieces meaning to do them then set them aside when some crisis or other came up. I still have some tapestry material I purchased to create a purse. But because it was always something I did to create, there was a sense of satisfaction in the creation. I don’t think I could have done it as a vocation but as an avocation it was so fun!!!

  10. I love to teach, but I would rather volunteer, than be responsible for grades. I go in for an hour with my little hand-outs. We explore some questions, folks say, “Anne I loved your class”. That’s really all I need.

  11. Hello Grace,

    Your Maire is most definately on to something! I am a dabbler. I like to carve wood, weave, paint flowers on things; but whenever somebody suggests selling a creation, it’s not fun anymore. Perhaps it is the thought of failure, or perhaps the pressure of producing. The joy of creating and gifting is enough for me!

    I adore your latest creation, “Duke’s Disaster”! Your breezy writing and subtle humour, combined with characters and situations so beautifully described; it’s as good as any movie! Better! Give me a man with the qualities of Noah, anytime! Thank you Grace, I look forward to reading your future books.

  12. I worked for two months in a tax office this year when I should have been home writing. The money was supposed to be good but it was depressing, non-creative work in a beige cinder block room. It sucked the life out of me. I’ve decided it’s not worth any amount of money to do it again. And it was made worse by my ‘boss’ saying things like, ‘Do you really think this writing will come to anything? Isn’t it just a hobby? and in the next breath, patronizingly, Just promise when you make it big, you won’t forget me.” Ugh.

    My most natural creative talent is singing. When I sang for money, I got to where I hated it. Now I long to sing for free, just to hear the notes and have someone else enjoy the magic with me.