Take the donut.
In her book, The Art of Asking, author Amanda Palmer writes about Henry David Thoreau, the man behind Walden. Based on two years of living “by his own means” in a cabin in the woods, Thoreau paints the perfect picture of the isolated and forlorn artist. In reality, he borrowed the land from a wealthy neighbour, regularly went to Ralph Waldo Emmerson’s house for dinner, and had weekly baked goods delivered to him by his mother and sister, including fresh donuts.
Palmer’s book—and TED Talk—unpack the complex relationship that creatives have with asking for and accepting support, financial or otherwise. Her call to arms is to “take the fucking donut” when support is offered without needing to hide it. Money shame is real and can get in the way of us doing our best work. Artists have always had patrons and yet financial support from others seems to bolster the narrative that creatives are entitled and/or irresponsible.
We live in a world that simultaneously exalts creative work and considers it frivolous. This only complicates the stories we tell ourselves about money. The end result is a never ending feedback loop that has us more focused on our finances—even indirectly through anxiety and overwhelm—than on our creative work. We feel sheepish asking for financial support because we feel like we must do penance for having the luxury of being an artist.
Of course, that’s not our narrative. It’s given to us by society at large. As creatives, we know that making art is no small undertaking. And while others may consider it to be more of a hobby than a serious profession, we know better. Good art, the kind that wakes us up, gives us hope, and reconnects us to our humanity requires just as much energy and effort as any other job. More, perhaps, because we have no consistent models to work off of.
Part of cultivating financial wellbeing in your creative practice involves being able to ask for and accept financial support—if you need it—so you can focus on developing and shipping your creative work. Whether that’s going to your online community, a family member, or even a bank, there’s no shame is seeking out a financial leg up. Of course, this isn’t an option that’s available to everyone but if it’s something you have access to and you need it, then use it.
I used to be terrible at taking the donut. I wanted to get by on my own blood, sweat, and tears. It took me a long time to realize that money was just one of the things that affected my ability to make my art. The fact that I’m white, middle-class, cisgender, able-bodied, and thin make me really privileged. Which directly increases the probability of me being able to access creative success. The truth is, I have been taking other donuts in my life since I was born.
Through this lens, accepting financial support doesn’t need to be such a huge blow to my pride or yours. Of course, I want to be fully financially independent one day soon. In the meantime, however, there’s no reason for us to suffer unnecessarily. Money is complex and some of the financial realities that we’re living in and with are a lot bigger than our individual choices. So please, for the sake of your wellbeing and your creative work, take the fucking donut.
What support do you struggle to ask for and/or accept?