The sacrifice of the creative life

September 7, 2015 at 12:59 pm

For the past few weeks, my husband’s sister and brother-in-law have been visiting us. They live in America normally, so we don’t get to see them a lot. It’s been fantastic to have them in town for a few weeks.davidkylieshow copy

One of the reasons we don’t see them a great deal is the cost involved in travelling such a distance. This is especially significant because they, like us, are involved in the creative/entertainment industry. Sadly, involvement in creative work usually means you don’t make much money, and this is as true for them as it is for me.

My sister-in-law and her husband, David and Kylie Knight, are illusionists. There’s no doubt they have a lot of talent. They performed two shows while they were here, both of which I attended, and they were slick productions with no sign of error. However, no matter how talented creative individuals (or teams) are, it has no bearing on whether or not they can make a living out of what they’re doing.

On the weekend, I had the privilege of attending the new Living Library which the Queensland Writers’ Centre has set up as part of the Brisbane Writers’ Festival. David and Kylie came in too, to support me. When we were leaving I was telling them that a friend recently congratulated me on having so many author appearances at the moment, as it seems she thinks I’m paid for them.

‘I haven’t told her yet that they’re all free and I just hope I can sell a few copies of my books,’ I said. ‘It always reminds me of my favourite quote by Dorothy Parker, “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”.’

David nodded in understanding and proceeded to tell me two standard magician jokes: ‘What’s the difference between a pizza and a magician? A pizza can feed a family of four. How do you make one million dollars as a magician? Start with two million.’

While we were bantering about this, I reflected on why we keep at it. Most of us make little money out of our creative endeavours, but I’m not going to call mine a ‘hobby’, just as I’m sure David and Kylie wouldn’t call their illusionist act a hobby. It’s serious. We want to make a living out of this. However, the likelihood that we’ll ever become famous isn’t great. While I was at the Living Library, I heard two other authors talk about how they were going to be famous one day. It’s certainly not wrong to have those dreams but I’ve heard them so many times over the past few years I know how rarely it happens.

So why do we do this? Is it only to become famous? If you’re a writer and your only reason for writing is to become famous it’s probably best if you stop now. For most of us, I know it’s not for the fame but for the love of it. That’s why we go to event after event on our own time with the hope of selling a couple of copies. It’s the love of it that drives us to get up after we keep getting knocked down.

And the ones who keep getting up, they’re the ones who have the best chance of attaining that elusive fame. And even if we don’t become famous, we can at least say that we continued after others gave up, which is an achievement in itself. All for the love of it.

Are you an author or involved in another creative pursuit? What drives you to keep going? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you want to know more about David and Kylie Knight, visit

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