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No Mas. How Deprivation Inspires Creation.

Posted on April 9, 2012 and read 1,879 times

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benspic No Mas. How Deprivation Inspires Creation.Benjamin Sampson
Co-Founder
ideagallery.co

When Carrie Bradshaw wrote her columns at the end of each episode of “Sex and the City,” everyone knew she was a crap writer. Not because her writing was particularly bad, but she was getting paid millions of dollars per episode – way too much to be brilliant.

She joins a long list of less-fictional creative characters, writers, artists, poets, musicians and inventors who, when finally getting shown the bucks, begin to crumble under the weight of their coins.

It is widely known in poetic and musical circles that poverty is mandatory for brilliance. Chronologically, Walt Whitman became a poet only after becoming tired of “the usual rewards,” Thoreau walked into the woods of Walden with very little in the way of possessions, James Fenton was famous for frequenting Oxford bars with only enough for one drink, and let’s not forget our modern day poets whose first albums are almost always based on leaving poverty-stricken hoods.

Famous painters and artists at least had the foresight of waiting until they were dead before receiving their fortunes.

Some could assume that financial desperation is the secret ingredient to a creatively inspired life, or at least the start to one. And the great equalizer to that ingredient: a big bank balance. It explains why old people hate modern art and rich kids get beaten up – it all came too easy for them. But with loads of money to start with, would anything ever have come at all?

While many people could argue the ‘successful’ creative types are still selling well, I would question whether (though conceding exceptions) it is because their new stuff is really that good or because we are all still so in love with their old stuff? Dylan, Morrison, Disney characters, the real Slim Shady are just a few that come to mind.

Some say well-paid creative types lose their edge when all their problems go away. It makes sense. I can only assume there were fewer brilliant creative solutions that, let’s say, Einstein would have been pondering if he had a glass of champagne and rent paid a full year in advance.

Others say the introduction of money starves the creative flow because the mind can finally relax, going for daily dips in expensive pools of booze and steak sauce. Or, it may be due to the fact the ultimate love or money test is placed before them and those who go bad, may have failed it.

We met with two brilliant but modestly paid guys in New York this week, working bar jobs to support their gallivanting minds. Upon talking about the sale of an idea, I hoped the look in their eyes at hearing the news wouldn’t mark an end to their current creative product. Greater than their ideas, I thought, may be the habitat in which they had them.

Prison is a much harsher place than New York bars. It’s where Oscar Wilde’s “De Profundus” was written and where Martin Luther King Jr. wrote arguably his best piece of protest literature in “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Be it the backroom of an agency, dirty sound studios or auditioning for bad sitcoms, the world’s creative contingent all know that periods of relative deprivation are always looked back on with such affection and, well, creativity. While near-poverty can make us desperate, it can also make, or keep, us good.

And while the money you are eventually offered may buy you a better boat, it could sail you away from the talent and reasons that afforded you the boat in the first place.

There, my stupid metaphoric penny paradox is complete. I’m an idiot. But one who knows we should all take the money, but sometimes leave it too.

Right about now Miss Bradshaw would have written something benign about love overcoming money, and I tend to agree with her. Let’s all just hope the people getting cashed up big stay humble and let their money go to bank accounts and obligatory charities, not heads. Because if Bear Grylls ever decides that he’s too successful and well paid to be drinking his own piss, we may all just stop watching.





  • http://twitter.com/strawberrycough evan

    There’s another way of looking at it, too:  Creativity and finances are mutually exclusive. 
    As much as we don’t want to hear it, perhaps a lot of creatives go through good years and bad years. Sometimes the bad years last for decades. Some creatives might even have a shelf-life of brilliance.
    But does that have anything to do with money?Or is it really that we are so conditioned to believe artists can remain brilliant without ever having ‘off years,’ that we look for ways to blame outside forces as the talent destroyer. 
    “Ah, it must be that filthy lucre. Otherwise they wouldn’t have made that Disney Soundtrack.”If it really is the case, then I would like to know how much lucre do you need to earn before it becomes filthy? There are plenty of artists out there, especially in music, who aren’t that rich or even particularly famous, and have had a similar downward trajectory.  Do they blame the fact they made 75K last year on the state of their laziness?Also, Bear Grylls show was just canceled. If we follow the accepted line of thinking it means now that he’s out of work, he’ll do something inspiring.I find that a bit hard to believe.

  • http://adland.tv/ Dabitch

    Where does Salvador Dali fit in the picture? Born wealthy, lived richly, died wealthy. Always well compensated for the work he created through his career, be it a chupa chup logo, a dream sequence in “Spellbound” or the fine art he’s so well known for. Totally uncreative dude, right? 

  • Art Hodges

    We like to call this confirmation bias. It’s where you have an opinion, you select anecdotal evidence that happens to support it, and reach the conclusion that you started with. For every financially-ruined Mozart, I’m pretty sure I can name a very, very wealthy Gershwin, Puccini, or Verdi who were at the height of their creativity while also making a healthy living. Unless you are willing to do some real research and present a statistically convincing argument, we can only assume you are making this crap up because you already believe it. 

  • Anonymous

    this is nonsense. I suggest you read this excellent piece:

    http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/09/11/the-texas-sharpshooter-fallacy/

  • Anonymous

    You have made some good points in here.


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