Artistic Freedom

by Jeffrey J. Michaels

Creatives love to dream of being free. Free to paint, free to write, free to pursue any and all aspects of our abundant artistic dreams. There is an old expression, probably someone like Thomas Jefferson or Alexis de Tocqueville said it.

Freedom isn’t free.

Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young said,

Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground.

Okay, that second quote is depressing and really we are not talking about dying for our art. But are we willing to live for creative expression? Most writers just want to make a living and not have to wear a shirt with their name printed on it. The point is that creatively-driven beings seek an outlet and we will find it no matter what our circumstances.

Sacrifices Made for Freedom

Recently at a writers conference in San Diego I spoke with an aspiring author and he said that in seeking time to write he gets up at three in morning before his wife and children rise, before he needs to shower and get ready to go to his accounting job. Before his “real life” begins, he says. He has a specific ritual that he conducts before sitting down to the computer and part of it is noisy enough that it can be heard in the bedroom. It is a scientific fact that coffee makers are louder in the middle of the night. His wife agrees to ignore this in support of his writing efforts.

At that same conference I met a working mom with an excellent concept for a novel. She stays awake until one in the morning, after all the work is accomplished: dishes washed and put away, lunches made for the next day, bills and household accounting completed, as well as herding her three boys towards their bedroom. Then, and only then, will she sit and enter the world she is creating. It is a hopeful world, one she desires to offer to others who seek a better future for their children. Dad helps a lot, she says, but admits there is a control freak aspect where she needs to know that everything is done RIGHT — that is, to her satisfaction — before she can relinquish her grip on the household responsibilities. She finally gave up trying to get the boys to wear matching pajama bottoms and tops and now allows dad to handle bedtime.


We all have our quirks and responsibilities. We also make our choices. The absolute need to create is something that can be denied for a time. Like food. But often the necessity overcomes the perceived limitations and will burst forth and not be deterred.

The price to pay for the time spent can be a derogation of duties. Sometimes it is a dereliction of duties. The man in the example above is the husband to the woman who goes to bed after midnight. They have bargained, negotiated and agreed to a specific organizing of tasks, and more importantly recognize and respect one another’s particular weirdnesses and compulsions. They grant one another space and understanding, and assist in the gift of freedom. But they pay the price. And they are each close to completing their prospective projects.

Will they make a living at their book writing? Or will he need to continue bookkeeping to sustain the level of income necessary for them to live in Southern California? Again, the cost is considered and they have chosen to adjust their lives to allow for creative expression.

Why Did I Wait?

Many writers don’t actually begin their work in earnest until they near retirement. “All the time in the world,” says one published gentlemen. “And it is all the same time I had all my life, I just made different choices as to what to do after work. Why did I wait?”

Truth to tell, there are reasons to wait. Creativity can be dampened. Mental weariness is not conducive to creative activity. Emotional exhaustion can legitimately deter the process of expressing deep-seated, heartfelt communications between characters undergoing traumatic circumstances.

Writers and artists operate in a vacuum. They often experience deep insecurities about their abilities. Participation in a community is difficult when time must be spent making a living. Part of the cost of writing is dealing with your own foibles and phobias. There is a certain courage necessary. Remember that the word courage has, as its roots the term “cor,” Latin for “heart.” All true creative artistic effort stems from the emotional core of an individual. Passion for a project will propel success and completion far more effectively than seeking profit.

Passion and Profit

This is not to say that profit should not be sought. Every action has an opposite and equal reaction. If you produce a quality product, there will be an equivalence of return on your investment. It may not be in the form of income, coin, or currency. But there is no crime in going for the gold. Your cost may be the lessening of your artistic intent to create a more commercially viable final result. You are free to make that choice.

The current world of digital media accessibility is vast. The opportunity to experience success is wide open. Creating an eBook is practically free. But there is more content being produced today than ever before. You, the writer, are in competition with everything being created today and everything that has come before. This means more effort required and more time spent. Not in creating but in marketing, the tooting of ones own horn. For many the choice is difficult, not because they do not want to create, but because there are so many shiny objects that can distract our questing and curious artistic souls. And then there is Free Cell.

Freedom is not free. The price to living a fulfilling life is the decision to use our time wisely.


Jeffrey J Michaels, Author

Jeffrey J Michaels, Author

Jeffrey J. Michaels is a Gemini. As such he is deeply involved in whatever interests him at the moment. His describes his book A Day at the Beach and Other Brief Diversions as “metaphyictional,” combining fantasy and humor with metaphysical elements. He is currently polishing a sweeping fantasy series of interconnected tales collectively known as The Mystical Histories. It is varied enough that he says he may even finish most of the stories. In his real life he is a well-respected creative and spiritual consultant. He does not like to talk about his award winning horror story.


2 thoughts on “Artistic Freedom

  1. “It has been said by some physicians, that life is a forced state. The same may be said of freedom. It requires efforts, it presupposes mental and moral qualities of a high order to be generally diffused in the society where it exists.” –John C. Calhoun, speech, U.S. House of Representatives, Jan. 31, 1816.


    Everything in life is worth the effort! Or so, Theodore Roosevelt said more succinctly, ““Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…”

    Great article!

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