“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” Those are the words of Pulitzer Prize-Winning poet Mary Oliver, penned three years ago in one of her last ever collections.In her decades of creative pursuits, Mary found that chasing dreams didn’t achieve all that much unless you had space and freedom to let those dreams flourish.
But it’s not just artists that think creativity can be helped along. A study by two economists found cash incentives can make people a bit more creative, but they are far more creative when they know an audience will look at their final work.
This same applies to creators. Over the years we’ve seen how Patreon’s creators, supported emotionally and financially by their eager patrons, find the space and freedom to unleash creativity in ways they couldn’t before.
So to celebrate the Fourth of July, we’ve asked our community how they found creative independence, and what it has meant to them.
Breaking free from the daily grind
In a typical 9-to-5, it’s your boss, or your bosses’ boss, that calls the shots. You’re working on projects they want on a timeline that suits them.
But as a Patreon creator, Nancy Man, the blogger behind Nancy’s Baby Names, says she’s able to choose her own schedule and focus on projects that excite her in the moment, which ends up being better for her overall mental health.
“Because I can choose what I work on from day to day, it’s easy for me to stay excited about my work, and this definitely boosts my overall happiness,” Nancy says.
It’s a sense of freedom that will soon be coming Demonac’s way. Since launching #OperationAwesomeUnemployment earlier this year, the illustrated storyteller behind Tales from my Dungeons and Dragons Campaign (TDDC) has been overwhelmed at the number of new patrons supporting his plan to quit his job and focus on his art full-time.
“A month from now I’m going to work my last day at that job, then come home and start a new period of my life working for them — for the people who wanted more TDDC, and who are giving me the opportunity to devote myself to telling those and other stories. To do full-time what I’ve been unknowingly working towards since I was around ten years old,” Demonac says.
Breathing room to explore your craft
Adulting isn’t easy. There are rent checks to signs, bills to pay and student loans to clear. That’s why knowing you have a steady stream of income means you can use the time and brain space that would’ve been worrying about buying groceries to let your imagination run wild.
Singer-songwriter Nate Maingard — whose ancestor was a 13th-century troubadour supported by fans — says his patrons gave him the encouragement and financial help he needed to find a creative space to write new songs.
The same is true for Nancy, who has been blogging about baby names for more than a decade.“Independence means that I have the freedom to follow my own curiosity – not someone else’s demands or whims,” she says.
Learning to listen to your gut
Creative industries are littered with middlemen: agents, publicists, bookers, marketers… the list goes on. And each of them have their own ideas about what you should be creating (while charging a pretty penny too).
For many, creative freedom allows them to tune out these sorts of voices and focus on their own instincts.
“Independence means being able to live and speak my truth, without having to compromise or answer to a potentially domineering interest whose goals would differ to mine (record label, etc),” Nate says. “Independence is being able to wake up and say ‘yes’ to my life every day, to offer my gifts to the world with open arms, without fear or desperation.”
For other creators, not needing to rely solely on advertisers or sponsors means they can develop wild, ambitious projects they know their fans will love.
That’s been super important for TimeGhost, which creates interactive history documentaries.
“The broad group of advertisers that go into sponsorships and product placements are not going to want their brand associated with the Holocaust, the breakdown of the Hindenburg line, or the death and carnage on the Eastern front,” co-creator Spartacus Olsson says. “That really does leave us with a model like Patreon in order to work together with our audiences,” he said.
Persisting when you’re stuck
Long before “Nevertheless She Persisted” became a battle cry emblazoned on enamel pins everywhere, the icons of history knew what it took to achieve greatness: practice. James Dyson made more than 5,000 vacuum prototypes and it’s been estimated that Pablo Picasso created 13,500 paintings over his lifetime.
Science communicator Dr. Kiki Sanford, who co-hosts This Week In Science, is someone who believes quantity breeds quality.
“Create, create, create! Don’t wait for things to be perfect. Improvement will come through iteration, practice, and persistence,” Kiki says.
Having a supportive fanbase waiting for regular installments also pushes creators to keep making things even when they might feel stuck, out of ideas or just want to quit.
Researchers have even found that ideas developed when someone persisted are objectively more creative than their initial thoughts!
Finding rest in the face of burnout
Burnout sucks. And it affects more than just the millennial generation, with the World Health Organization now recognizing the impact of unmanaged chronic stress as an “occupational phenomenon.”
While a holiday, or even just a walk in the sunshine, can work wonders, it’s important to not feel guilty for taking a break.
Chelsea Schwartz, the founder of fan destination High Voltage, discovered that having creative independence means you can also choose when not to be creative and use that time to step away and recalibrate.
“You won’t see 17 articles a day going up on High Voltage and our podcast might not make it out weekly because I want to know that what we are doing is worthwhile and will be of value,” Chelsea says.