They’re Called Starving Artists for a Reason

Remember that old sitcom ‘Good Times’ starring Jimmie Walker as J.J.? There’s a funny line from the show that’s always stuck with me. If I remember correctly, the painfully skinny J.J. tells someone he’s an artist, to which the person quips, “I can tell. You look like you’re starving!”

Great line. And all too true.

Artists have always lived on the fringe of society. Some are shunned due to their poverty. Others keep odd hours that revolve around their productive moments. Still others are what society might term as insane. But for this article we’ll stick with the financial angle.

In the middle ages lucky artists were revered by both royalty and the upper-class populace. Their paintings, writings, and music immortalized them. DaVinci, Byron, Mozart…all names still familiar today.

Yet I can’t help but wonder how many artists existed back then that died penniless and now forgotten.

Times haven’t changed much, except that big business is now the middleman between the artist and their audience. Try living off of book royalties unless you’ve built a huge audience like Frank Patterson or developed a monster franchise like J.K. Rowling. Walk into your local bookstore. Thousands of authors are represented. How many do you think live off of book royalties alone?

The biggest wake-up call for me was during a book signing in a Chapters store. One of the store employees showed me the shelf containing her eight novels. And she was signed to a good-sized publisher too.

At least she’s working in an environment she loves and can pitch her books directly to the customer. How many of us can say that?

So for all you writers out there, don’t quit your day job. At least until you sign your first movie deal.

On a side note: I’d like to thank everyone for their support during this recent time of sorrow. Your kind words were definitely appreciated.

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Richard Todd is an author, blogger, and Social Media guy. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at


Author: Richard S. Todd

Pro copywriter. Expressive voice artist. Award-winning public speaker.

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