Fear, creativity, and the stock market

by     /    September 18, 2008   

While continuing our conversation on creativity and fear continues over on this post, I realized that the recent insanity in the stock market gives us as artists a good lesson on the nature of fear. (“What?,” you say, “artists learning from.. the stock market?” Yes, of course! Artists should be willing to learn from any source.)

The current unrest in the stock market is causing a lot of fear in people. I know, because I’ve been caught up in it some too. And this is a natural reaction, because suddenly being exposed to something with such a big impact is going to shake you up a bit. But how people react to that fear is where it gets interesting.

Some people are giving in to their fear, and panicking. Selling off their stocks, fleeing the market, and trying to pushing their money into “safe” investments. It feels like the right thing to do. But ironically, it is not. By doing this, they are basically guaranteeing that any money they lost will stay lost. By trying to be safe, they are actually holding themselves back.

Yet others are feeling that same fear about the market, but instead of panicking, they are stopping, watching, and listening. They are not trying to “protect” themselves, they are trying to find the opportunities. As a financial advisor friend tells me, you never make decisions because of fear, you make them anticipating the fear. Every investor knows (or should know) that stock markets always go through downturns, and when they do, you will feel that fear and panic. So instead of dreading it, or ignoring it, you plan for it. You look forward to it. And when it comes, you remember that it is a natural part of the economy. It still scares the heck out of you, but you understand it, and are ready for it.

Artists can follow this example. Making art is a lot like investing in the stock market. (How’s that for a quote?) You invest all of your energy into it, hoping for long term gains. Some days your investment pays off. And other times, it crashes. But when it does crash, you should never panic. Remember that your creativity goes through cycles of booms and busts, bulls and bears. When it’s high, you will feel unstoppable. And when it is low, you will fear that your creativity is drying up, or that you are a fraud as an artist. Just remember at these times that this feeling of fear is natural, and don’t succumb to it. When you feel the fear, don’t run and try to protect yourself. Don’t panic and lock in your losses. Invest in it. That feeling of fear is the signal that it is time to step out on a limb, and push forward and (hopefully, god-willing) grow.

(Needless to say, I am not a financial expert, so please take my understanding of the stock market with a few fat grains of salt.)

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Comments on 'Fear, creativity, and the stock market'

Henry Domke  (September 18th, 2008):

“Making art is a lot like investing in the stock market”
I don’t agree. If you have to use a financial model, making art is more like gambling. You gamble (or make art) because you are compelled to do it. Yes, there is a small chance you may make money, but don’t bet on it.

The stock market has a very high chance of long term financial payoffs. The same can not be said for 99% of art which ends up in waste bins. But that does not mean the art was made in vain because the artist satisfied their compulsion in the creative process. Kind of like scratching something when you feel an itch.

cynthia  (September 18th, 2008):

I think you’re right Daniel – “making art is a lot like investing in the stock market” – It’s not gambling at all. Just my opinion though.

Fear is ruling the US right now, especially with the elections so close. Gambling is casting a vote that has been influenced by fear.

Daniel Sroka  (September 18th, 2008):

From a business perspective, I agree: making money with art is more like a gamble! And can be just as compulsive.

But the “long term gains” I am talking about aren’t financial — they are creative.

The more you invest in your art — your time, energy and talent — the more it will gain creatively over the long term. And when your “creative stock market” crashes, which it will from time to time, be prepared. Believe in your investment in yourself, instead of panicking and running.

paula  (September 19th, 2008):

good post dan and so very true.
for artists and other types of self employed people the hard times we see out there are magnified in our heads easily.
not just what is out there, like you said, what is going on with your creativity or whatever. I have fear just buying that printer, no kidding, real FEAR!

Daniel Sroka  (September 19th, 2008):

Paula, yeah, it sounds like a simple question: “do I buy a printer or not?”, but it does represent a significant creative investment. Getting that printer is taking a step towards a new way of expressing your art, and that can be intimidating!

cynthia  (September 19th, 2008):

I had to pop back over this morning and apologize for getting political – doh…guilty of GOG – gross over generalizations, my new favorite acronym.

This post and the discussion on fear have given me a lot of food for thought – thank you for bringing it up.

Paul Grecian  (September 21st, 2008):

From a strickly financial standpoint, I also think of making art as being like investing. However, it is only investing if you know what you’re doing and understand the market (at least to some extent). If you run your art as a business, then it is investing. The same way one would do research on a company they want to invest in, artists should research their own potential and how best to achieve it. All investing has an element of the unknown though and much of the “investing” going on today is nothing more than gambling. I invest in my art with a knowledge and experience enough to expect a certain return. I sometimes gamble on a new type of image making or process, but always with a sense of what I am gambling away if it doesn’t work.

FormFire Glassworks  (September 30th, 2008):

The important thing to remember about any creative endeavor is that although there are financial, temporal and emotional outlays, we need not to just expect the financial as a return. The emotional and creative return on our investment is just as critical both as reward and as a path to our creative growth. I found that as I began to focus heavily on the financial part of my business, I began to lose a grasp on the creative part of the process. In this time of fear, it is important for us not to lose focus on why we do this in the first place.