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Walrus Teeth

Everyone who wants to be a starving artist, raise your hand.

Nobody? That’s what I thought.

We all like the artist part. It’s the idea of starving that separates creative giants from would-be Picassos. Not that you should have to starve in order to be an artist, but today, where artists are not appreciated, it’s the artist’s job to keep from starving.

So if you want to break new ground and not starve, take some advice from the walrus. Or more precisely, from its teeth. Walruses use their teeth for defense, settling arguments, cutting through ice, and for leverage when they pull themselves out of the water. And yet, walrus teeth never wear out, because they never stop growing.

In these observations is a wealth of help for artists, inventors, musicians, and all people devoted to low-pay or no-pay creative endeavors. And for companies in the vanguard of technology or social enterprise, where the financial rewards can range from meager to zero.

When your creative work produces little or no income, use your teeth, that is, the part of you that constantly grows, the way the walrus does.

Put your inventive, creative power on the trail of innovative ways to constantly replace what you spend. Look to the example of people in similar situations who are making ends meet. Learn what you have to learn in order to make what you do valuable to someone now, as you keep growing in talent and expertise.

Some creative people find someone else to pay their bills—a patron. Figure out how your work might provide pride, pleasure, or public relations for someone or some company. Then approach them.

Get on the internet. What kinds of loans or grants can you find? Or get more personal and borrow from friends and relatives. What can you promise and deliver them in return? If you have to go it alone, budget your funds, share expenses, use part of your work to support you as you finish it.

Whatever you do, keep working until you find continuous support. Devote a portion of every day to your work. Even if it’s only 15 minutes. Like the teeth of the walrus, never stop growing.

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