This post is part of a series about, you guessed it, money, as inspired by a letter I received from artist Rachael Ashe. Read Part 1: Guilt at HomePart 2: The Costs of GrowthPart 3: Cost of Living and Part 4: Where It Comes From.

8 Foot Bride of Harvard Square - Remastered Andy Ihnatko via Compfight

I’m going to close out this week-long money conversation by repeating a quote from Rachael’s letter, because it’s a doozy.

Why does it feel so crazy, stupid and reckless to be an artist? (Is that a real job?) I could be working full-time somewhere, earning good money, saving for the future, and probably unhappily trapped in an office.

Let’s have a party in the comments, shall we? What is a real job?

I’ve watched myself come a long way from the early days of my career, when I’d shuffle my feet and look sideways and mumble, “I run a crochet website,” when someone would ask me what I did for work. I have a less concrete answer these days, since I do a bunch of different things, but whatever answer I decide to share comes out in my normal voice, and I make eye contact. I usually say I’m a writer or an editor. And I’ve been very proud of myself these last few weeks, because when people ask what’s new with me, I get straight to the point and say I’m writing a book. What’s it about? Eye contact: “It’s about creativity and fear and failure, and how we can embrace those scary things to have more fun and make more stuff.”

I think the reason this “real job” question comes up in crafts and art is that we often feel inclined to shuffle our feet and look away when we talk about our work. We’re inclined not to presume that what we do is important, or good, or valuable. We’re inclined to assume people need us to justify what we do. Many of us have no formal credentials. Hell, many of us have no formal resume. Enough. Let’s have it out in the comments – what is a real job?

I chose the photo above because I think what Amanda Palmer said in her TED talk about the fairness of the exchange between an artist and her audience is very relevant to this discussion. If you haven’t watched her talk yet, don’t wait. It’s brilliant.

Near the end of Rachael’s letter, she wrote a sentence I’m going to break into two parts. “I can’t imagine being anything else but an artist…” – to be honest, I can’t imagine Rachael being anything else but an artist, either. Isn’t it wonderful, to love what you do so much you can’t imagine doing anything else?

“… but maybe it’s just not meant to be right now.” I invoke my disbelief in fate.

And also, if not now, when?