Step 14

The Dreamer’s Manual:
Sixteen Steps to Achieve Your Creative Goals

Step 14: Sell Your Soul

Pure art is art created for its own sake. Its purpose is enlightenment.

Commercial art is created to sell. Its purpose is material enrichment.

Most art exists somewhere on the scale between these two extremes. 

The Process

Artists are encouraged to “put their souls” into their work (to make pure art), but they are also cautioned against being too commercial (i.e., “selling” their souls). However, the purpose of most art is to appeal to others and attract their dollars.

If you pour your soul into your art, then sell it, you are essentially selling your soul. But artwork that is infused with an artist’s essence is the best kind of art. It represents the most honest effort and exists in its purest form. It can be incredibly appealing, because it reverberates with the artist’s energy, and as a result, people will often recognize and respond to it.

Poetry, for example, is not a huge money-maker. It’s rare to make a living writing poetry, but poets do pour their souls into their work. Their poems are a form of release for the authors, and a form of relief for the readers. And when a poet’s words resonate deeply with their audience, as Pablo Neruda’s do, even a poet can achieve fame and fortune.


It is possible to achieve a balance between pure and commercial work.

Balanced work exista somewhere in the middle of the scale between commercial and pure art. One way to achieve this balance is through the editing process.

If you step away from your work long enough to return to it with a critical eye, or ask for feedback from others, you may be able to determine where it lies on the “commercial vs. pure art” scale.

Is your work so concerned with being “honest” that you have shaved off all its commercial appeal? Or, were you so focused on selling your work that you replaced everything honest with something appealing? After you determine where your work is on the scale, the next step is to add some of what’s missing, and reduce what is overdone, in order to create a more balanced work.

Imagine you are a portrait painter. Your preference is to do abstract paintings, but you also know how to paint realistic portraits. You decide to accept one realistic portrait commission per week, in order to pay your bills. This will allow you to create abstract portraits in your free time, so you can stay connected to your pure art. In addition, it will give you time to experiment with combining the two styles of portraits. Imagine you eventually discover a way to add just enough abstraction to your realistic portraits to develop them into a unique and appealing style, which becomes your your calling card. The next thing you know, art patrons who are drawn to your work are knocking on your door. You managed to create a balance, where your work is both artistically satisfying and sellable.

Balance the art you want to make with the art the world wants , so you will be satisfied with, and also sell, your work

Step 14: Sell Your Soul

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