Monday, April 14, 2008

Play Money

It's tax time in the US. For a lot of people, just the mention of the T word is enough to pull heads down and shoulders up, ducking incoming audits. I have been blessed with an amazing professional tax guy, Frank Lehman, who encourages a humor-filled, low-stress approach to the grim task. I actually look forward to sending him a colorful decorated page of numbers each year (highly accurate, of course) and he does the rest.

A while back, I decided to levy an art tax on myself. I tithed 10% of everything that came in from art into a separate savings account. Eventually I'd cash in my Creativity Credit and spent it directly on time or materials to support art just for me--work that was private from the projected judgment of the marketplace. It didn't take long for this exercise to shift some chronic victim-headedness around that old song "It's soooo hard to make a living as an artist/writer." There really was enough, though I was well below the poverty level at the time.

I've suggested this kind of thing, with variations, to people who feel stuck around money in their creative lives. The number 10 has a powerful mojo--see post Ten Minutes, and get more in Art Love, the thank you gift for a sign up to my more or less monthly newsletter, StinkwaninkaNews). Ten percent, ten dollars, even a dime, can be used to joggle the grid of scarcity belief, to open some space and reconnect with the flow that money symbolizes.

What could you buy to support your creative life? Roses for the dancer/author/actor etc. in you, making this your opening night? A new pencil? A card of someone's work that inspires you? A book? Take yourself out to a museum. Give $10 anonymously to someone else to thank them for their creative contribution. Give away the new pencil--does that make you feel even more supported? Let us know what else you think of, do it, tell us what happened.

Papaji tells of sitting by the Ganges with a pile of coins on one side and a pile of pebbles on the other, alternately throwing one and then the other into the water until all the money he had that day was gone, including bus fare home. What could you do to practice the realization that pebble and coin are the same offering, picked up and returned into the holy river of life?

Make a dime into the moon in a sculpture. Color on a ten dollar bill, collage it, make it beautiful, put it on the wall: it's just a piece of paper, fine rag paper, with some dull green ink pattern for a background. (This exercise works best with a bill big enough to matter to you as money.)

Does this sound illegal? Like tearing off the tags on a pillow? Maybe what's really illegal to the conventional mind is the freedom of remembering that money is only a shared idea of value--it's all made up! it's numbers, paper, metal--play money to play grown-up with. However convincingly dire your financial situation is looking, can it hurt to open yourself to a comic or creative view of it?

I invite you, in the medium of your choice, to make some kind of art money. Voila! You've made money from art. Send a picture of what you created to (unless you tell me otherwise, I'll assume it's ok to publish it in the future). And tell us what you experienced. For more, check out Rich (how someone freed herself from hatred of the rich and what that meant) and Enough (on an artist's realisation of her own abundance).

May you prosper in every way. Kiss your tax return as you pop it in the mailbox.