The Starving Artist


  Written by: Angie Noll

As artists, we often have to give our craft away for free in order to attract the attention that we need for sales to happen further down the line. This is fine, and we all do it, but there has to come a point where we stop working for free and start charging what we're worth. For some, this is the challenging part.

quotation-dustpink-left We are divine enough to ask, and we are important enough to receive. - Wayne Dyer quotation-dustpink-right

My grandmother, a proper German frau, was one of the most giving and generous people in my life. Especially when it came to her family. Sunday lunch at her house was characterised by a heavily laden table, and she made sure everyone, especially the children, ate enough to keep them going for the coming week. Cooking was her creative expression, and she did it well.

Even in the business, started by my grandfather when they emigrated to South Africa with their two small preschool aged boys, she gave generously. Her roles included receptionist, bookkeeper, customer service, cleaning lady and tea lady, while also ensuring that she prepared fresh food for breakfast and lunch for both her and my grandfather. When they arrived home at night, she found time to tend her vegetable patch and cook an evening meal from scratch. Every single day.

Even into old age, my grandmother was someone we could turn to with any problem – from financial difficulties to emotional or parenting ones. She was always generous with her time, her resources and her heart.

The one thing she wasn’t so good with, though, was allowing herself to receive the same generosity from others. We couldn’t give her a Christmas present or take her out for a meal, or even help with the Sunday lunch washing up without her putting up resistance.


Generosity is definitely a worthy characteristic to cultivate, but so is its partner, the ability to receive.

Why you should learn to receive

I know quite a few truly wonderful artists who simply cannot bring themselves to receive money (or praise) for their creations. They feel guilty, like frauds, or embarrassed and undeserving.

None of those emotions are conducive to warm-hearted receiving – instead, they act like doors that we shut every time the universe wants to gift us in some way. And then we wonder why our creative dreams are not manifesting when we’re working so hard at making them come true.

So the trick is learning to receive without these underlying emotions, openly and genuinely, so that the Universe can continue to gift us – with abundance, joy, health, dreams coming true and unexpected surprises.

The proverbial 'starving artist' label doesn't have to apply to you.

What can you do to learn to receive?

Here are the things that I do every day to increase my ability to receive without reservation - not only in my art but in life. I make receiving the joy that life has to offer a way of life and allow that perspective to filter down into my creative pursuits.

  1. Chakras

Yes, we're getting esoteric here, but that's because I use my intuition to help me with my art, so I pay attention to my energy body. Where else do you think 'inspiration' comes from if not some a source higher than ourselves?

I open all my chakras every day since these are the channels through which we are able to receive.

Simply visualise a white ball above your crown chakra, inhale and bring the ball down into the root chakra. Visualise the white energy cleaning and opening that chakra. I say to myself, “My root chakra is open and balanced and ready to receive the gifts of this day.” Then exhale and send the white ball of energy back up to your crown chakra.

Repeat this exercise for all your chakras and finish with, “All my channels of reception are open and I am ready to receive the gifts of this day.”

It sounds long, but it only takes two or three minutes once you get the hang of it.

  1. My personal affirmation

“I gratefully receive the gifts of this day.”

I mentally repeat this affirmation to myself frequently throughout the day.

And then I actively look for gifts that I receive throughout the day to be grateful for – I don’t sit back and wait for them to fall into my lap. I seek them out. From an inspirational (in-spirit) writing session to the sunshine to the acceptance of a guest post or short story to a great cup of tea. These are all gifts, and I train myself to see them as such.

  1. Purposefully cultivate intense feelings of gratitude

When I notice the gifts of the day, I make a conscious effort to verbalise them and thank the Universe for them. For instance, when the sun is shining, I say, “Thank you for this lovely gift of sunshine. I gratefully accept it!”

And I mean it - not only because I live in Auckland where there isn’t nearly enough sun for my African Soul, but because I work to cultivate a feeling of intense gratitude within myself. You can’t just pay lip service to gratitude and then expect the magic to happen.

I can’t emphasise this enough. I make myself feel the gratitude, and until I feel it bubbling up from deep inside of me, I keep at it, searching for gifts that I can choose to receive if I bother to notice them until I find something that makes me feel undeniably, unquenchably grateful. Then I mindfully hold on to that feeling throughout the day.

What to do when you’re feeling grumpy, stressed or irritated

I know that it’s all good and well to talk about noticing how many gifts there are to receive every day, but then there are those days….

Just yesterday, I woke up feeling mildly irritated, but after an hour with the kids and the dog and the rainy, soggy weather, I felt well and truly pissed off. I realised that I often get to this point – days of insane gratitude followed by a few days of irritability, impatience at things not moving at my preferred speed, and finding fault with everything and everyone around me.

What this translates to is days and days of cultivating the ability to receive, and then undoing all that hard work when things don’t feel quite so hunky-dory. That’s no way to manifest!

Here’s what I do:

I acknowledge the fact that I'm a human being, with a wide range of emotions to experience, and it’s ok to do so.


I work with small internal changes and adjustments throughout the day to avoid slipping into anger, despair or resentment. I continue to seek out the gifts of the day, I continue to be actively grateful and I do all the things listed above, but I accept that on these days, the experience of gratitude is a bit less intense than on other days. And that is just fine too.

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