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Starving Artist Syndrome Effects and How to Stop Cycle of Poverty in an Artist's Life

Updated on April 14, 2011

“A starving artist, that’s what I am!”, a declaration I jokingly throw around friends and family during awkward moments of success updates, unaware that the act was part of a syndrome trapping me in a cycle of poverty. I was young and idealistic wanting to prove that one need not “prostitute” one's talent by going commercial. I wanted to keep true to the so called starving artist image.

What is a starving artist anyway? Wikipedia has a definition that goes well with what I was trying to achieve in my young life – “an artist who sacrifices material well-being in order to focus on their artwork. They typically live on minimum expenses, either for a lack of business or because all their disposable income goes toward art projects.” In my case, I was sacrificing material well-being by doing plays with a cause, usually those that spoke of the ills of the government during the martial law era in the Philippines. I was using the power of theater arts to inform, educate and entice people into fighting against abuses on human rights.

Caught in the Starving Artist Syndrome

Along the way however, I realized that it was no longer practical for me to rely on “dole outs” from my mother and siblings to cover the cost of my passion. Thus, began my journey into trying out regular paying jobs --- a radio newscaster for over 2 years and being a drama club moderator for my alma mater at around the same course of time. Still, I found myself financially struggling. I could not, for the life of me, find the income stability I needed. It was then I began to question my “starving artist” image.

Hence, I held on to two jobs but began accepting various assignments in communication arts, like writing event spiels, doing choreography, writing video scripts, editing videos, doing voice over, hosting, training and directing not just stage plays but concerts, anniversary shows, contests, award shows and the like. It was my way of trying to get out of the “starving artist” image by going ---wait for it --commercial. Recognition came quickly with the money. However, I soon noticed that money never stayed long enough to be savored. I didn’t even know where they all went.

In my desire to look for greener pastures, I decided to move to Manila, the capital city of the Philippines and pursue my love for the arts there. I was fortunate enough to work with the Actors’ Workshop Foundation and having the opportunity to work with distinguished professional film and stage actors. Eventually, I had to find a bigger paying job to cover my monthly overhead and send some money back home as my contribution to family expenses – a Filipino practice I wanted to fulfill.

I ended up in an advertising agency where I began as a copy writer and moved on to become head of special projects and subsequently the creative director. Though I was working in the corporate world I still conducted trainings and talks on the side assigned to me by the Actor’s Workshop Foundation. Still, I never really got to save enough. What I did save while in Manila, all ended up being spent reestablishing myself back in Cebu.

Starving Artist Syndrome Effects and the Cycle of Poverty in an Artist's Life

I took on the work of teaching Play Production classes while reconnecting with the theater scene back home. I found myself living in the same pattern again – having a regular job and then doing my passion on the side. Until one day I found the courage to start a consultancy firm together with two of my siblings. It did not last long and soon I shifted to having a musical theater and productions group. For awhile, things were doing fine but eventually, things fell apart and I lost almost everything in the business. I soon realized that the starving artist syndrome has trapped me in the cycle of poverty common in an artist's life.

Thus began my anger toward my passion. Without me being aware, I was displaying signs of hating the fact that my passion for theater arts was not giving me the financial stability I so longed to have. I hated those who thought that being an artist was a waste of time. I abhorred those who did not value an artist’s contribution to preserving the culture of a society. I scoffed at those who thought we were only a bunch of hobbyists and not professionals like doctors or lawyers. I was mad and was taking it out on anyone and everyone who thought little of artists.

Next thing I knew, I was losing my self confidence. I was frustrated about my passion. I was withdrawing from my profession. I was in hiding – no longer wanting to use my talents and skills in whatever work opportunities that came. I felt small, incapable, a hypocrite, a loser of an artist. I reached a point when I actually believed I was a starving artist and will forever be one.

In my desire to understand what was happening to me, I was led to read books that exposed how negative belief systems kept people in the arena of constant lack. I began to understand how the power of words like “I’m a starving artist” could become a self fulfilling prophecy.

I researched more about the topic and found more books, articles, audio and video materials online that helped me better understand my state. I was determined to be free from the clutches of the starving artist syndrome.

How To Stop the Cycle of Poverty in an Artist's Life

Stopping the cycle of poverty in an artist's life involves the changing of belief systems. Transforming the mindset of a Starving Artist to an Abundant Artist takes on several acts. Based on my personal experience, the transformation begins by looking into one's self with love and compassion.

Accept Infinite Love. The strongest point of the transformation was the acceptance of the truth that I am loved by One who loves me, no matter what and how I am – Father God, the source of Infinite love and abundance. I needed to receive this unconditional love with a grateful heart while acknowledging that the gift of talents and skills were given to me out of love and for love. I needed to own these gifts as treasures to help me produce and create masterpieces in the canvass of life. Creations that help uplift the state of every human being.

Love Yourself. It was only when I decided to love myself with the same unconditional love that I began to see the value of my work in many lives. It was amazing to receive several affirmations from various people at the time when I decided to love myself a little bit more. The affirmations have not stopped. They come in randomly and I am ever grateful.

Appreciate Yourself. I began adding value to each and every experience I went through, be they pleasant or otherwise. Only then did I realize how much my work background has allowed me to give motivational talks, conduct trainings and seminars to various types of audiences both in the art world and the corporate world. People began to take notice of how interesting it was that I could use theater games in the behavioral workshops for corporate clients and that it was something that not too many people could effectively carry out.

The more I appreciated every experience, the more joy I found in my passion for theater arts as it was no longer just my profession but my mission as well.

Invest in Yourself and Get Out of the Box. Appreciating my work also meant increasing my knowledge on other areas I could improve on. The opportunities to earn more from my passion have always been there but I just never really learned how to use them  in other venues. Besides, I lacked the financial management skills to handle money better.

I therefore invested on training and took every free and paid courses I could get online and offline to increase my market value and no longer shied away from opportunities. I accepted them with enthusiasm knowing my positive energy has attracted them into my life.

I explored beyond my field of specialty to venture into the world of multiple income streams and joined multilevel networking, cell phone loading, and even opened a mini store right at home. These were acts I snubbed in the past because they were not part of my image. Soon I got used to the idea and began investing in mutual funds, went into writing online with Hubpages, did some website building and am now working on a book and designing online training videos.

Boost Your Financial IQ. I have made peace with numbers and am learning more about how money works. It was a revelation to find that I have yet to work on several areas so that I could have enough funds to sustain me in my retirement age and live on passive income. I have become appreciative of the practicality of things and am better equipped to handle my workshop pricing, service rates, manage my income and invest them on appropriate venues so that my money ends up working for me and not the other way around.

The transformation continues, still.

Abundant Artists Alliance: A Creative Work in the Making

Writing this hub inspires me to design talks and training modules to help fellow artists in our city to transcend the starving artist syndrome and stop the cycle of poverty in an artist's life. In fact, my creative juices are now flowing with thoughts of forming an online community to serve as a global support group for “recovering starving artist syndrome victims”.

The possibilities are endless for artists who are open enough to see opportunities of growth and grab them by the horns without reservations or fear. I am an Abundant Artist and I shall continue to use my creativity to empower, motivate and inspire my fellowmen through the arts.

Be an Abundant Artist. Play your part as co-creator in this stage called Life.

Daisy Ba-ad


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    • artistlife30 profile image


      3 years ago from CT

      2 snaps and a twist!

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hello Stessily, truly honored to receive such wonderful response from you. I am humbled by your affirmation and am inspired to continue doing what I can through the arts. Blessings:)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      dayzeebee, This sounds like a successful approach to a syndrome which has long haunted creativity: the specter of the starving artist. It is possible for artists to survive and even thrive in their own lifetimes by adopting practical measures. Your willingness to invest in yourself by recognizing the need for financial know-how and then the commitment to follow through are admirable.

      This should be helpful to all whose finances are out of sync with their career passions.

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks for visiting Always Ellen. Blessings:)

    • Always ellen profile image

      Always ellen 

      6 years ago from Toronto Canada

      very nice

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi isaiah rangel thanks for sharing. Glad you have chosen to share your art in this community. Blessings:)

    • isaiah rangel profile image

      isaiah rangel 

      6 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan

      Great from pakistan and here whether you like it or not you will always be a starving artist....i am a self taught artist but all i can do is keep that art to myself....neither do i have the finances or the courage to step up and display my art...for this very reason i have chosen to change and move on to graphic arts where at least i can share this art with others

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi Kim Q. Thank you for sharing your opinion and respect where you are right now. I wish you well and pray your passion bring you joy, peace and abundance. Blessings:)

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hello Alexhouse, thank you for your sharing. Yes, indeed, there are many in our country as well who find themselves caught in this cycle. I hope the awareness of such a cycle will help them begin to see things from a different light. Blessings to you always:)

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thank you Maren for liking this hub.

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi Melovy, I'm glad to see you here as well and more glad to know that we are part of the "work in progress" artists of life. Thank you for the compliment and blessings always:)

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 

      7 years ago from UK

      This is another really inspiring hub.Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am something of a ‘work in progress’ as far as this goes, and reading your story is very encouraging.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I like this.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      7 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      I really liked this hub, dayzeebee. You've done a great job of analyzing a desperate situation and coming up with useful ideas for turning it around. I have found that this syndrome is rampant among persons other than artists. I know a few of thos people myself. They get into a particular way of life and can't get out.

    • profile image

      kim q 

      7 years ago

      I am a starving artist right now. And, thanks to you, I'll continue to be one. This is not sarcasm or such. Instead, I am really grateful for reading your life story--it made me realize and understand my situation, my life. For that I thank you.

      Yet, I will continue to struggle, to starve, not because I call myself an artist but because it is the god-given right of every artist to struggle for social acceptance, financial stability, and venue for expression. I am a thespian, and I am more proud now than ever. The art in me lives on, and I'll starve 'till death come upon me.


      I will find a way to break the cycle, my way. :)

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi Michelle, I too have been blessed by taking the journey with you. I continue to enjoy the loving abundance of God as we use our passion in our mission. Hug tight:)

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      I have grown a lot these past few years with you in terms of seeing money from a different perspective. I've learned to abandon limiting beliefs about money, being comfortable with money and seeing money as a tool to enrich our personal life and those of others! The concept of Loving Abundance was born. My dear Daisy, may you continue to inspire artists and non artists alike to aspire richness and wealth in their lives. I am blessed to journey with you with this mission in mind.

      Hugs and much love. :)

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi SweetiPie, thank you for commenting. Great to know you found this hub useful. Always a pleasure to hear from you. Blessings:)

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Honored by your visit and appreciate your blessings Girlgenius. Always pleasant to connect with co artists.

    • SweetiePie profile image


      7 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Beautiful hub with inspiring ideas on how to make career out of your talents.

    • girlgenius profile image


      7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks so much for your excellent hub!

      I wish you every success as an Abundant Artist!

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi Journey, I love the energy I sense from you. Honored by your visit. Blessings:)

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi IslandVoice, I am glad to know you have chosen your passion for it is where more treasures can be found and when that happens, automatically opportunities are presented to you by the universe. Blessings and thank you for adding value to this hub. Blessings:)

    • dayzeebee profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi Marie, oh I love your insights. Thank you for sharing them. "Having financial prosperity allows us to reach out to others even more." I say Amen! to this statement. Thank you Marie for always taking the time to assure me of your support. Blessings:)

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou MPH 

      7 years ago from USA

      You've written your story beautifully.

    • IslandVoice profile image

      Sylvia Van Velzer 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      I admire you and your openness to share your journey as a struggling artist. Because of your experience, and the learning curve, you are richer than the rich who have so much and yet live empty lives. Thank you for sharing lessons we can grow from. I was in the corporate world for most of my life, and now enjoy being an 'artist' (photodigital), based in Hawaii. I wish i can say i make loads of money selling my work, but, i'm just happy finding my real passion at this point in my life. Best to you, and i gave you a vote up!

    • VioletSun profile image


      7 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Daisy, I sent the link to this hub to my sister who is also an artist. You may have written this article for artists but I can apply what you shared such as the mindset of struggle attracting limitation... I remember when I was about 20, I declared " I don't care about money" this was based on spiritual books I had read, and yikes, little did I realize how this created a pattern of struggle around finances. One can be spiritual, artistic, in the services and be financially well off. Having financial prosperity allows us to reach out to others even more.

      These words stood out for me:

      "acknowledging that the gift of talents and skills were given to me out of love and for love. I needed to own these gifts as treasures to help me produce and create masterpieces in the canvass of life. Creations that help uplift the state of every human being."

      Wonderful article, Daisy!


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