When Going Broke is Priceless

Artists need pressure as they go against the grain

Mookie Spitz
3 min readApr 10, 2024

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I’ve never been this financially fucked, and never been happier. The general idea is to write to make money, not lose it. The difference between art and commerce is real, and bridging the gap isn’t easy. Faking it until making it is a retroactively enticing strategy, only effective if you make it. Until then it’s more like pay to play, the odds not in your favor.

Artists need creative rocket fuel to defeat gravity, fly high on the wings of inspiration. Psychologists and computer scientists call such mental states intentionality: behavior driven toward accomplishing a specific goal. Writing a Hero’s Journey of our own lives, we’re both author and protagonist, overcoming obstacles and solving problems on page, and off.

A raison d’être is required through which writers’ ideas shine. Fire must be lit under our asses not only to strike keys, but forage compelling stories from within the cauldron of our fucked up lives. The trite temptation to ensconce onself in a log cabin in the forest to write The Great American Novel is total horseshit. Keyboards must be struck with jackhammers.

I retired from managing nightclubs in the 90s with a safe deposit box full of 100s, and the burning desire to finally let my creative beast thrive. Devoid of any external pressures, having only to chemically detox, I leapt into a life of an artist — and fell right off the cliff. Every morning I woke ready to write my novel, start my band, produce my play. By noon I was snoozing.

Every erg of enthusiasm was annihilated by living luxuriously, not a care in the world. I might have worried about my money eventually running out, but didn’t. I might have worried about what the rest of my life had in store, but didn’t. I was beholden to nobody and nothing, the ultimate blissful ground state for an introvert, hedonistic ecstasy leading to artistic agony.

Devoid of any purpose beyond my next nap or nookie, I had nothing to say. My brains and body were rebuilding after years of late night abuse, and I felt as though my soul had turned inside-out, leaving nothing left. I hung out in a diner, playing Uno and talking trash. My best friends were a mixed race lesbian couple, and a geeky straight white chick who never banged.

Fast forward two decades, and I linger in a communications strategy career I should have left years ago, having accrued no equity and mountains of debt, now hovering on the brink of going bust. I never got a stake because I never fought for one, seeing each new gig for how I felt about them all at the time — transactions to help support three kids whose mother had left.

The great news in the midst of this spreadsheet disaster is the fire such financial angst scorches into my heart. Whereas years ago I didn’t feel like writing because I had no sense of urgency, now age coupled with fiscal distress has made every available second precious, forcing me to maximize my limited time in ways that drive optimal productivity and creativity.

Legend has it that after leaving his beloved Sonia, Dostoevsky locked himself into a basement to write a novel, published it and became flush with cash, summarily blowing his bucks on gambling and hookers — only to dive back into the basement destitute and heartbroken again, perfect mood to write another novel, published it and became flush with cash…

I’m no Dostoevsky, but can relate to the state — and cherish the dam bursting. With bill collectors and the tax man nipping at my heels, more reminders of my mortality with each grey hair and kvetching sigh, I feel I have finally arrived, and am at long last unstoppable. As the antihero from my upcoming sci fi novel shouts: “Hooch your Fazoolie, motherfuckers!”

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Mookie Spitz

Author and communications strategist. His latest book SUPER SANTA is available on Amazon, with a sci fi adventure set for Valentine's Day 2024.