Imagine the following scenario. From early childhood, Bob is skilled at science and at working with his hands: he constantly takes things apart to see how they work. He has a Visible Man at the age of four that he can disassemble and reassemble. He kicks ass at "Operation!" Teachers recognize his abilities and encourage him; he stays after class to borrow books and spends long hours in the library. Biology especially fascinates him, because he loves animals, and in high school he interns at the local zoo. He majors in pre-med, but ultimately decides to go on to veterinary school, so he can continue working with animals. Although the applications are difficult, he survives the battery of tests. He goes through four years of medical training, aces his courses, even publishes some papers. But he doesn't want to be an academic: he wants to get out there and be a veterinarian. So the day he graduates, he starts applying to minimum wage jobs in retail and food service and, late at night, when everyone is asleep, he takes No-Doz and performs surgery on horses in his parents' basement.
Why do we find Bob's behavior strange? Or, more directly, why do we find the notion of the "starving artist" any less strange than that of the "starving veterinarian"? Why do we seem to think that an artist should be able to do his best work on no sleep for no money in moments stolen from a full-time job, while we would never expect the same from a veterinarian (or a publicist, or a stockbroker, or an accountant)? Why do we see an inherent contradiction in a person wanting to make art and also live comfortably, maybe even have a family, when many of the great artists of history have been aristocratic or literally patronized by kings? (Virginia Woolf thought that a woman writer needed "a little money and a room of one's own" to thrive as an artist; I don't think she'd be cheered to see that male writers today often don't have those things either.) And why does our culture persist in claiming to value artists while treating their time as literally value-less? The laws of capitalism are not the laws of nature; it is a choice to behave as though they are.
I know that things are tough all over, even for folks with "real careers." And don't get me wrong: I don't think a good writer (or composer, painter, etc.) does his work for the money. But I don't think a good veterinarian does either. The difference is that the veterinarian is employed.