I'm Just An Artist
World, I have a bone to pick with you.
Why are we shrinking artists and creatives? Why are we minimizing any non W-2 employee into “just” something? Why is “artist” not a “real” job? Why is “writer” always accompanied by “just”?
I was having a conversation with someone this morning, someone I’m very fond of and very much enjoy, so this is no way a bash, although I do recognize that calling someone out on the world wide web can come across that way, but the conversation brought this “bone” to life again. (I’ve had a bone to pick with the world for a while now).
So person, if you're reading this, I like you. I appreciate you, and even the comments you made this morning. You’re a great person, but I still have a bone to pick with you.
Here is the conversation:
Person: So you’re just doing art now, no teaching?
What I said: Well, I’m doing more than art but yes, no teaching in schools.
*What I’d like to have said*: Yep, “just” art. “Just” putting my emotions out for all the world to observe. “Just” taking a huge leap of faith here. That’s all.
Person: So all of that for no teaching?? (meaning, my undergrad/post-grad education)
What I said: All that for a free trip to France and 2 jobs, one that paid me to go to Paris every weekend?? Yep! All that!
And that’s part of the bone. Because this is an accurate representation of a large portion of the population. So many people view a creative job as “less than” an office job, or a job that lines up perfectly with an educational experience. They see a job not directly utilizing the obvious skills learned in a particular college major as a “waste” of a degree.
Well, I would much prefer to spend my life “wasting” my degree but enjoying my life rather than using my degree and wasting my life. I chose not to live in the constraints of a French degree and a Master’s in Teaching, but that’s just me and you’re just you, so you can choose, too. But don’t act like you can’t.
The other part of the bone is about the people who say “Well I could do that” in order to, again, minimize the effort and hard work that goes into being an artist. Because if you could do it, then it’s tempting for me to ask, “then why aren’t you?”, but I know what the answer is: “Because I want to make money.”
And that right there proves your original statement wrong. No, you can’t do it. Because if you were truly capable of “doing it” (whatever “it” is), then money wouldn’t be a concern. We don’t make art to make money. We make art to make love. To make a life. To make happiness. To make a difference.
If creating becomes about making a profit, then you have lost touch with the real reason to create. If you are an artist, you can’t help being an artist. It is not a choice you sit down and make one day and say, “I think I will be an artist” and then wonder how you can make a living doing it. It is something that you just are and when you don’t have the capacity to be it, you are dying.
Art is not about money. It is about life. It is of no concern whether or not someone else “could” do it. It’s about whether or not doing it keeps them alive.
There is a lot of art I can make. I have the hands, the eyes, the tools, the talent, but if it is not seeping from my pores and drenched with my message by the end of it, I don’t want to make it. It’s not a part of me. It’s not from me. It’s by me, and I, like every real artist, live by pouring myself into every project because I can’t help it, because money may keep me breathing, but I have no interest in breathing if I am not alive. Art is what makes me alive.
Remember this the next time you say or think that someone is “just” something. It has taken me way too long to come around to accepting and owning being more than “just” an artist. I even called myself “just” an artist when I first quit my “real” job because I was too ashamed to confront the world’s popular opinion that art isn’t a “real” job.
But I am done with that mentality, now. Whatever your art is—writing, painting, teaching, coaching, singing, selling—do it proudly. There is nothing “just” about doing what makes you come alive.