When You’re Ashamed to be a Writer (or any other kind of artist)

We all reach this point, I believe. No matter what point in your life you are, there’s a sort of private, pathetic shame to being an artist. We don’t invent the next medical miracle. We don’t easily provide a huge house and car for our family, most of the time. And, most of us, rarely win awards. Often times I think we fear that someone, somewhere, or even everywhere, sees us as an immature child who have yet to get our heads out of the clouds of fairytales we fell in love with as babes.

Grow up. Can’t you see that Harry Potter can’t save you from the bills? Open your eyes and get a career that can provide, that can get you through the real hardships of your life. Do something useful.

And also, the infamous quote: “Yeah, I have a degree in the liberal arts, do you want fries with that?”

And with so much chaos around us, so many threats of war, poverty, failure, heartbreak, and so many struggling about to make, not only ends meet, but their lives as well, we often feel we are some of the most useless in the world, despite knowing otherwise. How can silly stories of dragons, robots, or a time long gone help anyone? Pay the bills? Do what’s, in the end, really important?

But most frightening is: how do I ever respect myself for being an author? A writer. A storyteller, who may or may not ever be successful in the world?

We all need to eat. We all need a roof above our heads and health insurance. We need a car to get to work, and we need the pride to face those, from our parents to our strangers, with dignity. And often, whether we admit it or not, we may find ourselves empty handed as artists. So many failures. So few successes.

I’m not going to tell you what you’ve already told yourself—that it doesn’t matter as long as you love it, that you’re going to write no matter what, that you’re going to be great one day anyways. These are pep talks. No. I’m here to give you something much more needed: truth. Truth about yourself, about your art, about life, and hopefully it will clear up things a bit.

There are many theories about art, but at it’s core it is expression of the human soul. It’s an extension of yourself, your dreams, your ambitions, your interests, your dislikes, your morals, etc. By putting our art out there, we are vying, not only for a career and a life that can support life itself, but that we can be validated by the world as not being one of those artists who live in their mother’s basement and create nothing anyone appreciates. That our core can be validated.

Am I worth it? Is my art worth it?

Well, stop. Just stop. Get that image out of your head and just stop. These lies, that you need validation, that you aren’t worth it if you don’t make money with your art, and that you are no use to society, are lies. Simple as that. I think something in you knows it, because they drag you down. It hurts, it stings, and they can trap you down in a darkness akin to depression and despair, as all lies are prone to do in the end. You know what art does for other people, because it does it for you every freaking day! You know how stories, paintings, photos, dance, music, or even a silly TV show has changed your life and shape you. The idea that you are useless is a lie, a vicious lie, so just stop.

Because your life isn’t meant to support your art. You shouldn’t have to quit your job or leave your kids behind so you can make a career in art. You’re art shouldn’t need a certain life style or career to be supported. Your art doesn’t need validation, just like you don’t need validation. You are you. Your art is you. And, as Stephen King so eloquently said:

“Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

By practicing writing, we are already supporting ourselves and others. We are learning about ourselves, we are enjoying ourselves, and that, my friends, is its purpose. Not to get awards, not to get money, not even to have hordes of worshiping mindless drones (though wouldn’t that be freaking sick?). And, in the end, as long as you’re just doing it, you’re doing enough. You’re good enough. Stop comparing yourself to others in measures of success. Success is when you find happiness in life (and you know that! Because it’s truth!), and gaining approval from others who may or may not even know you is not the way–but you will find your own way by writing, by painting, by dancing, by making music. You’ll find what makes you happy in those quiet moments blessed by the muses.

Your body is alive. Your family loves you. You have friends. And darn it, you love Harry Potter or dragons or whatever the fwoop floats your boat, so just love it!

So…enjoy your art. Whenever these scary moments come on you, remember what that frilly, unappreciated art is for. It’s to make you HAPPY! You! And all the others, no matter how few or great, who will benefit from your art like you have benefited from others. Write because you like to, damn it! Dance around in your kitchen and sing a bad remix of Taylor Swift that you made off the top of your head because, well freak, it’s fun! And you can enjoy that you have legs that work, or lungs that breathe, and for heaven’s sake, that you freaking love Taylor Swift! (Or in my case, Alicia Keys, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.)

Even if you end up only writing online serials for the rest of your life, with a small following of devoted teenagers who live in Russia, just keep writing, because it makes you happy. And someone out there is being made happy by it too, and you know exactly how, because it’s happened to you.

As for the bills, don’t worry. Do what you can and you will make it through. Things will be all right. Other’s expectations of you? Do they even care how happy it makes you? Because art isn’t there to be your money making slave, and your life isn’t there to support it. It’s to support you, and those around you who see themselves and their own path to happiness in your art.

Chin up. 🙂 Keep at it. You’re doing great.

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