I’ve come to realize that there are two types of people in the world: artists, and everyone else. I know that that sounds pretentious and horrible, but it’s just true. And by “artist”, I don’t necessarily mean someone who has a knack for figure drawing or can write a kick ass poem. I just think that all human beings deal with a struggle between logic and passion, and can be pretty easily divided into two categories based on which side they usually let win. One type of person is not better than the other, and both are severely needed in the world. But there is a certain stigma surrounding this word “artist”, so I thought I would share my thoughts on what I’ve learned so far about living a creative life.
It’s not hard to believe that I got a lot of flak for the choice to receive my Bachelor’s degree in “Creative Arts”, a title which practically invites mockery. And although my monthly student loan statements cause me to temporarily lose all feeling in my limbs, I am glad that I majored in what I did, because it taught me how to be an artist. It’s how I learned what it’s like to feel completely and triumphantly fulfilled by a project that you’ve poured your heart and soul into. It’s how I learned to fail, to start from scratch, to work through a problem instead of around it, and ultimately, how these things benefit you in the long run. And most importantly, it’s how I learned that I want to make stuff. That I have a point of view and the means to express it.
It’s not always easy or fun. It’s scary and hard and you have to push yourself past your comfort zone. But once you do, it’s liberating. It’s the kind of work that fuels you, rather than drains you. It’s like when you were a little kid after spending the entire day at the beach chasing waves and building sandcastles; you’re completely exhausted, but in the best possible way.
Here’s the thing. You don’t decide to be an artist, but you do decide to live your life as one. I heard a quote recently that really stuck with me- “there is a difference between interest and commitment.” You choose to make your art a priority. You have to wake up everyday and choose to live that day in pursuit of it. No one’s going to remind you. And if you choose this life, it’s not only because it’s something you want, but because it’s something that you have to do. There’s no other option. This is just who you are, and you’re not yourself if you’re not doing it.
I’ve been asked the question “How long will you give yourself?”, as in, how much time will I allow before I give up on my creative pursuits. But to me that’s like asking, “At what point will you let practicality and judgement coerce you out of living a life that is truthful to who you are?”. I want to live my life at full capacity, and turning my back on my art would stop me from doing that.
This question, in a way, also implies that a person’s creative journey is only legitimized when they reach some sort of commercial success. When they finally “make it.” But that’s just so not what makes an artist. You can’t just wait around for someone give you permission to be an artist. If you want to make shit, then make shit. Do shit. And if you’re doing shit, you’re an artist. Recognition will come or it won’t.
A goal of monetary success shouldn’t be what validates the choice to live an artist’s life. It should be about creating good work that you’re proud of. It should be about doing the thing, whatever that is.
Right now, I’m exhausted. I have a pounding headache, and my shoes are probably destroyed from the sudden and unforgiving downpour I got caught in today. But I feel good. I feel whole. I feel like myself; because I spent the entire day surrounded by people who think like me, in an environment that allowed me to create and explore and challenge myself. And that’s just not a feeling I’m willing to give up on. So don’t ask the artists in your life “why?” or “for how long?” or “what if?”. Don’t ask questions at all. You may not understand their choices, but to them the answer is plain and simple. They just have to.