I’m going to start this off by tearing the band aid right off your skin. How many of these phrases sound familiar?
“Oh, you’re a writer? That’s adorable, honey!”
“What do you really want to be, sweetheart?”
“Let’s be realistic here. How are you going to make money?”
“You’re not going to be published until you’re much older.”
“There’s a reason for the phrase ‘Starving Artist.’”
A lot of us have heard every single one of those over and over, ad nauseum. We grew up in a time where the arts aren’t seen as valuable to our society. The starving artist trope means a lot of my credibility goes out the window the second people learn I write. Schools are cutting funding to the arts left and right in order to make room for athletics. Most schools don’t even have a creative writing class anymore. Let me let you in on a secret, though. Artists and creators own the world.
The entertainment industry rakes in more money each year than anyone could know what to do with. Hollywood is saturated with actors who dedicate their lives to portraying characters. Some of them didn’t even start acting until they were in their 40s, or even later. Musicians spent hours and hours over years and years learning their instruments and voices. Some headline big shows, but others are master composers and shine from behind stage. All of those billboards and movie posters are created by artists who function in a world of shape, line, and color. They make the world a rainbow.Writers made the stories that turn into movies. Some of those stories were novels, some were scripts. Either way, their stories explode into tales that dig deep into our culture.
My point is, in a capitalist society, we vote with our dollar more than anything else. And we spend an exuberant amount of money on entertainment. Even the zoo is full of creativity-the passages on animals are written by writers who can craft passages that mean something to the public, and especially children. Museum exhibits are often interactive crafts that get people involved and thinking, andt that takes a kind of ingenuity found in the arts. Movies are the point where computer graphics, acting, directing, musical composition, musical performance, and writing converge. Theatre puts most of those aspects into play live.
We need the arts. We live in a world where art is everywhere, but we’re so desensitized to it, we don’t always notice. Landscaping, architecture, newspapers, advertising design, movies, art shows, fashion-the list could go on and on. Almost everything is an art. It is so worth it.
What, then, is my advice to young writers? To the young ones who hear that it’s cute, but not enough? Prove them wrong. Let your indignation and hurt that people don’t have confidence in you fuel a fire to show them all that you can do it no matter what they say.
Read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Even the cereal box. The more you expose yourself to other people’s writing, the more you’ll absorb patterns and techniques to try yourself. This also helps generate ideas and builds a bank of things to pull from in the future.
Write. Practice makes excellence. Don’t aim for perfection. You’re going to be your worst critic, and aiming for perfection is going to be impossible. Accept that your first draft is going to be absolute shit. Mine always are. My fiance sometimes has to stop me from moving hundreds of pages to the circular file. Accept that it’s going to get better with each revision, with each story, with each idea.
Hone in on your passions. Talent can get you started, but it’s endurance and passion that keeps you going. Hard work can equal and surpass talent over time. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re terrible now. Someday you’ll be better. Every word you write makes you stronger. Keep going.
CREATE. We live in a tumultuous time. Someday, historians are going to be looking back at our art. At our literature, at our photography, at our news clippings, scrapbooks, films, journals, paintings. Our art is taking a snapshot of the world we live in right now, and nothing could be more valuable. Don’t stop. Create. The world needs your art.