I'm an Artist
Just hear me out, okay?
I know. Every human with internet, an iPhone camera, a Twitter or YouTube account, an Instagram page or a blog thinks they’re an artist. I won’t totally disagree: technology increases the potential for everyone to be creative and share their creative work. The option is now at anyone’s fingertips in a way our grandparents and great-grandparents never could’ve dreamed.
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I’m not going to split people into Real and Not Real artists. That’s for the audience to decide. Instead I’m going to do what I seem to be doing more and more often: talk about myself. It’s still awkward sometimes, still feels indulgent and boring, but I’m the subject I know best. And I do consider myself an artist (lowercase, not capital-A).
The things I’m most interested in are forms of art: books, film, TV, music, theatre, all art, depending on who you ask. My job really has nothing to do with art, except tangentially. The material objects I deal with while doing my job are the aforementioned art forms. Most of what I do in my spare time however, is art.
I write constantly, even if it’s just lines in my head or in the notes app on my phone or a Google Doc. My paper notebooks have become a place where I can play with ideas, write in a stream of consciousness, figure out what I want to say before I say it. I take note of my life but also the art I consume. I try to figure out how I can be a better writer, go deeper, get to the point of what I’m trying to do.
I’ve started mucking about with visual art. I was never good at it in school: too much pressure, too little time, too many steps to put in the right order and replicate. There’s a part of me that wants to be good at it, to express myself that way instead. In my private space I just Do The Thing: sketch and mess up and color and make uneven lines.
The thing is, I’ve always had a good eye. It’s just difficult to translate what I see in my head onto what’s in front of me. The mismatch annoys me and makes me struggle. I can be a perfectionist, but if it’s loose and not under time constraints I just take my time. I’m not where I want to be but that’s okay. I want to start using my phone’s camera more too. Capture things I think look nice, things I probably won’t see again, my visual point of view. I could afford a DSLR, but I don’t trust myself to not drop things.
I’ve never actually finished writing a novel. I started before the pandemic but lost momentum. I have 200 pages of maybe above average story sitting on my laptop. I have other ideas (about ten, if I’m remembering correctly), but thinking about how to execute them makes my head spin. Should this one be another novel, or a mini-series spec? Or a film spec? Or something else? Would a short story give it enough room? Should I keep writing poems, or are they too fake deep and cringe? Would anyone actually read my work, for free or published in a book? The questions feel endless.
I want to try other mediums; I probably will. It feels like getting in the car and not using directions: I know what to do, but not where to go with it. So I stop myself all together. That muscle hasn’t really been flexed in a while, and it makes me a little sad. I think that’s one of the reasons I started this newsletter, to keep those parts of my brain in shape. To put those feelings down somewhere in a way that actually has an order and a purpose. To not just tell a story or share something but to make whoever reads or sees it feel something, to share the emotions, to feel less alone.
I think that’s why I feel comfortable calling myself an artist. It’s not everything I do with my life (I think I’d get burnt out if I wrote for a living, honestly), but it’s something I feel the need to do anyway. That’s why I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a capital-A Artist. There are things I need to express. Things I want to show. It’s how I deal with my trauma, by making or taking in art. I read a good book or watch a good show and say to myself “damn, I want to do that.” I look at other people’s art and wish I could make something similar. It’s how I fill my spare time. I’m basically surrounded by it. Maybe I take things too seriously, but it’s just how I’m wired.
Bravo! I can relate to a lot of what you've written here. There are different thoughts on the value of pressure in creative work but I can appreciate the value of taking your time to achieve what you want to with your art. Hope you keep it up!