Creativity has always been a big part of my life. Before I even started kindergarten, I loved to draw. By the time I was nine, I was filling my journals with poetry. In high school, my life revolved around singing and acting. And for the past six years I’ve been focusing primarily on writing poems, fiction, articles, web copy, plays, and of course blog posts.
As I transitioned into my “adult” years, it felt important for me to hold onto my inner artist. I knew too many people who grew up and left the passions and talents of their teen years behind them, trading them in for more practical jobs and the responsibilities of family life. There is nothing wrong with making money and there is nothing wrong with having a family. I certainly aspire to these things in my own way. And I am without a doubt a creature who values comfort and stability.
But I never wanted to be someone who let go of her passions just because she got older. But I realize this line of thinking was flawed in a sense, because holding onto the passions of my teen years potentially stopped me from developing new interests. And it may have made me a bit closed-minded in the things I pursued, deciding too early on who I am and who I am not.
I also realize that, contrary to what I may have thought, passion and business don’t always go hand in hand. Just because you enjoy an activity, it doesn’t mean you will enjoy the process of trying to do it for a living. I love writing, but I don’t love selling things, making my work as an self-published author bittersweet. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but trying to sell books has also made me feel like there’s a barrier between me and my ultimate goal, which is to connect with people.
Writing for online magazines can be quite fun, especially since comment sections can be so interactive. It brings me great joy to see someone share thought-provoking ideas based on an article I wrote. To see that someone was so invested in your writing that they decided to leave a comment can be wonderful, and it offers a feeling of instant gratification that one doesn’t often get when it comes to writing.
Attempting to make money in the world of marketing, copywriting, and public relations has also been interesting, informative, but ultimately not terribly lucrative for me. High competition plus a lack of deep interest on my part has not made this a fun ride.
When I meet other people who are trying to make money writing, I hear about how they’ve hopped from job to job, perhaps haven’t always been paid as much as they’re worth, and have been taken advantage of or dropped by companies that made promises they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) keep. I feel like I have a quiet understanding with these people. So many writers are dedicated, smart, and hardworking.
We’re expected to have fast turnover times but may be slow to receive paychecks. It takes a special kind of grit to try to make a career in business (or any kind of) writing. There is so much (seriously, SO MUCH) advice on the internet about how to break into writing for money. It’s a path I have attempted. It is also a path I am happy to trade for one of less resistance.
The thing that no one tells you about being an artist is that you are a salesperson first, an artist second. If you’re going to make it full time or even part time as an artist, you have to be a businessperson above all else. Marketing is necessary, and may even take more time than the artwork itself. Even when I was a girl scout selling cookies, I never liked the feeling of trying to convince someone to buy something. I never outgrew this lack of interest in sales.
Whether you’re a writer, painter, actor, or musician, you have to sell your work in most cases, especially if you are independent. The age of social media, in my opinion, creates unrealistic expectations about how easy it should be to get hundreds or thousands of people interested in your work. It can feel like attention and fame are of utmost importance, and that is never the reason I wanted to make art. The success of a creative person is almost always equated with some level of fame or influencer status. But trying to get many peoples’ approval has never been at the top of my list.
I still have a desire to make things and connect with others. So it’s confusing and I don’t really know what I want. I wish I could just be the little girl who painted on a canvas in her bedroom. The girl who scribbled poetry in her grandmother’s living room. The girl who sang in the music room and studied monologues over lunch. I was happy living in the process of doing all of these things. Back then, these things were done for passion.
But I’m at a point where if I’m going to do work, I want it to be part of my career. I want it to be the mark I leave on the world. Maybe a love for art isn’t enough to make a career of it. Maybe making a career of it creates a process I don’t enjoy. I don’t know what any of this means for my inner artist. But I think that I’m not so afraid of letting go of my former self. I know that I need to make room for all of the things that I can be. And I know that after six years of constant productivity, I deserve a break, or least less pressure to achieve such large career goals.
I always go back to writing and art. I always find my way back to music and dancing and self-expression. It’s an extension of me. But that doesn’t mean it’s all I am. I don’t think I need to be afraid of letting go of the past. I’m allowed to evolve and grow. Growing up is weird, messy, and complicated. It is change. But evolution can be exciting. I don’t have to stay on any one path. And if I know that, then I’m free to be who I want to be.