Artists, be strong. The world is trying to change you

I am a writer. World, stop trying to change me.  Please.

I don’t need to change. I am the living embodiment of change because this is who I am and what I want to be. I make enough money from writing to cover my bills. Sure, I could do what you want world. I could make you feel better about failing your own dreams by taking a job in an office or a popular franchise. But, why would I? Sure, world, I’ve been saving for eight weeks for a new pair of trainers. Sure, there’s no chance of me getting a Playstation 4. But, you know what world? Waiting is good. Waiting is important. Waiting has value. World, I know you don’t understand. I know you are confused. I know you’ve grown to measure success by the size of a bank balance. But, world, you are wrong. True success is what’s achieved by following dreams. You won’t find it on a payslip or at a free staff Christmas party, because success is a feeling. Failure is everything else. Failure is looking back on your life and wondering why you spent so long chasing money you can’t spend when you’re dead. Failure is a person still wondering at the end of their life what they’ll do with it once it begins. Failure is dying with a head full of questions and not a smile because you found your own answer.

World, we only get one shot at this life. So, please stop asking me and other writers/artists the following because you all sound the same and it’s boring:

You got any work yet?

How’s the job hunting?

You’re still young enough to have a career.

I’ve left the newspaper on the side. It’s got some decent jobs in it.

The bloke from Securitas might need someone.

What are you going to do, really though? 

Have you thought about joining the army?

Artists – writers, poets, musicians, actors, street performers, lion tamers etc:

Ignore the world. The people who doubt art are often artless. They are experts in other fields, but in the field of art they have a moving mouth but a silent heart. They are bland and grey and dull. They shoot down anything original with carefully harvested piles of bitterness. So, please world – next time you ask a writer or an artist of any kind if they’ve found a real job yet, stop and think before you do. You big silly arrogant drone. Ask yourself what’s so great about your career and life that you think you’re in a position to offer advice. If you think you love your career, that’s great. But remember, it’s not over yet. Wait until you get old and realise the job you love doesn’t love you back. Maybe then, in your old age, once the system has spat you out, you’ll pick up that old battered guitar and learn how to play Stairway to Heaven again. You should encourage artists. You should embrace artists. You should buy their books and share their music, and you should encourage others to do the same.

World, ask yourself if your job really fills your heart with peace, because only if it does, can you ask an artist if they’ve found a real job yet. Remember: if how you live doesn’t fill your heart with peace, you also don’t have a real job. And if you are questioning artists whilst unhappy in your own job, then you are simply working for the system. Trained and brained.

This is you, if that’s what you do: Wake. Coffee. Work. Coffee. Recruit. Work. Sleep. Repeat.

Sounds rubbish to me.

Here is food for thought: artists are the people who have the real jobs. Most writers don’t make much money. We don’t wear suits and own shares. But if you  look really closely, you might just realise it’s most of the other jobs that chip away at the will to live.

And meanwhile, it’s the artist, who dances.

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19 thoughts on “Artists, be strong. The world is trying to change you

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  2. Well said. Very poignant. I agree that it’s important to love what you do, but I feel you hurt your case towards the end with the same type of generalising that you’re speaking out against. It sounds like you’ve had to deal with some naysayers, which sucks; however, I wouldn’t say everyone person who’s trying to direct you towards a traditional job is trying to ‘keep you down’. If that’s been your experience then I sympathise but, with respect, insinuating that artists are ‘above’ traditional workers is unfair. There is a middle ground between soulless sellouts and impoverished, ennobled artists you know. Maybe some of those people want you to get a ‘real’ job because they know writing’s a tough gig and they don’t want to see you go through what they see is unnecessary hardship? Maybe they have your best interests at heart, misguided though they may be. Just think it’s unfair to suggest that those who aren’t artistically minded are going to wake up with regards. Respect goes both ways. However, I agree with the sweeter sentiments about following our dreams.

  3. I spent my entire working life in offices of one sort or another before retiring, and have spent 18 months harrassed by withdrawal symptoms from the 9 to 5 routine. I loved writing when I was at school and won two prizes at senior school in public writing competitions. That love of writing has always been there but was submerged not only by the necessity to earn money, but also the assumption that writing could only be done by people who had been properly taught to write, and the fear that anything I wrote would be dismissed or ridiculed. I had read only the first paragraph of your blog before deciding that this is the moment where I start writing so that I can be happy about what I do and can say at some point “this is who I am and what I want to be.” Thanks Craig for directing me here from Twitter. J.

    1. Hi Janet! I know what you mean. I was never educated with classics or sat in a classroom and taught how to write. I never went to university. I quit school at 16. The best (only?) way to learn how to write, is to pick up a pen, and write. So that’s what I’ve been doing since I was a kid. I spent most of my life in an office, before deciding to put my life in a bag and live under a tree to write. Life has sort of worked out. Even when I was in an office, I was writing between calls and emails. Write your books Janet. Pick up a pen and write them. Nobody else can write your books for you. If you are working, write during your lunch break. Don’t drive to work, take a bus. And write on your way. Writers must make the space to write. And it doesn’t matter if we reach our dreams with giant leaps or tiny skips. The direction we are travelling in is important. Even if we are only taking baby steps, if they are in the right direction, we can know in our hearts where we are going. That’s worth a lot. And don’t fear ridicule. We are all ridiculed. A bad review is at least honest. Don’t start convinced you are Shakespeare, and bad reviews are full of content that can help. Writers need thick skin, but an open heart and mind. That, can be a tricky balance. Besides, you might find that you’re your own worst critic!

  4. I completely agree with your take on what a real job is, and how artists should be encouraged. About two years ago, after having my life threatened by a client (paranoid schizophrenic off meds), I decided that it wasn’t worth it. I had graduated with my undergrad degree in psychology and was (and still am) attending graduate school for mental health counseling. I had enjoyed writing, mostly academic and research stuff, and found my niche. I enjoy it greatly. However, like you said, it doesn’t pay much, but being able to work with the freedom to take my dogs for a walk during the day, not have to deal with a commute, wear fancy clothes…that’s where the real value is found. My hope is to work in the research field of psychology and perhaps, as boring as it sounds, write textbooks…the kind that people will actually read.

    1. I’ve done both too, and might even have to return to the office one day. I hope not. Yup, the morning commute to coffee in my house is a lot easier. Sometimes I put on 5 jumpers so I’m disgustingly hot and squash my face up against the bannister on the stairs. Just to remember what the commute was like. Keeps the fear fresh, and the writing sharp.

  5. I don’t make a lot from my writing (barely cover my banking costs), but its still the best job I’ve ever had and I will not go back to the web development work I used to do, that was hellish, long hours, strict deadlines and bugger all feedback. The joy a single honest amazon review gives me is so much greater than any pay packet.

    1. Yup, but you are working towards something. I’ve worked in an office for years and years. Probably 10 years of my life. Hell, I might even end back in one eventually…But that’s okay as long as we dream from behind the bars of something more – and don’t feel we have to apologise for our dreams.

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