It’s a nice Saturday night, and things seem to be winding down. The clock is inching toward the 1 a.m. tick, but really, the work is just beginning. The drummer is tearing down in the dark, noisy and cold backstage. He’s sweaty, his back is in pain and he’s more tired than if he had run a marathon.
Finally the bags are packed, the car is loaded and it’s time to get the night’s pay. However, he’s informed they simply did not sell enough tickets, and in fact, he owes the promoter $75 for the unsold goods. Not enough of his friends ended up making the show to cover the cost. Whether they were busy, or simply uninterested, the reason doesn’t matter. He, and the rest of the band, scrounge up what they didn’t spend at the burger joint earlier and pay their way out the door — working for a net negative. Oh well, maybe someone liked the new song they wrote.
It’s 11 p.m. The camera is on its dock, the SD card that is filled to capacity is loading onto his laptop. While about 90% of the photos aren’t up to par, there really are some he’s excited about. While the loading bar slowly slides to the right as progress is moving along, he decides to check his email, hoping there may be a response to one of quite literally hundreds of applications he’s put out over the weeks. Maybe someone has finally bought some of his work online – he’s already priced them as low as he can.
Nothing. But hey, apparently he has a rich uncle in a faraway land that is leaving him an inheritance, and all he has to do is email away his closest information. Sounds promising!
While both events sound like fiction, both are real, and both are mine. Going through life with a creative mind, can seem like a superpower to most, can almost be a curse. As the years go on, gigs get harder to find, we plumet the asking price of works we pieced together over hours, and we patiently wait for someone to want what we have worked so hard to create. While it’s not all doom and gloom, and I don’t intend to make it seem that way, it feels more and more that creativity just isn’t as respected as it once was, a fact that should be disappointing to us all.
I have been creative since I was a kid. I was never good at math or science, but I could tell a story to anyone. I had a weird ability to create a reality around me that seemed to spew from the recess of my imagination. Sometimes I’d draw (though admittedly not well), sometimes I would build roller coasters from old car tracks and legos, and sometimes I’d even simply scrawl ideas onto a crude journal I used to keep in my toybox. It made me happy, even though I didn’t really see it that way at the time. It was just something to do.
Eventually, I grew up. I learned an instrument, got into photography and still wrote from time to time. I abandoned my initial idea to be a meteorologist to go to college to be a radio broadcaster, and do photography on the side.
I was good at it, and I knew it. I loved cracking the mic, taking snapshots of what I saw around me and sharing it with others. At the time, I was still living the college dream, so I didn’t consider what was about to come: real life, bills and job prospects.
As things went on, jobs suddenly seemed scarce, the opinions people had of my work started to affect me more, and I started to blame myself for not going into something different. I had found something I was good at, and that I loved, but why did it have to be this? Why did it have to be the arts? Self-loathing set in from time to time, especially when I saw my peers going on to do great things in their fields such as nursing, business, etc.
Oddly enough, I never doubted my talent. I knew what I could do and I was proud of my talent, but I slowly became more bitter toward the way people view the works of others. Sure, I don’t know how to balance a company budget, I don’t know how to do your taxes, but I still have value. I can create your website, I can make things beautiful and I can entertain you. So why is this not respected? Why am I still struggling to scrape by, when my master’s degree is higher than even some of my colleagues?
It was easy for me to fall into the trap of anger toward things I cannot control, such as other’s lives and opinions. I also understand that people generally do not do such things on purpose; people aren’t inherently that condescending. However, I feel I have finally touched on what makes the creative field so difficult: Everyone thinks it’s easy.
Right now, you could go to an infinite number of websites and see an infinite number of things. Photography, music, art or stocks — the world is your oyster. This makes it indescribably easier to share works, ideas, thoughts and just about anything you want. Ironically, this is also a disaster for anyone hoping to base their income on such. It gives the field a facade that these things can be done in less than an hour, posted and create revenue, whether this is photography, music, podcasts or anything else that stems from imagination. It lowers the value of the very thing we’re trying to create. In a world of constant information being thrown in every direction, it’s easy to see how creative arts can get lost in the shuffle, and how their value can sink.
These things aren’t as easy as everyone makes it seem, however. No matter what artistic route you take, it can be a lengthy and difficult journey. A single piece takes time, effort, patience and mostly…luck. Just like in other fields, sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time. And while this is fact, there is no artist out there that doesn’t love discovery and creation of a new piece, and the road it took to get there. There is nothing wrong with this, but sometimes we forget just how difficult it can be, and how loud the self-criticism can be.
Again, my work won’t ever save a life, balance a budget or even stock a shelf. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not important, it doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of respect, and it definitely does not mean it’s not worth its weight in society.
I’ll never stop being creative, and if you’re creative too, you shouldn’t either. While it can be stressful and scary at times knowing you’ve worked so hard in your life to get to a certain point, only for it to seem like it means nothing, it will always be the most fulfilling thing I can think of. No matter what, my art means something. And if it only means something to me, that’s just fine.