As an artist- whether your medium is paint, ink, cloth, music, writing, etc etc- you’re likely to be approached with the question of Why You Do It. Usually this question comes from well-meaning but terribly confused friends or relatives. Sometimes in dark moments the question comes from yourself.
Art is so much work, and money, and time poured into something that a lot of people simply do not understand (heck, lots of people even resent/hate art). And often the return for your efforts isn’t immediately visible to onlookers.
There will be moments where the pursuit of creating things can seem futile, your work lost and invisible in the roiling sea of social media noise. Days when your bank account feels like a linty inside-out pocket. It’s tempting to ask yourself why continue in these moments. Often when things are shadowy that’s when others are already asking you Why You Do It.
So Why Make Art at all? When you could get a “normal” job and pour your focus into money and status symbols and whatever else is safe and easily measured.
The House of Pomegranates often jokes to me that art is a disease, something we are born with that compels us to produce art even when no one is looking. I like that as I do feel sometimes creating is an urge that’s more biological than intellectual. Struggling to subdue it and ignore the drive would likely kill us, or at least make us very ill.
There have been moments in my own career where I have doubted what I am doing, where I have sat up in bed staring into the night wondering what the heck I am thinking (used to usually coincide with the week rent is due). But by morning I was back to it, dedicated.
For me, I can’t continue on without it. I don’t want that life and I can’t live it. For me it is biological, and art has saved my life over and over. Has given me purpose while everything else burned down around me, helped me drag my limping carcass from the fire. Art is it. I know I am eschewing stability and probably won’t ever be able to retire like my parents, but if I am not creating I just don’t see a point (for me).
So for the other artists out there here are some of the ways to draw yourself back from the brink of Why:
* Be conscious of the ways you measure your efforts. Money isn’t the only reason to do things. Social media followers don’t really mean a damn thing. If something makes you happy, if it fulfills you then it has value even if it doesn’t always pay the bills (and there is zero shame in funding your art with whatever McJob for however long you need to).
* Don’t fall into games of comparison. There is no faster way to feel crappy than to waste time comparing your efforts to others. Keep your eyes on your own road, it’s not important where x person is in relation to you on their own different road because you don’t truly know what they’ve had to do to get there.
* Keep working. Don’t give up, just because your work isn’t wildly popular or you’ve reached the pinnacle of success yet doesn’t mean you won’t ever. Keep producing art, keep learning new things, be encouraging to others, and be open to opportunities that come your way and it’ll come. It will.