When was the last time you did something just for the joy of it?
This is a question I've thought about a lot lately. I just put the finishing touches on the last chapter of my novel. That makes three intense rounds of revision. And I still have to go back and overhaul the beginning. Again. It's hundreds of hours of work. My chances of getting published are slim to none. But I keep working.
Which has led me to ponder, is it worth it?
If my story never leaves the confines of my computer, is it worth all the effort and love I've put into it?
We live in a world where, for some reason, something is only considered worthwhile if it will make money, or bring you fame. If you can be successful at it. And to be successful means other people need to think you're good at it too.
And if other people don't like it, if your work doesn't measure up with what's out there, we have bought into this notion that we must not be "good" at it and stop trying.
My daughter is an artist. She sits at my table and draws, paints, colors, and cuts for hours on end. If she goes a day without doing some form of art, she will often complain at bedtime. "Oh, I didn't do any art today!" It's an important part of her day. She feels she is missing something without it.
I've read a few things about children who are gifted at art. I discovered two different patterns. Some children are just naturally gifted to create art. They seem to be able to see and translate their vision on paper much easier than their peers. And then there is the second group of gifted children. Those who LOVE art and do it extensively. Their technique doesn't start off any better than their peers, but through hours of practice they eventually get better and better and pass up those around them in technique.
Thus, most people who are "good" at art, aren't that way because they are born with a drawing ability, but because they are born with a passion.
We are all born with a passion. Maybe not born. My passions have definitely changed throughout the years. This is normal and good. But we are all born with a drive to create. To make something out of nothing, to bring order to chaos, and beauty to life.
Each of us has something that when we do it, we feel renewed, energized, alive. But many of us have left that passion. Perhaps you were told you weren't good at it, either by yourself or someone else. Maybe you stopped when you were told "You can't make a living doing that." Maybe you didn't continue when you saw everyone who was better at it than you and figured, "What's the point?"
But why do we have to make money or "win" or be "successful" with something in order to enjoy it and pursue it? Why don't we allow ourselves to do things for the pure joy of doing them?
In our society of technology, instant gratification, longer work hours, intrusive entertainment, less quiet time, and more demands, many of use go days, weeks, months, years, without making "art." And we are losing ourselves and sacrificing a rich, inner life because of it.
Art comes in so many shapes and forms. I'm not going to list them here, but think back to when you were a child, or a teenager, or some
time when you LOVED something but stopped for some reason. I challenge you to pick it back up and do it again.
Yes, you might be terrible at it. But are you having fun? Does it bring you joy? That is the true measure of your success.
We've all heard the quote from Picasso, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."
Go back and find that artist inside you. Don't let another day go by without doing your art. Dance, sing, draw, write, garden, cook, build, film, act. There are opportunities all around you. And if there aren't, make them!
I may never publish a novel. But I will still write them. With each revision pass I improve. Every day my imagination broadens. My hands are busy, my heart is alive. And so yes, every word has been worth it. I have created something I am proud of. Something I love. Even if nobody else does.
I am an artist.
You are an artist.