Being an artist or being a creative person takes a lot of guts, even if you’re a sensitive person who likes to stay inside for WEEKS on end, just calling yourself an artist or a creative type takes LOADS of bravery, because that declaration alone is an invitation for the Other Person to investigate what that means.
People will ask what type of work you DO. And THAT’S a hard question. Then they might even want to SEE IT. Or MAYBE they’ll start comparing what YOU’ve done to something THEY’ve seen, because that helps them understand it better. This invites YOU to do the comparing which, as a creative type person, we DO try to stay away from!
They’ll start to ask if you sell your work anywhere, or if it exists in any sort of capitalist manner. That’s a hard question too! It makes us measure our work in dollars and dimes, when someone always asks us for a discount anyway. They might even start giving you marketing advice, telling you their brother’s niece just started selling their keychains on amazon handmade and you better get on that or else the trend will pass you by.
But hey! What if what you do isn’t considered ‘Art’ to them? Or Creative? What if they argue? What if you tell them you’re a photographer and they get THAT LOOK in their eyes that shows you their mind has shut off from taking you seriously? ‘Because every youth with a cell phone is a photographer now, dont’cha know.’
Sometimes people don’t know how to answer the ‘what do you do’ question for fear of THAT response. The ‘you’re less than me because you’re not working a 9-5’ type response. Or the arts consumer who has now been able to judge all things art and deem what can and cannot be considered art. That response.
People might ask what your Real Job is, as though being a creative type person is not meant to be a full time job all by itself. And if it isn’t your full time job, they’ll ask when you’ll leave it to pursue your dreams. They’ll ask about your plans and your trajectory, your foreseeable future. As though you have to explain yourself to them in a way that makes sense To Them.
Then they’ll say something like, good for you, and then let out that they could NEVER do what you do, because they aren’t good at art. Or writing. Or sculpting. Or keychains. Their eyes will probably fade off in dismissal without ever realizing how much work that was for you.
They don’t know how much work it is. How much work it took to even make it to the end of that small talk exchange. Where you felt measured, weighed, misunderstood, and in the spotlight all at once.
All of this happens to a creative person pretty much all the time. How brave of them to STILL claim their titles. So the next time you hear someone say “I’m an artist” or some other variation, maybe just give them a high five and let them know you respect them for saying so.
And if you’re a creative person reading this, know that you don’t owe anyone an explanation at all. Ever.