“Make good art.”

When things get tough, this is what you should do:

Make good art.

-Neal Gaiman

I know I already sought to inspire people a few days ago, but… it’s January. The year is just beginning, and I feel this is a good time to gather momentum, for me and for you. If you did not include making art in the list of New Year resolutions for 2016, maybe you should.

I know what you may be thinking. I’m not good enough, it’s all done before, why bother if it will be rejected. I know. We all think like that at some point. I have it on good authority that some great artists of the past and the present, in a variety of genres and disciplines, have thought poorly of their work and sometimes still do -that good authority being said artists themselves admitting it publicly. We are not alone in this, and it should not stop us from making our artistic voice heard.

I for one have struggled with this sort of insecurity for years. I started writing when I was fairly little, about 7 years old. I would not make any claim as to being a genius -I had barely learned my ABCs. But that didn’t stop me. I wrote pages upon pages, stories and chronicles, essays, opinion pieces. I didn’t have a particular market in mind; I had no intention of impressing anyone, or wooing the masses. I just wrote because I felt like it. There was this one piece… all I remember is that it was a short story, but after all these years, I still recall what I wrote at the end: that this was just one of the many that I would write for as long as I would live.

And then life happened. Doesn’t it always? And cue a dry spell that was to last for years and years, until I began roleplaying, which gave me an opportunity to flex that muscle again, not just through the roleplaying itself -which is by its very nature an exercise in writing-, but also through journals and stories I wrote in tandem with fellow roleplayers. More ventures followed, such as this blog, and short stories here and here… and yet, I keep stumbling. I keep letting life happen. Little by little, I’m learning to really give my writing the importance it deserves -the importance it needs-, and I’m hoping to be kicking off to a nice steady pace from this point on. Will I succeed, or will I stumble again? I do not know, but the point is to never stop trying.

I mean, can you imagine how good I would be if I had kept to writing all these years? If I had built upon that early start? I might be published right now and my career might be the stuff of legend (okay, maybe not that epic, but you know what I mean). Life would be very different. Now, that’s not to say I regret any part of my life, or any of my decisions. It has been quite a colorful road for me, and it has brought me valuable friendships that I otherwise would not have. I am thankful for all of it. All I’m saying is, art is important to me and I wish it would not have taken me so long to realize it. For the longest time, I had no encouragement to lead me back to this path. When I finally did, it took quite a bit of effort to dare to put my voice out there. And that is why I am sharing this with you: if you need encouragement too, then may this be it.

It is a sort of unspoken rule, that art must be good. That’s a fallacy. Of course a true artist strives to perfect their craft, but just because what we do is not perfect, it should not stop us from creating it, and even sharing it. You will find criticism, some good and some harmful. That’s normal. It’s part of the process, and it should not stop you. If anything, it should encourage you, help you identify the areas that you need to improve. The more critique you get, the better you become at handling it; the easier it gets to choose what critique is useful and what you don’t need. Don’t be afraid of the insults: most if not all of them are just people who don’t know better.

Why should you not let criticism or self doubt stop you? Among other reasons, because in order to be good, you have to practice. Are you familiar with Charles M. Jones? Once upon a time, his art teacher told the class that they all had one hundred thousand bad drawings in them, and the sooner they got them out through practice, the better. By then, Mr. Jones was well into his third hundred thousand. How far along are you? No need to answer that, except to yourself if you want. Point is, practice is key. And if you happen to be thinking ‘I must not share it until it is of professional level’, let me give you a couple examples to the contrary. Look at this webcomic. Done? Okay, now go all the way back to the very first page. Pretty different, hm? Want another example? Look at this. Now, the first page. See what I mean? If they did it, so can you.

So far, we’ve been speaking of pros. But what if you do not consider yourself (or aspire to be) a professional? That should not deter you either. Art is not a profession, it’s an expression, which is why anyone who feels like writing or drawing or acting or taking pictures should go nuts. I know many people who draw or write just because they want to. I know of local politicians and popular actors -to name a few examples- who take pictures, and they are great at it even if they do not live off of it. So if they indulge, why shouldn’t you?

Oh, and just in case you want another argument in favor of making art, let me leave you with these words:

Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly,
is a way to make your soul grow.

-Kurt Vonnegut

See you next week.




2 Responses to ““Make good art.””

  1. Using my “art” or writing has helped me through a couple tough spots. Most of them have been just for my eyes and to be deleted right away, but they have all been a way to brain dump and let the feelings go with them 🙂

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