Starting a career in the arts can be likened to throwing yourself into a full scale battlefield with no skill. You are suddenly forced to fight against others who have been battling for longer than you’ve been alive, but still haven’t made it to victory despite their hardest attempts.
It’s pretty fucking scary really.
So when people question your choice to enter the field because they think you might fail, it feels like a massive kick in the face before you’ve even lost the battle. If you are an emerging artist, writer, designer, performer or creator wanting to make your grand debut, this happens almost daily.
Since graduation, I have lost count of the number of times my career choices have been doubted by strangers, friends and even family every now and again. And after speaking to fellow creative minds, I know I am not alone in getting irritated by ego-killing questions and statements.
Therefore, to help people who struggle to understand why artists want to be just that, I have compiled a list of things to never say to them when the topic comes up in conversation… unless you want to deliberately piss them off.
‘What will you do if it doesn’t work out?’
To me, this is a constant reminder of my slim chances of success in a ridiculously competitive industry. Not only that, but it gives the impression that you have no faith in my abilities or skills, so thank you for that ego anti-boost.
‘What’s your real job?’
Can someone please define the phrase ‘real job’ for me, because apparently my definition significantly differs from that of the rest of the world? Isn’t a job simply something you can make an income from doing? Admittedly, being an artist—particularly when starting out—does not bring in a steady income, but it is a career nonetheless.
‘Keep trying – you’ll get there eventually!’
I will be honest and say this phrase used to comfort me. As a person who regularly needs reassurance of their being on the right path, it was always nice to hear a little encouragement. However, once you hear it enough it gets really infuriating and just highlights how years of hard work apparently are still not enough.
‘Where will that get you in life?’
This is simple: it will get me where I want to be.
‘Oh, you’re still doing that art thing?’
Yes, I am doing that ‘art thing’ and I will continue to do that ‘thing’ for as long as I can. And for the love of all things holy, please stop calling it a ‘thing’! Call it a goal or a dream or whatever, but it is not some inanimate object, so stop referring to it as such.
Our careers are equally as valuable as everyone else’s—without them the world would be a pretty dull place. So please have a think the next time you talk to an artistic person and consider how you would feel if we turned around and asked you the same thing. Here’s a hint: it would suck.