Are you a creative? Do you create shit for a living? If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, you are a creative. If you are a creative (you answered “yes” to either of the two aforementioned questions), then I’d bet you a plum nickel that while people are happy for you and your creativity, they probably don’t “get” what it is you do, like, for a living.
Like, you paint and shit, or “graphic design,” but that can’t be what you do all the time, right? How do you pay Xfinity 10 times what the service is worth using only paintbrushes, sponges and those other things that are neither paintbrushes nor sponges? Sure, I know you’re a writer, but you can’t be a writer all the time, right? What do you do when you’re not doing that “bloggy” thing you do?
I can’t tell you (not true, I’m about to do so) how many times I’ve been introduced by people who have been like, “This is Panama. He writes a blog; it’s great and you should check it out. He’s a blogger. Like, a real one.” (At least 100.) And I’m just standing right there and everything, trying not to grimace at the unintentional shade.
It doesn’t happen so much anymore. After I got my first set of leather-bound books, I noticed that people started to put more ’speck on my name. But, alas, the creative-for-a-living struggle is real. No, this is not a real real problem, but yes, I’d like you to cry for me, Argentina.
Here are 10 truisms you probably feel if you’re a vocational creative:
1. When your job is actually your passion, nobody actually thinks you have a job, at worst, or doesn’t respect the process, at best. A few months ago, I wrote this:
It’s like when I used to be a manager at a nightclub, a job that NOBODY outside of the nightlife industry respects as an actual job. Never mind that I was responsible for tens of thousands of dollars a night—often in cash—and the operations of a venue of drunken idiots, most people think that to manage a nightclub or work in that industry at all just means you stay up late, take pictures with hot women, and take a lot of shots on the company dime. Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of nights of doing just that, but I still had a job to do and I could be fired for not doing it properly. When people see fun, they don’t see work and they struggle with the concept of “Oh, you are enjoying this?
It just bears repeating as the most factual-ass opinion that ever did fact: Nobody thinks you have a job if that shit looks fun OR like you actually WANT to be doing it.
2. Damon Young once told me to be prepared for #teamworkfromhome meaning #teamrunthiserrand to other people. He wasn’t wrong, but I’d like to make an addendum and say that to the outside world, #teamworkfromhome really means you’re #teameyeaintgotshittodosoeyecandefinitelydowhateveritisthatyouneedmetodowheneveryouneedmetodoit.
3. Unless you make long dough, everybody thinks you should probably get a “real job.” Even when you do, some believe you should be careful. Sure, it’s awesome that you’re pushing your poetry, but push this broom at the same time so that you can pay your bills. Folks really struggle to understand how creatives make money. WE GET PLENNY MONAAAY (Sometimes).
4. Creativity comes when it comes. Which is a super-duper struggle when folks really need you to only be creative during office hours, which for some are from *sniffle* nine ... to ... fiiive (voice trails off). If I feel creative at 3:30 a.m., it’s just gon’ have to be some creating going on. Nobody questioned God about his best times for creation. I mean, nobody could. But you get the point.
5. As an addendum to No. 4, creativity does not come on demand. You know how, when you tell somebody you speak another language, somebody ALWAYS says, “Say something in ([hat other language]!” Same shit with the arts and whatnot. Folks be all like, “Says here y’all are a sangin’ group ... why don’t y’all sang somethin?”
Look, if you’re an artist who draws and you’re out and you tell folks you draw for a living and they hand you a napkin and say, “Why don’t you ... draw something” as a test of your bona fides, just punch them in the throat. (I cannot in good faith condone or promote violence. This is me not condoning or promoting violence, in good faith.)
6. As a writer, the most frequent statement I probably get from folks is, “Are you going to write about this?” The answer? Probably not. Most situations aren’t THAT interesting. Nearly every time somebody says, “Don’t write about this,” I was absolutely NOT going to write about it. In fact, I was going to forget it happened as soon as I had the opportunity.
I don’t know if musicians and artists get those types of questions. I can imagine somebody saying, “Don’t make a song about me, bro!” But that sounds almost patronizing. Like, the fuck you think I am? A jingle writer? Jingle deez.
7. Art is life. Sometimes, noncreative folks don’t understand why we must scribble everything down or view everything as art, but you know what? I’m an artist. I art shit. Everything is inspirational and potentially new art for me (except that shit you specifically ask me if I’m going to write about). Ball is life and art is ... life.