Life Advice For Those of Us Thinking of Getting General Arts Degrees and Making Mistakes

Creative people are well known for their extreme mood swings. These mood swings often get in the way of what these people do best: making art. Being creative is the best and worst thing to happen to a person: it comes with a lot of inner turmoil, disappointed parents, self-shame, and over enthusiastic science teachers who are convinced you could have been an amazing biologist. Despite all these negative aspects, being a creative person comes with quite a lot of good as well: finding something you are truly passionate about has a way of renewing your love for life and the mundane. So how do you, as a creative person, keep your head above water when the dark times that frequent your kind do come? Those long stretches where you make nothing and opt instead for sitting in dark rooms, clutching glasses of whatever hard liquor is fashionable, may be romantic, but after a while all that time festering with your own tortured thoughts can have an effect on your psyche. So here is some life advice from the daughter of two manically creative people, the friend of many a tortured artist, and an occasional dabbler in existential crises at the hands of words that won’t rhyme. I present to you, dear reader, life advice for those of us thinking of getting general arts degrees and making mistakes.

Mistakes. Oh my god, are you going to make mistakes. Keep in mind, there is no art without error. You will not simply wake up with a note on your door informing you that you’re going to be an artist and you will do a specific kind of art. It will take years of trial and error to figure out what area you excel in and where that area fits into your life. These are big, life-defining things, ladies and gents, so give yourself lots of room to make the wrong choice, go to the wrong school, get the wrong job, meet the wrong people, and get everything completely wrong before you get it right. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, but halfway through law school you wake up and realize the only thing you want to do with your life is yell at people in Ukrainian while wearing a chicken suit and call it performance art. The thousands of dollars you spent at Columbia Law didn’t go to waste, they provided you with more material, connections, and experience for your eurochicken installation. You may not know what you want to do with your life, the future may seem bleak, and you might be worried that your single panel comics will not provide you with enough money to support your meager existence. The unknown is ever present and constantly terrifying. However, it’s no reason to stop what you’re doing. Be embarrassed, be alone, be poor, be unsatisfied, be an artsy douchebag, and be excited about being alive. Let life throw shit at you like a monkey in a zoo, but don’t let it stop you from creating. Turn that shit into shit-based clay and make some pottery.

I am not a therapist and I am too self centered to solve the problems of others. So instead of telling you to talk to your parents about how you think the fact they fed you Wonder Bread has changed the way you function in society, I am going to give you advice that won’t solve your problems, but will provide you with a way of coping with them. If you aren’t happy, then you aren’t creating enough. This, in my opinion, is the key to happiness for anyone with an artistic inclination. Yes, there may be a specific event that has sparked your downward spiral into hermit-ism, but if you are constantly producing art and putting new things into the world, then you will be able to process this event better. Part of being a creative person is experiencing things in a different way. This varies from person to person, but artistic people tend to experience in a way that is more based on feelings and emotions. When things hit hard, they hit really hard. With a million thoughts going through your mind, it becomes overwhelming, almost paralyzing, very quickly when a negative event occurs. These are usually the times when you buy all the frozen pizzas at your local supermarket, grab a box of tissues, and hunker down for some sad hibernation time. It can be hard to motivate yourself to make anything with these consuming thoughts taking over. If you’re feeling squeamish, take a deep breath, because whether you want to hear these words or not, they are going to help you in the long run. Stop being a little bitch. You need to get out of bed, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and write a whiny and pathetic novel about how difficult your life is. Yes, life is hard during downward swings, but whether you like it or not, they are the periods when you will produce your best work. Stay up all night, stay up all week, and let every toxic thought drain out of you and into your work. Write, play, draw, move, and flush it out until all of that sadness is gone and you can look around at your life and see nothing but beautiful art. Your existence is a gallery. Curate it.

Last but not least, do not forget that you matter. Trying to determine whether or not you are talented, or whether the work you’re doing is worthwhile, or whether you’re special, is an impossible game. There will be people telling you that you’re amazing and people telling you that you’re an idiot at all times. The important thing is not to let other people’s opinions of you or your work affect that which you do. Art is not about ego, it’s an inherent carnal expression and it should never be made for the pleasure of the audience, but rather for the necessity of the artist. With all that said, it has been established that being a creative person is a rocky road to walk. In all your journeys as an artist, keep in mind one thought, a thought that should come from entirely your own faith in yourself: you and your work matter. The moment you forget that, your artistic integrity takes a beating. Having inherent self doubts and still trying to make it as a creative person usually ends with you coming off as a huge dick to everyone you meet. If you don’t believe that the work that you do is important, meaningful, honest, and deserving of respect, how can you expect others to?

So, dear reader, hopefully this advice helps you through your career as a moody poet/interpretive dancer/professional bongo player/iPhone photographer. Hopefully next time you are staring at your ceiling and cursing your unlucky stars for not delivering you the immediate success you crave, you will remember that art takes hard work. Hopefully you will find solace in knowing that every single moment in your life has the potential to become a creative masterpiece. Every hello, every good bye, every walk to the grocery store, every bus ride, cup of coffee, pair of shoes, lost love, and new friend, is a means to an end. It’s up to you to catch these moments as they come, channel the part of you that lies beneath all the moody bullshit, and put something brand new into the world. To all of you staring at blank word documents, tentatively strumming your electric ukuleles, or quivering over your watercolors, go ahead and take the risk. The worst thing that can happen is a beautiful mistake.


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  1. Great article. This curse that we have makes us find beauty in the world, sometimes through creation. Sometimes it is to find yourself. The highest highs and the lowest lows may come and go, my advice, know how you feel at all times and accept it. But this post is about you. You inspire me. You made a difference, make a difference.
    Second Canadian to save my life. Keep writing, keep creating. How did you come to know these answers to questions you have not yet been? (srs)

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