I’ve tried to write this blog 3, count ‘em, 3 different times. And every time, I always have to scrap it, because it comes out sounding preachy, or boring, or not related to the audience I’m trying to write to. So why have I come back for a fourth bite at what by now is a largely barren apple? Why, the oldest reason in the known world, dear friends:
As I have to leave town for a family wedding this weekend, and have been up to my eyes with words for writing NPCs 2 (Plus St. Patrick’s Day was this week, so… yeah) I simply don’t have time to try and think of a new topic, which means plumbing the barrel for one I like, but couldn’t execute before. Thus, today’s topic about the importance of creating, even when there’s no one to create for.
As an indie writer who does web-serials, I sometimes get e-mails from folks who want to go down the same path as me. They’d probably prefer a direct route, less of a drunken stumble than I employed, but the end result is that they want to be able to live off their work, which is an awesome and admirable goal. What surprises me, however, is when I ask what they write and they tell me about the things they’re planning, not what they’re doing.
Don’t get me wrong, outlining is important, and using a business plan for long-term goals is something I should probably do more of, but the first step to art is, well, making the art. This doesn’t just apply to writing, either. I have friends who want to make movies, or be musicians, or act. And I’ve seen many of them held back too often not by a lack of talent or skill, but by the same thing that restrains a great deal of my fellow writers, and had me chained at one point too.
Simply put, all these people seem to be waiting for permission to do their art.
An employer, or publisher, or agent, or whatever key you want to use to turn the lock; essentially they feel like have to have a demand for creation before they can begin. If that sounds crazy, trust me that it’s not. Trying to be an artist is scary, it is so god-damned terrifying that even I get it, and I’m largely too stupid to be afraid of things I should be. Self-doubt is this massive creature, devouring your desire to create every time you start by whispering in your ear that it will probably be garbage. Permission is this grand idea that someone will see the talent in you, will shove the monster back under the bed and provide you the freedom to create your art full of assurance and confidence. Of course, that’s bullshit in so many ways I can’t count them all, but when all your dreams are still up in your head, it’s hard not to see it that way.
Permission might be a great thing in proper context, but I know of pretty much zero examples where it comes before the art itself. All those occupations I listed above, all those gatekeepers between you and the public, they only exist for the Big kinds of jobs/deals. There’s no agent you have to satisfy to act on Youtube, no publisher to beg if you want to start up a web-serials. The age of the gatekeepers has waned, and does so more with every passing year. I’m not crying for the end of the professional worlds or saying only internet produced content will work in the future.
All I’m saying is this: If you want to do/make/be in something, there is nothing stopping you. Maybe it’s not your end game, the grand project that lives in your deepest heart, but you can still do something. And honestly, that’s the advice I most often give to people who ask me how to get on a path where they support themselves with their art. Do. Make. Create. You’d be surprised at the doors it opens.
Kevin Smith produced Clerks by maxing out credit cards in hopes of being a director. Mindy Kaling wrote Matt & Ben when she and her roommates were unable to find acting jobs. Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi grew up shooting Super 8 style movies with all of their friends, which eventually led to them financing and creating Evil Dead. And all those things happened before we had the ease and accessibility of the internet being what it is today. They didn’t wait for permission, or gatekeepers, or sometimes even good judgement (seriously, that credit card thing is nuuuuuts) to offer up a blessing. They just did what they loved.
That’s what I mean by Do It Yourself. Heck, do it with friends, if you can. Have fun with it. Enjoy the experience. If you love an art form enough to want to spend your life with it, you should at least get a little joy from the creation of it. And I know we live in a tear-down culture where people shit on things as soon as they’re created; which makes the idea of making anything, especially your first thing, scary. But I bet some of you out there can do amazing things, once you let yourself. Maybe not at first, we all need a little learning curve, but sooner or later.
I like all forms of art and media, and I want to see what you folks can do. So, if after all that above you still feel the need for permission, I’m happy to offer it. You can go create. You have the potential. You can make something that will make people happy. Probably not everyone, but that’s okay. Failing is okay. Fucking up wildly is okay. As long as you enjoy it, and look back on what you did knowing you’re happy you did it. If you want to make something, then I give permission, hell I give encouragement, for you to go do just that.
And be sure to tell me about it! Here at the comments, or in e-mail if you feel shy. I love having the inside track on new shit I might enjoy. None of this toiling in silence nonsense, be proud and vocal about what new endeavors you’re undertaking. Tell people about it, get excited, demand that others be interested.
But most of all, have fun!