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On Self Worth And "Work" As An Artist

Work. What a wild concept; a strangely conceptualized one, that perpetuates the idea that, to have any value, you must somehow suffer in your pursuits. What a terrible catch22 this puts artists in. Nobody becomes an artist because they hate making art. When they finally choose (or continue to choose) to follow their passion, the thing they love most in the world, it is then their art becomes “ work.” Now, society expects us to suffer.

This has been causing me a lot of heartache lately.

I feel as though, because I don’t hate what I’m doing; because I love the planning, the research, the time spent thinking and caring and creating, that I’m doing something wrong. I’m somehow not ever going to be “successful” because I don’t dread what I’m doing.

If there is one thing I could change about the perception of me, of what I do, it is that my career isn’t “ real” because I love doing it. My work isn’t any less valid because it is also what makes me happy.

I have had a hard time putting this feeling into words, and I’ve realized recently how harmful this line of thinking is to me; it sends me spiraling into the depression I spend so much time building a life away from, because it makes me feel as though I’m not doing “enough.” Any time I don’t have a paintbrush in my hand while staring at a canvas I feel as though I’m being lazy. When, really, I’m experiencing. I’m theorizing. I’m seeing. And although this step in the process has been removed in many of today’s 9-5 jobs, it is important for me, for my practice, and ultimately for what I create. These moments that don’t look like “art” to the outside world are the 90% of the iceberg that is hidden under the water.

So yes, consider my work “ fun” but still consider it work. Because it is. And I no longer want to feel guilty about it.

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