Shit I Wish Someone Had Told Me Sooner About Being An Artist

An open letter from one young artist to another.

Just because I’m kind of at the point where I’ve figured some of this shit out, and also because I’m worried that I never entirely will.

You don’t need to have a tortured past in order to be an artist.

You can be a happy person. You can also be an artist.
Like, you seriously can grow up in the suburbs of Ohio and call your mom every day and and still be an artist. You can.

It’s okay to like your parents. It really is. It’s okay if you never joined a street gang, or went to prison, or survived an addiction. If your life turned out that way –- oh, god, please make art about it! But deliberately self-destructing because you think it’d be great material for your one-man show? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Drugs do not make you an artist.

Don’t get me wrong – they can be a form of release, they can be enlightening, they can be spiritual, they can be hella fun. But you don’t need them to be an artist. My drugs of choice are booze and cheese and men, and that’s not changing anytime soon. But they don’t make me an artist. They just make me someone who likes drinking and brie and making out with dudes. And frankly, it’s kind of hard to get any actual work done when you’re drunk and have the dairy farts with some dude waiting in your bed.

You don’t need to try cocaine just “for the story.” You just don’t.

Tattoos don’t make you an artist. Piercings don’t make you an artist. Wearing a hat doesn’t make you an artist.

It just makes you someone with a unique look. Which is awesome! Express yourself however the fuck you want to. But seriously, girl in line at the Starbucks wearing a leotard and a wig and fishnet stockings and loudly talking about “your craft” – dressing like Sally Bowles all day just makes you a girl wearing a bowler hat who wants an iced venti Americano. And girl, you looked great! But that shit doesn’t make you an artist.

Having an internet connection doesn’t make you an artist.

Great art can be created and shared via the internet in incredible and meaningful ways. I am certainly not arguing that. I’m writing this on my blog, for fuck’s sake.

But having a twitter account and being an artist are not interchangeable.

Being poor does not make you an artist.

It’s an unfortunate byproduct for most of us, which is a shitty and complicated situation that I wish were easier to unpack and understand and change. But in the meantime? Being poor just means that you don’t get to have nice things, and that you have to fight a little harder to survive, and that your gas bill doesn’t get paid on time, and you probably don’t eat enough iron. And if you’re lucky enough to have figured out how to make art and rent at the same time? That’s so great! You don’t have to feel guilty about that.

You can have health insurance and still be an artist.

Talking about being an artist is inherently less interesting than just making art.

I’m so incredibly guilty of this.

It’s not anyone’s fault that you’re not famous. 

Not the establishment’s, not the industry’s, not your parents’, not mine, not yours. Period.
And really, although recognition is nice, do you really want to be famous, anyway?


Hard work won’t make you an artist. But it’ll help.

Being nice to people won’t make you an artist. But it’ll help.

Learning won’t make you an artist. But it’ll help.

Listening more won’t make you an artist. But it’ll help.

Fear won’t make you an artist. It can actually cripple you, if you let it.
So don’t let it. Tackle it. Face it. Make art about it. And it’ll help.


Writing this blog post doesn’t make me an artist. It just makes me some girl with a blog.

But I hope it helps.



24 thoughts on “Shit I Wish Someone Had Told Me Sooner About Being An Artist

  1. I don’t have a tortured past or do drugs or have tattoos. I do have the extreme pleasure of creating stories about characters who do. Well, not yet. But who knows. Maybe soon. But thanks for the profile. Sounds like the attributes you have given me here would make a truly unbelievably interesting person. At least there would be a story there.

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  3. I fricking adore this! I often get criticised for making theatre that is ‘nice’ and ‘charming’ like those aren’t good things? My work still has meaning, and thought behind it, I just choose to celebrate things!

    Making something dark and twisty, and deliberately controverstial is all well and good, but if it isn’t authentic then why are you really making it?

    Oooooft, rant over, thanks,
    Stephie from Tea in Your Twenties x

  4. So true. I’m not an artist in any way but I completely agree. Conforming to a certain style in order to be an artist is completely contradictory to the concept of creative expression – where is the creativity if everyone is the same?

  5. It so extremely helped. Thank you, as always, for blowing my mind by eloquently putting the thoughts floating around in my head into words.

    Also, I once dated a dude who used the fact that he was looking for jobs that might require a drug test as his excuse to not work on his art. And I BOUGHT IT! Epic facepalm!

  6. I actually remember thinking all of these things, and I’ve come to the point where I’m like, F*** IT. Honestly. I have a nice life. It’s cushy, thanks to my parents. I work really really hard to make a career for myself and I’m well on my way, thanks to my privilege and to my hard work. That being said, my career isn’t writing, but that’s coming along well too! But this is my life, and I will make art however I want. Everybody has pain, everybody has joy, just need to show yours.

  7. I actually worried that my choice to live happily married in the outer fringes of a mid sized city would ruin my art cred. Thanks for reminding me I’m not alone. Oh and pass the glass and cheese platter, I’m ready for another round.

  8. This is a great reminder to everyone, everywhere! But perhaps deftly arranging a cheese plate and choosing wines to pair with each dairy selection makes one an artist…just maybe?

  9. I really love this. I love writing short stories and poetry, but I always felt like I wasn’t enough of a tortured hipster beatnik angry-at-the-world unenthused aloof type to fit in with my writing classmates. Now that I’m a few years out of school, this feeling has kept me from embracing my artistic side. Just because I’m middle class doesn’t mean I can’t be an artist, right?

    Alexa —

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