Creative Work is Hard and Worth Every Penny

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Creative work is hard work. It is not always valued work and this is true no matter what medium you happen to work in. Be it writing, paint, or textiles there’s a serious lack of value placed on it and we as creatives may be fueling that issue by devaluing our own work when we tell people that it is easy. We should stop saying that and instead let people know that it’s only easy after you get the hang of it and getting the hang of it can take a lot of time.

We don’t want to discourage people, we don’t want young artists to give up simply because it doesn’t come to them right away. So we tell them that it’s easy, that anyone can do it. But this isn’t true. Because art, no matter what you do, is hard. Anyone cannot do it.

Not because they lack the ability to string words into a sentence or perform the basic stitches needed to make a scarf but because not everyone has the talent for making a sentence compelling or the patience to repeat the same set of stitches a hundred times to make a scarf. Not everyone has the time or desire.

So as artists, regardless of what your medium is, we have to find a way to balance encouragement and honesty. Yes, you can learn to paint, knit, or write but your first projects will likely not be masterworks. It will take years of practice to learn all of the tricks of whatever trade you’re entering into.

Creative work is hard work. We’ve devoted years of our lives to learning something and that is why handmade goods and custom work is expensive. Sure everyone can do it but not everyone can do it well because not everyone has put in the time in order to do it well.

That is what you are paying for when you hire a writer, a graphic designer, or a photographer. That is what you are paying for when you order a custom baby blanket, a one of a kind necklace, or a piece of art for your wall.

You are not paying for the time they necessarily took to do the job; you are paying for the time they took to learn how to do the job so they could do it well.

So anyone CAN do creative work but not everyone can do it well because it takes time and it is hard and it is worth every. Single. Penny.

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The Problem With “Make Your Own”

Robots on wall

When marginalized people talk about the lack of diversity in popular culture, one of the more common and ignorant responses is just make your own. Not enough brown superheroes? Make your own comics! Not enough Asian people staring in lead roles? Make your own movies! Not enough people with disabilities in books? Write your own novels! This response is about as thoughtless as responding to someone’s starvation with, “Just eat some food.”

The biggest issue is that, first of all, people from marginalized communities can and do create their own media. They make movies, draw comics, and pen epic fiction in all genres. A quick Google will spit out a ton of projects that anyone can follow and help support.

However, support is the second issue.

Thanks to the internet, non-mainstream creators have been given a platform on which to showcase their work. Be it art, written, or film, the internet gives these creators a way to get their creations to the people who would most like want to view them. But they’re not mainstream so they don’t have the type of support that your known director/writer/actor has.

They don’t have the type of support that will write them a check to fund their enterprise on a proposal. Even with crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the people that generally end up with the most money are those that come in from a position of being known in their field.

Those are the people that get funded and they get this funding by continuing to make the thing that they know people like. Meanwhile, creators who are out there taking chances and forging their own path are overlooked because by and large, people want to buy things they know they like.

Be it a franchise or just a particular artist’s work, people like the things they like and they want the things they like. So the real issue isn’t creators aren’t out there making new and exciting media that features a diverse cast of characters, it’s that people aren’t supporting their work.

Artists need that support so they can keep creating. Not a pat on the back for how clever they are but actual money so they can buy supplies, rent space, quit their day jobs. You can’t pay your rent on kudos and “likes”.

The mainstream is starting to wake up and we are starting to see some diverse characters and moving away from many age old tropes but there’s still a long way to go before we can call all things equal. Until then, support indie creators.

Buy their books, see their films, share their stories. They’re out there, they’re making stuff. Help people see it.