I hate how people don’t make art unless they’re good at it. Most people would say I make good art, and I’m generally the artistic friend in every group, something about my technicolor clothes, ever-present sketchbook and art minor gets that label across.
As the artist friend, I often hear the phrase “I wish I could do art, but I can’t.” And yet, so many of my “non-artist” friends draw constantly! They hand me Post-It doodles and nudge me in class to reveal their notebooks covered in patterns and caricatures. My non-musician friends sing in the car with me, and my non-writer friends still have ideas for stories. But they don’t pursue their art, because they don’t think their work will ever be good enough to be complimented or salable. Thus, they are not “an artist.”
When we are children someone, a teacher, parent or perhaps even ourselves, decides if we are creative or not. If we are labeled as a creative, we learn to express ourselves. We go into art classes or music lessons. However, if the powers-that-be decide we would do better at math or science, we don’t learn the tools of self-expression.
As we age through this system, we are also taught the misconception that art only holds value if it is good enough to be marketable. Perhaps you have been told that your prose is cliché and too sentimental, and no one would want to buy your hypothetical book, so stop wasting your time and stop writing it.
Do not stop.
This idea that your art holds value when and only when it is marketable simply is not true.
The truth is that all people are inherently creative and expressing that creativity is essential to who we are! Mathematicians and plumbers are born with the same longing for self-expression and reflection as professional poets and singers.
Whoever you are, the human experience transcends everyday language. To express love, longing or loss, we have to use writing or music or visual art. Whether or not the end product of creation is “good,” expressing these feelings through the creative process, the drawing of the art, the singing of the song, helps us as humans to cope with our humanity.
In order for me to deal with the difficulty of adjusting to college life as a freshman, I have started to journal – and by journal, I mean write incredibly embarrassing love poetry in a 37-pagelong Word document on my laptop. My poems are awful! I don’t have form or rhythm, and they are so intensely personal that if anyone ever reads them I will throw up.
However, despite the awful finished product, by actively writing down my feelings I have learned to be vulnerable with myself. This act of creativity has helped me to confront my own emotions and heal in a way that would not have been possible without the act of making.
So yes, my poetry is unreadable, both because it is bad and because I have a lock on my computer to prevent peeping, but it still brings me a feeling of peace when I can’t find it anywhere else. So, whether or not you have skill in your chosen creative field, expressing yourself through creation is valuable!
The crappy caricature of your professor that you pass to your sad friend in math class is important! Your screechy shower rendition of your favorite My Chemical Romance ballad from middle school holds value and your overly saccharine 10,000 word fanfiction about the Mandalorian raising baby Harry Potter isn’t useless! Why? Because you made something! You pursued the deeply human act of creation, and even if no one will ever see, like or compliment your poetic ode to Gina from “Brooklyn 99,” you transformed your feelings, loves and interests into something tangible and real. And that’s important.
For us all to cope with the daily minutia and the monumental highs and lows of human life, we must create. For some, that looks like huge hyper realistic paintings hung in a high end art gallery. For others, creation is making a Pinterest board for the half orc professional sweater knitter in your once monthly Dungeons and Dragons session. Both are valid and both are important because both help you.
No matter what you grew up thinking about yourself, no matter if your voice is screechy and your hands shaky, you are allowed to create. Please use this as your permission slip. If you end up making a masterpiece, that will be lovely! If you end up putting all your feelings into a new something that is ugly and awful and deeply uniquely yours, that might be even lovelier.
Anna Grace Askelson is a writer for The Alabamian. She is a second-year art major with a passion for writing, fashion and design.