Have you ever wondered what your job is as an artist? Why do you create the things you do? Is it really even a job—or is this just for fun?
I’ve been asking myself these questions for a long, long time. Sometimes I wondered if what I did even mattered. I’ve always loved to write, but what if nobody cared to read my work? And honestly, there were times when I really wasn’t sure why I kept going.
Life is a bit of a whirlwind. Especially in high school and college when everybody in your life starts asking you the same question: What are you going to do? Which basically translates to “Who are you going to be?”
It’s pressure; lots of pressure—especially on those of us who choose to take an unconventional route. No college, no degrees, no “real” job. It gets discouraging, particularly when you aren’t really sure why you’re doing it.
Not a “Real” Job
I’ve heard this more times than I can count: “Oh, that’s neat that you’re a writer. So…when are you going to get a real job?”
Every time someone said that, it devastated me. I wanted to be a writer more than anything. As a child, I fantasized about selling tons of books and watching them climb onto the best seller’s list. I didn’t want to be famous—not exactly—but I did want people to buy my stuff. I wanted to write the stuff they wanted to read. Or at least, I thought I did.
Let me be honest here: being an artist is not the best way to make money. It just isn’t. The cliché of the “poor, starving artist” is a cliché because it’s the truth. The job of an artist is lots of hard work and very little return.
It’s the ultimate question. Why would you do something that means hard work every day with little appreciation or return?
If you’re in the business of an artist because you hope to make a ton of money, you should quit right now and find yourself another job. In fact, many artists are forced to take on a second job in order to continue to do what they love. Some don’t, but most do—especially if they plan to support a family. It’s just reality.
The job of an artist is about far more than making money. A true artist has a message they are trying to communicate to a world in need of hope; of healing; of wonder. It’s not just about what they do, but why they do it. Your why is what keeps you going when things get hard.
Through the Wardrobe
The Chronicles of Narnia were some of my favorite books growing up. I read them over and over, and last month, during a writer’s workshop, something occurred to me: The wardrobe does not get to go into Narnia.
And then I realized something. The job of an artist is to be the wardrobe through which your audience can step into Narnia. To introduce them to a more beautiful world; a world of depth, meaning, and renewed wonder.
— Emily Tjaden (@emily_tjaden) July 13, 2015
The life of an artist is hard because your job is to give away everything you have. To sacrifice. To be a portal. You carry Narnia inside of you, and it’s your job to show it to others who are lost and seeking.
It is a selfless and noble aspiration, and few are brave enough to answer the call of those who are searching and say, “Step through my wardrobe and let me show you Narnia.”
Why are you an artist? What message do you hope people will find inside your Narnia?