I am really sick of apologizing for being a creative person.
I am sick of seeing “thought” pieces about how useful or useless particular disciplines of study are.
WE ARE NOT ALL GREAT AT SCIENCE, MATH, TECHNOLOGY, AND ENGINEERING.
Wanna know what I’m great at?
Telling stories, making stuff, creating recipes for body care products that ACTUALLY WORK, crocheting hats and amigurumi and coffee cup cozies. I knitted a zombie once. I made my boyfriend a C’thulhu ski mask. I made a mobile out of crocheted octopodes. You wanna buy one? $125. Send me a message.
I’m also great at using the shit out of every shred of every resource I have.
Know why? Because I live in a time where STEM is what people get paid for, and people like me get treated like errant toddlers with hopeless dreams because we work with colors and words and vegetable oils and plants instead of beakers and graduated cylinders and barium, or circuit boards and processors and base-two programming languages.
I have been hearing all my life about how it’s fine to be artsy, but I really should do something useful.
If I tried to be great at STEM stuff, I’d probably break things and people would be endangered as a result of my ineptitude. My brain just isn’t suited for that kind of work. That doesn’t mean I’m stupid or bad or incapable. It’s like having brown eyes. Not a lot I could do about it.
Also doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to get paid.
There’s this applied sciences college near me whose tagline is “degrees that work.” Because degrees in being an auto mechanic or plastics do, indeed, work out in the field.
Here’s the thing: my multiple degrees in English and Creative Writing work great.
I use the skills I learned in those programs of study every single day.
I know how to use my knowledge and skills to enrich other people’s knowledge and skills.
But my skills are “lesser” than STEM skills; so I must do demeaning, exhausting, untenable shit like being an adjunct professor, selling stuff, waiting tables, or whatever else creative people wind up doing for money–working the graveyard shift at a hospital, or working three 12-hour shifts as a janitor so one may spend four days of each week doing what she is really good at. (Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching and waiting tables, but my point is that I’m just GREAT at writing and making stuff, and it’s insanely difficult to get paid for being really excellent at those things.)
So now, with my creativity, I’m opening a store with a fellow creative person, and the skills we have amassed as creative people means we have distinctive packaging, witty copy, and a strong marketing muscle.
It also means we have bitchin’ products.
I am super grateful for people who are good at STEM stuff. I love my computer, internet, programs that let me do my creative work, and living in a house that some person with engineering skills made 100 years ago. I love birth control and antibiotics and ibuprofen.
But the logos for those products, programs, and computers, their shapes, the way the look sitting in your hand, packaging, molding designs in my home,the color of the wood and its stain, the shape of the attic windows, the door knobs and fixtures were designed by an artist.
The more I learn about earth and chemical sciences the happier I am as a human, the better my art gets.
These things make my life richer.
But here’s another thing: creativity pervades STEM fields, too. Creativity is key to innovation.
So why does STEM creativity get rewarded and people who design fonts or draw & write comics or do podcasts or write blogs have to beg for good-will donations or give their work away?
The compulsion to create shouldn’t be a reason not to get paid.
Just because I don’t feel right without a keyboard under my fingertips, my soap smock getting splashed with pre-soap, or trailing a rainbow of fibers, doesn’t mean my skills are worthless, or play, or flaky, or unrealistic, or unvaluable.
And without people like me, there would be no movies, music, galleries, novels, essays, poems, plays, documentaries, beautiful furniture, wallpaper designs, or fun beautiful things to waste time on Pinterest with.
Think about the last piece of art you consumed that changed your life or your thinking.
For me, it was a book.
A book that a creative person wrote, another creative person designed the cover for, and another set of creative people brought to fruition in one of a hundred ways.
So I implore you: If you have dollars, buy books, music, and art. Buy them from people you know. Don’t pirate them. Buy them from as close to the source as you can.
Pay creative people to do things like paint murals on your kids’ rooms’ walls, design a matching set of hats for your family next winter, custom build your kitchen table.
Please, go to art shows, craft fairs, and the quirky shops in your area, and quit making fun of us, even when we’re wearing mismatched shoes, lime green scarves, or have done something outrageous with our hair.
Because what we do is valuable. As valuable as STEM. And as present in STEM as it is in every other area of your life.
If we keep abusing artists, art will be totally ghettoized because artists really do like money. We’ve just been trained to find it in other ways by a bunch of people who stand to profit hugely by having our work for free or cheap.
If you are an artist, PLEASE, STOP GIVING AWAY YOUR WORK. We won’t get it back unless we take it back, My Fellow Creatives. So take it back by asking for a fair sum for your work (think of one now, ok, now double it. Ok, now double that. THAT figure is what you should ask for. Break the chain that it’s no big deal what we do, that it’s worthless, and that thinking has to start with us).
Because somewhere along the line, we lost the idea as a culture that beautiful things made by our fellow humans, unless they go beep, are worth something.