The Difficulty of (Not) Being an Artist: The Need for Expression

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It’s something we’ve been told about over and over again: it’s tough being an artist.

When I told my parents I wanted to be a writer, they did not question it as much as I thought they would. This was back in 2010. I was just graduating high school and have fallen in love with books.

I wasn’t much of a reader as a child, spending more time playing video games and card games. But my favorite part of those games were the storylines. I once dreamed of making my own video games. But I wasn’t focused on the gameplay. I wanted to tell stories. Those games paved the way to my love for fiction, which themselves paved the way for me wanting to become a writer.

As I mentioned, my parents didn’t care one way or another about my career choice. So long as I finished university, they’d be satisfied one way or the other. I eventually received my MFA in Writing. They were the best years of my life, and they made me look forward to a life of writing.

Things haven’t been going so well, though. Finances are becoming more and more of a reality, as is job hunting. I briefly fell back into a depression I thought was over, returning to therapy and taking regular medication. Things have been tough. My MFA program warned me that the first few months, possibly years, would be difficult. I hadn’t dismissed them, but I didn’t take it seriously either.

That said, I don’t regret it. I hardly wrote a thing in 2018. It was the toughest year of my life so far. But I wouldn’t take it back. It helped me understand what my art and writing were truly for.


When people think about writers, they normally expect someone to be working full-time, lavishly sipping on wine while they sit at their desk having the time of their life. Thus, they think writing is easy, that anyone can write a book and that it takes no skill.

Yet at the same time, they think it’s hard to be full-time. Nobody reads anymore. Nobody will care for your book. You’re 1/1,000,000. You should have a safer career.

I don’t argue with their need for a safe career. I don’t expect to become a full-time writer anytime soon, if ever.

What I do argue against is their love for bashing artists, thinking that because it’s hard to be one, then maybe art is not worth it.

You always hear how it’s hard to be an artist. But you never hear how hard it is not to be an artist.

Art, to me, has become a way to express yourself. It is a way to destress after a long day at work, after hard times, after and during times of uncertainty. While I still want to make a career out of it, I have come to understand that it is much more than that. It’s also a lifesaver.

Imagine this: you get up early in the morning and eat a quick breakfast, take a quick shower, and get ready for work. It may be a job that you love or hate. Either way, you still have to be there all day, all week. It’s exhausting work, and then you go home wanting only to relax. But things might not be that easy. Maybe there’s no food in the fridge and you need to make a quick trip to the store. Maybe your child needs help with their homework. Maybe your partner wants to talk with you about something you failed to notice in your relationship. All the while, the only thing you want to do is relax, and perhaps the easiest way to do that is bingeing on Netflix or having a quick drink, or something else.

Where’s your outlet? How do you let out that pent up anger inside you? How do you stop yourself from snapping, whether at your television, your children, your partner?

Art has become my outlet. It always has been. For the last couple of years, I was looking at art solely as work, as a job.

But that’s not all it is. It’s also my outlet. It’s my way of letting the world know how I feel, whether that’s stress, happiness, anger, depression, etc. It’s my way of acknowledging my fears, my worries, my wishes, my feelings towards others.

These have been tough years for me, and 2018 tested my limits.

But I managed to get through it, and that’s largely thanks to my pen in hand, the notebook in front of me, and my need for expression.

It is tough to be an artist. But it’s also hard not to be one. When in tough times, I pick up the pen.

I write.

Fiction Editor for Watermelanin Mag. Contributor for Reclamation Magazine. Twitter: @ChSoriPalma.

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