I always knew I was destined for the arts.
I loved science and, eventually, ended up getting a degree in it. I’ve always been fascinated with numbers and data. But nothing drew me in and captivated me quite like music, drawing, and playing with words.
I’m not saying I was good at any of these things at a young age. I was just as terrible at all of them in the beginning as most people are. But it always felt like I just didn’t fit into any other mold. I wanted to like and be good at math, but I just couldn’t master it — and didn’t have the drive to do so.
Yet my hunger to refine my knowledge and skills as a singer, writer, and artist often consumed me like nothing else could. That need to create actually drove me to get better. I eventually targeted my focus to one area (you can guess which) and kept the others as side hobbies. But not just because I somehow knew that was the direction I was supposed to go.
“Born to make art.” I think many of us can align our paths and identities with this phrase. There’s no doubt in my mind that if I do anything significant while I’m here, it will somehow involve writing.
But there’s another part to this that too many creatives forget about.
You might feel drawn to the arts. But that means nothing if you don’t go through some kind of training to excel in your field of choice.
There are probably plenty of people out there who could have chosen a path that would have led them to a career as some form of artist, but for whatever reason, their skills never developed to a point that would have allowed it.
Getting there takes work. Not just talent, but skill. And without effort, skills don’t develop.
And yet … you can’t just separate yourself from reality and spend all your time doing the things you like or want and nothing else. I think the problem for most creatives isn’t that they can’t or don’t know how to make art, but that they can’t figure out how do it while also going to school, working multiple jobs, making friends, or taking care of a family.
For most people, I don’t think it’s a matter of not being willing to try hard enough. I think many would-be writers are tired, and when a reason not to keep trying presents itself, they grab onto it.
They don’t have as much time to write as they used to, so they stop.
They aren’t getting as much recognition as they think they should, so they quit.
They don’t want to wait years to see results because there are more pressing things going on in their lives, so they put their writing on hold … and might never pick it back up again.
I can’t offer a single solution to fix everyone’s broken writing lives. If I could, I’d write a book, make a bunch of money, quit my day job, and coach people one-on-one to help them figure it out.
I wish everyone who felt drawn to writing or acting or designing could make it work. Could make the time, arrange their schedules just right, set aside the funds, tread water through months of working for pennies until they hit a breakthrough. But not everyone can. It’s not always their fault. They’re just struggling and they don’t know how to handle it.
I think the best thing anyone in these situations can do is just do the creative things they enjoy as much as they can. Because the most important thing above all else is that you practice, and keep getting better, and don’t give up too soon. Your starting line could be just around the corner and you don’t even know it.
If you know, deep down, you’re meant to go down this path, then do it. Slowly, one step at a time, even if it doesn’t feel like you’re actually going anywhere. The only way to make it is to make things, and keep making things until you get really good at it. It could take years. But you won’t regret a single one of them.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.