On (trying) to be an artist as a Rice student
We don’t do art for the recognition; we do it because we love the work, and we’re ready to work, constantly, for the rest of our lives.
First off, I know that I’m never going to be rich. If I wanted to be famous, I would have auditioned for “The Bachelor” — it’s way more likely that I will be chosen to be the next Corinne than that a movie that I create will be funded by a major film studio. Most artists would probably tell you the same thing. We don’t do art for the recognition; we do it because we love the work, and we’re ready to work, constantly, for the rest of our lives.
People across campus seem to know that it’s not appropriate to outwardly talk about how much easier it is to be a humanities or social sciences major (excepting some older associates who still make jokes at our expense), but I can tell the implicit bias is still there. People regularly say, “Oh, I’m in 18 hours, but only six of those are STEM classes, so it’s not a big deal.” When I tell people that I dropped my physics major, they’ll say, “You’re lucky you got out of that one,” as if by taking up film, I didn’t get myself into something else.
I think that’s because it’s hard to think of making art as doing work. We’ve all drawn pictures. We’ve all written haikus. It’s easy to see making art as something frivolous that anyone could do in their spare time. But if writing a short story doesn’t feel like work, try writing 60 drafts of the same story. If drawing doesn’t feel like work, try working on the same project and trying to perfect it over the span of three months. If taking a picture doesn’t feel like work, try taking 3,000.
Deciding that you are going to be an artist is both the best and the worst thing you can do with your life, because that means that now, you have a mission. You can’t just have a day job. Every second that you are not working on your art, experiencing art, learning about art, creating art or thinking about art feels like a second wasted. Artists get better with practice, and it is literally impossible to practice too much. Deciding you are going to be an artist is deciding to have a life where it is literally impossible to separate your work life from your private life. It is deciding that you are going to work on your passion, possibly even after your day job, for as long as you have to — maybe forever — and to never take no for an answer.
I know that STEM classes keep Rice students working constantly, and I know how hard it can be to pass an orgo test. I respect anyone who has decided to commit their life to being an engineer, doctor or anything else — because those professions are all incredibly hard work. But I hope that Rice will soon be able to recognize that deciding to be a philosopher or an artist is anything but taking the easy way out.
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