The Arts Aren’t Easy

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Something about the arts compels people to be a part of them, perhaps because they speak to our deep creative natures. This is something that should be fostered in each of us—it’s a beautiful thing. But there’s a danger in thinking that it’s easy for anyone to excel at creative endeavors because humans are innately creative beings—not because they aren’t open for everyone, but because the arts take as much effort as any other skill.

I’ve been guilty of this myself. Because I write and used to play piano and am decent at drawing, I got it in my head that painting would be just as easy as those things. I forgot that none of those arts were easy when I started. My attempt at painting a beautiful picture of clouds instead turned into a gray-ish, blue-ish, yellow-purple-ish conglomeration of colors that wasn’t pleasing to the eye. If I wanted to become a better painter I could (I don’t have a passion for it, so I’m fine with being mediocre at the moment), but that would require lots of research, and studying, and practice, and failed attempts to create something good. My disposition toward creativity couldn’t exempt me from the learning process.

And while this is true for all areas of the arts, I think it’s particularly easy to write off (pun intended) writing as something that everyone can do because everyone has to do it. We write professional and personal emails, text daily, post on Facebook, journal, craft essays for a college course, and take notes in meetings and classes. Some even dabble in poetry, write fanfiction, or aspire to write a novel. However, one quick look over these daily communications and it’s clear that not everyone can write in a truly compelling way. Our writing capacity doesn’t equal an ability to write well.

This has nothing to do with debating over our writing preferences, any more than our differing tastes in musical genres has anything to do with being able to look at someone who’s not taken the time to practice piano and knowing they aren’t very good yet. Like every skill, writing well requires hard work. Any person you know who can communicate efficiently in an email, craft beautiful song lyrics, or create a story you don’t want to put down has practiced for years to do what they do. The only exception might be a childhood genius, but it’s rare for us to come across them in our day-to-day lives (and even they have to hone their skills).

The work that authors put into writing well is often unseen. If we can write a nice email or a Facebook post that gets hundreds of likes, it can’t be that hard to write a short story or a novel or a news report, right? Yet even the ability to write your Facebook post is the result of years of grammar and reading and school work from the time you were a small child. You didn’t wake up one day with the sudden knowledge of a written language! You worked hard for it, and your skills now are a culmination of your learning experience from childhood on into adulthood.

How much more do writers who create more intricate pieces have to work to make those pieces shine? As much work as a painter working on their masterpiece, a musician practicing late into the night to perfect their performance, the dancer showing up to the studio day in and day out, the actor taking hours to perfect their facial expressions—even as much as a carpenter paying attention to the millimeter measurements and the grain of the wood, an attorney reading page after page of law and legal history, the scientist checking and double checking their experiments, or a solider training from early hours during boot camp. That, then, is why not everyone can write. Not because you don’t have the potential, if you choose to fulfill it, but because it is a hard-earned craft like every other craft in the world. You can only do well if you’re willing to put in the work.

This is no condemnation, especially not for those who like to dabble in the arts but don’t want to devote large amounts of time to learning them. Life isn’t all about becoming the very best at everything, nor is it about never pursing anything unless you can be the best. No person is able to be good at everything that interests them and casual interest is just as valid as life-long dedication. But it’s important to remember that the beautiful art around you (in fact, most of our society, beautiful or not) is because of the work of others, and it’s an insult to undersell and underappreciate their work. Remember to give credit where credit is due. Appreciate those around you who have the skills and experience in areas that you don’t. Show that you value their work by the way you talk about and consume their creations. Pay good money for what they create (and don’t try to get a big discount from your friends every time you want something they make). Understanding the process of what it takes to create makes you appreciate the final product even more. Not only does it boost the morale of the artist and create a better environment for them to create within, but it fosters an attitude of wonder within you.

And what better way to live than in wonder of the world?

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