Your career is one of those labels you will wear throughout your life — and like most labels, it's bound to come with a variety of inaccurate stereotypes and cliches. This can definitely be said for people who hold artistic jobs, many of whom have experienced firsthand the misconceptions about people who work in creative fields. It's easy for misguided notions to abound when the work we do is often outside of the box and hanging around in that gray area, following its own unique set of rules. Unfortunately, these misconceptions often mean that creative employees and solo artists are frequently reduced or diminished by others — put in a special category of people who don't have "real jobs." In reality, though, nothing could be further from the truth: Of course artistic jobs are real jobs, and of course the people who do them are just as hard working as those who work 9-to-5s in a cubicle.
Creative workers help the world go 'round. They're part of the reason you have a smartphone to play on all day. They helped create your car. That Unicorn Frappuccino you're drinking? Someone creative must've thought of that, don't you think? People working in creative fields are all over the place — we're multiplying! — and we're not going anywhere anytime. So, while we're here, let's cut to the chase and nix some of these incorrect understandings once and for all, because they're getting kinda old. Hold my beer.
1. MYTH: Our Work Isn't Really Work
If it takes your time and energy, if you pour your heart and soul into it, if your livelihood depends on it, it's work. One of the best (read: most infuriating) responses I get when I tell people I'm a writer is, "Oh, so, like, you have a blog?" No. Many of us write every single day for several different jobs, including weekends, including "vacations," we don't take sick days, and we get a paycheck in exchange for it all. That's called work.
2. MYTH: We Don't Make A Lot Of Money
It's that whole "starving artist" thing — which usually includes a question along the lines of, "So, like, what do you do for money?" Well, we work, because (as previously explained) this is work. That doesn't mean we necessarily make a ton of money, but that also doesn't mean we're necessarily broke. Believe it or not, there are people out there in artistic fields who bring home a regular paycheck just like yours. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2016, the annual mean wage for the category they call "Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers" was $43,880. So, we're not swimming naked in hundreds, but we're not going to bed hungry, either.
3. MYTH: We Have Tons Of Freedom
If we get to work and the creative juices just aren't flowing, we don't just go back to bed. Anyone can have an off day, but when it comes to your job, you just force yourself to do it, because, you know, you need to eat and pay rent and stuff. And while we have creative jobs because we want to be able to express ourselves a little bit, many of us still have bosses. We have rules, guidelines, deadlines, and limitations — just like people in other kinds of positions.
4. MYTH: Everyone Can Do It
There's this misconception that what artists do doesn't take brain capacity. A lot of the work is deemed "artsy fartsy" as a way of dismissing the skill, effort, and practice it takes to achieve it. But artists go to school. They learn, they study, they refine their skills — just like a doctor, accountant, or school teacher.
Now, on a similar note, a lot of people are under the misconception that...
5. MYTH: It Can't Be Taught
Opposing the "everyone can do it" myth is a misunderstanding that, conversely, you can't teach someone how to work in a creative field. You either have it or you don't. But, but, don't people go to school to better hone their craft? Ah! That's right! They do! And they pay a lot of money for it, just like any other student. I guess that means a person can be taught to better work in a creative field.
It's true that talent or an aptitude for specific creative skills helps, but like many things in life, practice makes you better. I write every day and I read a ton — and I know these things make me a better writer. If they help me, they have the power to help anyone, to at least some extent.
6. MYTH: Overnight Success Is The Only Kind
Sure, overnight success happens, but these stories are the exception to the rule. Really, it's years and years of tiny successes that finally add up to a fulfilling career. It's working a billion hours for not-so-great pay just to climb the ladder of your industry. You also get a ton of rejection and many doors slammed in your face. That's the name of the game for many of us, but it's worth it when you're doing what you love.
7. MYTH: Art Isn't Always Art
Art, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. It can be subjective and ambiguous and abstract, so it's important to remember even if you don't view it as art, it still very well can be art. It's easy to look at the product of a creative person's efforts and dismiss it, but you don't necessarily know the thought or hours that went into it. With any creative field, it's crucial to have a mind that's open to new ideas.
8. MYTH: It's 100 Percent Art 100, Percent Of The Time
This is important — because if you work with someone in a creative field, it's easy to think that they sit at their computer and doodle notes all day. While holding a creative marketing position at a previous job, a coworker once said to me with a laugh, "So you just play on Facebook all day, huh?" Not quite.
If you're an employee of a company, it doesn't matter what type of position you hold. You all have a few responsibilities in common. You all have meetings to attend, emails to answer, paperwork to complete, and superiors to satisfy. If you're self-employed, there's even more, because now you're talking about managing your own finances too. So no, we don't just "play on Facebook all day."
9. MYTH: If You Have A Side Job, You're Not An Artist
Finding a job is challenging for many of us, regardless of our field. And if you're trying to make it as some type of artist, you can almost always count on being underpaid, at least in the beginning. But don't dismiss that graphic designer or calligrapher or musician just because they need a side gig to make ends meet at the moment. That doesn't mean their work is any less valid. In fact, I'd argue the opposite: That person must be a real hustler if they're willing to work multiple jobs trying to make their dreams come true. That's dedication.