Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Working Toward Creativity

If My Demands Aren't Met There Will Be Blood
by Bethany Maines

So this is a blog, right?  That means I can I rant?  I can just have a bit of a shouty fest for a minute and no one will mind?  Whew… because I’ve been hoarding this one for a day or two.

I’m a writer and a graphic designer and I work from home.  And apparently that’s the trifecta for someone to suggest that I play all day and get paid for it.  “Must be a sweet gig!”  Yeah… there is some of that, but I have to say that the best part about working from home is that I generally get more laundry done.

There also appears to be a misconception among the general public that the only thing separating them from something that I do is a tool.  With knowledge of Photoshop they too can be a graphic designer! (Actually, only using Photoshop gets you pretty much bupkiss. You don’t even know how much you don’t know!! Gah!).  And of course, anyone can write, because, you know, that’s just typing.  Apparently, it’s rather rude to reply to someone’s face that while yes, anyone can write, not everyone can write well (then stare meaningfully at them with a raised eyebrow). The underlying prejudice is that authors and creative types don’t work. 

As I was going through school I remember a story about one graduate who had a mind-numbingly boring job (cutting paper, I can explain if you really want to know), but my professor couched the story as though it were great thing.  This person, my professor said, could rest their brain all day and then pursue their true passion at night.  And I remember thinking… “Well, that’s crap.”  That’s like trying to work out at the end of the day – you never really want to do it, no matter how boring the day job was. Why?  Because, believe it or not, creativity is work. 

Don’t be fooled by the stereotypes of long-haired ex-pats drinking wine Pamplona and churning out novels on a whim.  Artists and writers work at their craft.  It takes hours, sometimes many hours (sometimes more hours than you put in at your office job – more pointed staring), to come up with a creative product.  I do not sit down at my computer and 20 minutes later produce a logo.  (Ok, there was that one time, but that was an act of God, and I still went back and refined it later.)  Each book I produce is a culmination months (if not years) of my life.  I’m not suggesting that my work is a trial – I generally love my work.  But to suggest that it’s something I haven’t trained and studied for and that I don’t put in work to achieve it devalues me and it devalues my work.  So you, Joe Public (yes, I’m looking at you), stop doing it.

Thus endth the rant.


  1. Bravo, Bethany! Well-said and much needed.


  2. Hear, hear, Bethany! If I hear one more person devalue what I do one more time, there will be blood. Oh, and to the people who ask me to accept their Fed Ex packages or walk their dogs or babysit their kids because I "just work at home," the answer is NO. Granted, I am no Tolstoy, but what I write takes time and thought. And that to the day job and the maintenance of a house and you've got one cranky writer. Maggie

  3. Good post and on target, but you know, my experience with people who don't do a more creative and/or from home office job makes me believe you'll never go past preaching to the choir on this. People just don't believe the simplest truth: work is work, no matter what kind and where you do it. And, like you all, I'd freely admit that my job is not heavy-lifting 24/7. But, it is my job and it's got its down sides, too. Like all jobs.

    Oh, I'd also like to dope-slap the next person who says, on hearing that I'm a writer, "Oh, writing is my dream job, that's what I wish I could do." I've gotten some nasty looks when I've replied "Well, it's work not a dream, Sugar, and wishing doesn't get you there."

  4. Bethany, another funny and on-the-money post! So glad you are part of this Gang. :-)

  5. This is definitely a right-on post. My family absolutely doesn't think I'm working. Though I write two books a year, I don't think they have a clue how they came to be.

    Thanks, Bethany.

  6. You're probably right about preaching to the choir, but, but... it gets so frustrating!! I swear I'm just going to hang out with the choir. :D

  7. Bethany - I am shouting AMEN from my house. Can you hear me? I teach voice lessons from my house and write. The only reason people sometimes think my job might be challenging is because I have a toddler running around taking up my time. Which, yes, is challenging, but so is the work itself. Thanks for ranting.

  8. You tell'em, Bethany! I have a list of people you can cc, including one relative who believes that people who make a living crunching numbers or, OMG, maybe a doctor or lawyer are brilliant. The creative mind... not so much.