“Ah, comm arts? So ano trabaho mo?”
This was always followed by a slight drop of my relatives’ brows as I see genuine interest leave their eyes. Before I graduated, I had to deal with this conversation time and time again. I got the same reaction a countless number of times, and it got exasperating to keep lowkey defending my art degree all the time. Add to this, I had to deal with the stigma that art degrees are effortless or are an easy pass. It got to a point where it was all water off a duck’s back. At least with other people, it was.
What was difficult to put off though was when I started to question myself instead. The Inner Critic is the worst critic of all, they say. I feel like creators can attest to this more than most. Now that I am a content creator for a living, I can’t really say that I’m not a creative. I mean, it is literally my job title. But I still get a nervous pinch in the gut whenever people I know introduce me as a “writer” or a “content creator,” because to be frank, the label still freaks me out. Here’s a few reasons why:
According to society, it isn’t profitable
… and not being profitable is a mortal sin, isn’t it? All my life, high-profit career paths were always hailed as the correct choice. Anything else would be indulgent or stupid. I’ve had people joke to me that if I became a journalist I’d die early and poor. Not only does that tell me that a non-science or math career is deemed impractical, it’s also deeply unappreciated. It made me think long and hard. Would it really be worth it to pursue a Communications degree? Maybe I should just suck it up and become an engineer like my parents, or like what everyone tells me?
I’ve had people joke to me that if I became a journalist I’d die early and poor. Not only does that tell me that a non-science or math career is deemed impractical, it’s also deeply unappreciated.
The “science/math professions are the only good jobs” narrative has been drilled into our heads for so long already that I now have an almost inherent fear of being a creative. It’s a fear that goes hand in hand with having something to prove, like my craft being worth taking a chance on, or being able to pay my rent and bills by myself while also being able to afford “adult food,” a.k.a. anything that has fresh vegetables and isn’t cooked with boiling water alone.
The creative anxiety that comes with the territory is not fun
Creative anxiety is the bane of an artist’s existence. It’s all the negative noise that goes on in your already cluttered mind when you’re, say, 16 drafts deep into a longform piece you’re writing and you think to yourself, “Does this even matter? I suck.” (This may or may not be a personal experience.)
I felt like if I label myself as a writer, I have to create amazing, one-of-a-kind work that will change the world one piece at a time. If it’s anything short of sensational, then what’s the point of it?
I had first experienced creative anxiety when I was in college, surrounded by Palanca award-winning professors and topnotch essayist classmates. I felt constantly pressed about each and every paper I wrote. I felt like if I label myself as a writer, I have to create amazing, one-of-a-kind work that will change the world one piece at a time. If it’s anything short of sensational, then what’s the point of it? This resulted in me avoiding writing classes as much as I can, even though I loved the lectures and discourse. I just felt like I couldn’t live up to the label of specializing in writing.
Being a creative means being vulnerable to public opinions
Of course if you call yourself a creative, people would be inclined to ask to see your work. And if you show your work, I’m 99.9% sure that people will give you their thoughts on it. In my experience, it’s usually either a genuine, “This is nice!” which is always great to hear, or a polite, “Ah… this is nice,” which puts a little crack in my heart each time.
I always think of my creations as a child. I want to protect them from the world because I put my heart, soul, and all the remaining power my three brain cells could muster into it. It gets uncomfortable for me every time someone tells me they’ve read an article of mine, and then their unsolicited opinion on it afterwards. Some are kind. Some are most definitely not. Especially trolls and strangers on the internet. For people to judge my work feels like they’re judging who I am, because everything I create was laboriously birthed from my personal thoughts. Any form of judgement on my creations feels like a direct dig at me, so you can imagine why I’d rather not subject myself to that.
Am I really worthy of being called a creative?
Writing has always been one of my insecurities. Studying in UP Los Baños—which has a stellar writing department, mind you—I felt like a random mall karaoke singer (not the viral kind) next to rows upon rows of Beyoncés in my writing classes. Now in the professional field, I feel more like a yowling cat.
…every original thought in the history of mankind feels like it’s already been twisted and turned all different ways by an artist somewhere in the world, so anything little old me makes, it feels second-rate.
It seems like the information era is never short of impossibly impressive artists. There are 5-year-old prodigies who write sonatas in their sleep, and there are 20-year-old musicians touring the country with their self-taught, homemade music. The internet is chock full of talented bedroom artists, and every original thought in the history of mankind feels like it’s already been twisted and turned all different ways by an artist somewhere in the world, so anything little old me makes, it feels second-rate. Where do I fit in to all that greatness? Is it even worth trying to squeeze myself in with the massive amount of talent going around?
The best way to cope with these thoughts, I’ve found, is to just bite the bullet. If you hadn’t noticed, I might also be prone to a little thing called overthinking—another evil entity familiar to creatives everywhere. So long as I am socially aware and responsible, and as long as I’m not hurting innocent people, it’s okay to take the risk and just create. Make a mistake? Okay, I’ll learn from it.
I’ve also pondered that this might be a byproduct of our culture of instant gratification. I want to be great, but I keep forgetting to look underneath the pedestal and see the road paved with rejections, practice, and a lot of hard work. Creating art is hinged on growth, and not necessarily perfection.
Creating art is hinged on growth, and not necessarily perfection.
It’s also my own little way of using my perspective to shed light on issues close to my heart. Art is revolutionary, after all. It might even be revolutionary for yourself, if you allow it to be.
With that said, I’d like to end this piece by introducing myself. Hi. I’m Giselle, a creative, here to remind you that you can damn well be any kind of artist you want to be.
Art by Renz Mart Reyes