I might have mentioned before that I’ve been taking the Revision Season class by Elana K. Arnold. Yesterday was the very day of the class and I can honestly say that it has been one of the best learning experiences of my writing life. One question still niggles at the back of my mind. Below is the question and my own answer to it.
“Identify your core beliefs about art. Who is it for? Who has the right to make art? How do you feel about the pursuit of storytelling—is it something you’re proud of? Ashamed of?” (- Elana K. Arnold)
I grew up in a working-class, sometimes living well beyond our means, and sometimes even a poor household. But art in all forms was always the one thing that was available to me on par with my age mates. I think this is partly down to how Finland is structured, and partly due to the way that my mother raised us. It helped that one of my cousins was a ballerina in the national ballet, which meant that I could get in same day ballet and opera performances for dirt cheap.
I was an avid reader and my local library was stocked with a wide variety of literature as well as non-fiction. When I ran out of kid lit, I started reading above my level. Eventually, I ran out of books in Finnish and started reading in English. This is also why I’ve always been more proficient at it than most of my peers. I mean it helped that before the fall of the Soviet Union, my parents had a business with a lot of foreign ties. But most of my vocabulary comes from a mix of reading and watching, well MTV and cartoons with musical bits. Jem especially was one of my favorites. See, most cartoons were dubbed, still are, but at least back then, they didn’t dub the songs.
For me, art in all its forms is fundamentally about being human and exploring different ways of being human. I realize that not everyone sees it this way, but for me, art has also been a great equalizer between classes. I’ve never felt a sense of “art can’t be for me”. That would have been like trying to deny art and humanity to people I loved and cared about. “Art is for everyone and by everyone” is so tied into my identity that denying it to myself would be denying my own existence.
For me, the bigger challenge comes not from “can I do this” but “should I do this”. It’s a constant struggle of “is it worth it to spend all this time and money on doing this thing”. There are so many other things that I could do with this time and effort. I’m 40 now, and so far in this career, I’ve made two short story sales, so why keep going? But so far, at least, the art is winning. So far, writing has been worth it for itself. It would be great to be able to sell more stories, and possibly even a book so that people other than my writing groups might someday read my words. At the end of the day, the art, the writing is enough, all on its own. At least so far.