Making Art as a Way of Dealing With Bad News

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It has been quite the week, and I cannot imagine what it’s been like for those of you who have been active online. Even the little bit of news, both personal and political, has been depressing as hell. That, topped off with multiple viruses and other day-to-day crap, can get to be too much very quickly. In fact, it can downright stall your ability to write, revise, edit, sketch, etc. It might even feel selfish to make art on spec (e.g. without a contract); or, you might have convinced yourself there’s too many terrible things going on in the world, so why does your story matter? Why bother?

Often, we downplay how much we give of ourselves to our art. Our joys, our sorrows, fears, pain are often wrapped up into one painting, game, story, comic, etc. Sometimes, we might even create a piece of art to help someone feel that much needed sense of relief. Other times, we might make something because the act of creation is not something anyone can take away from us. You, and only you, made that piece of art or collaborated with other people on it. That’s amazing, and that’s very, very important–especially right now. We may not be able to save the world, but we can tap into people’s emotions and move them through our art. I used to think that was just entertainment, and I was wrong. It’s more than that. It’s our point of connection, our way of showing the truth in a more palatable (or brutal) fashion, our reminder that we’re all human.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to think about the importance of making art when the bad news doesn’t stop. It’s not the one thing, of course, it’s the death by a thousand cuts. When it’s personal, it’s one passive-aggressive comment after the other about what you’re not doing, what you should’ve been doing, what you need to do, what you’re not. When it’s not, your faith in your government and your country is shaken. You hear the dogs of war barking–and aren’t sure if they’re real or imagined. You feel helpless. Fear, fear, fear, anxiety, fear. And it adds up. Oh, does it ever!

At some point, you’re probably going to shut down. Then, in that darkest of spaces, you do the one thing you’ve convinced yourself needs to happen: you wait for more bad news. Now, you might even be looking for it, because your boundaries have eroded. Bad news is now something you expect, and it’s something you’re unwittingly using as a survival mechanism. That bad news is familiar, it’s how you cope, it’s all you know. Your worldview might even shift in the process. Suddenly, things that were once enjoyable aren’t anymore. Small things are meaningless, and making art is an afterthought. The bad news, that’s what is really important–right?

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: life continues. Even at the worst of times, someone bakes bread or plants flowers or pets the cat or flies a kite with their kids. Think about all the shit I’ve been through; I’ve been bullied, doxed, harassed, threatened, etc. multiple times over and I am still standing. I am still here. And, I am still making art. A little slower than usual this week? Yep, unfortunately I’m coming off of a cold this week and Ny-Quil does strange things to my creativity. But, regardless, I am still at it even if progress is slow. Sometimes, the best I can do is take it one step at a time.

It wasn’t always this way, and the stars-only-know I’m not perfect. Like you, I do the best I can. Yes, there have been a few times where I have gotten so sucked in, because everywhere I turned people were either talking about politics, protesting, or negatively affected by the fractional “us vs. them” everywhere. It felt as if I had no escape, and it was hard for me–and many other creators like myself–to focus. I saw yellow journalism happen right in front of my face. I felt powerless to stop people from getting hurt, and all I could do was get out there and vote. Then, when it was all over… I felt like I was hungover, and I was angry for many reasons. I had been consumed. We had all been eaten up by what was happening, and despite our best efforts many people were definitely not being heard.

There was another reason why I was angry, though. I was mad at myself. At the end of the day, when you make art for a living or a hobby you lose a lot when you aren’t creating. Not only do you lose time, you also lose your purpose for being. I am not a doctor or a lawyer or a politician. I’m an artist. And that means, that in order for me to do my job to the best of my ability, I have to keep making art regardless of the thousand and one reasons out there that make me feel as if I don’t matter. That, dear reader, is my definition of persistence.

The title of today’s post was “Making art as a way of dealing with bad news.” So, here’s the deal: I have some bad news for you today. I do. I’m worried that you’re going to be overwhelmed by all the bad news that’s surrounding you and you won’t make art. It’s true. It is easier to stop making art than to keep at it, but don’t give in. Take the harder path, because that one? That’s usually a sign you’re headed in the right direction. Fight. Know that you are not alone. If you can’t make art for yourself, do it for your future self. Or, make art for someone you haven’t met yet. You never know how powerful and transformative your art can be unless you keep going. One brush, one word, one sketch might not seem like much, but that’s all I’m asking for right now. It’s the only way to fight back the darkness, and to firmly and loudly proclaim that you are still here despite the odds.

Please, I know it’s hard right now. Don’t give up hope. “It can’t rain all the time.”

    Mood: Weird. Hot and sneezy. Summer already?
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Coffee has health benefits. Right?
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Light walking
    In My Ears: Stupid fan
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy X-2. Found the bloody chocobo dungeon and the bloody underwhelming chocobo. Huzzah!
    Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming in May.

Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

Want to Interview or Hire Me? Send Fan Mail?

Would you like to hire me? Because my projects and manuscripts are in flux, I am always open to discussing new opportunities with publishers and studios. As a full-time writer, I spend a portion of my time seeking new gigs–so don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re interested, please e-mail me via my Contact Page. I typically reply to work-related e-mails within one-to-two business days.

Want an interview? If you’d like to interview me or request a guest blog post, please connect with me via the contact page, too. Due to time constraints and other communicative concerns, I typically don’t follow up on requests via social media.

Keen on sending fan mail? I am also happy to engage with readers and fans. Please note that I am unable to reply satisfactorily to certain types of queries related to the companies I work for due to the agreements I typically sign. If you have a question about a TV show or a line of books, the best way to get your answer is to contact the studio or publisher directly.

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