Artists in the Clarkwoods Literary Universe, just like artists in The Real World, are a vital but undervalued group. The average citizen appreciates the value of entertainment, but is pretty sure they shouldn’t have to pay for it.
Businesses are even worse, often offering “exposure” in lieu of financial compensation—never, it seems, realizing that it’s far easier to die of exposure than to make a living off of it. In fact, most modern-day artists are forced to take second and third jobs just to make ends meet.
As Ross Fletcher, a friend of art business consultant Maria Brophy once dryly put it, “Oh after you mop the floor and clean the barn, can you finish the Sistine Chapel in your spare time?”
A lifetime of practice; long hours spent with your instrument, canvas, or typewriter; endless auditions and interviews with gatekeepers who live to say “NEXT!” and kick you to the curb; a willingness to be critiqued by assholes on social media who haven’t even bothered to read your book or watch your movie; and the small measure of insanity necessary to keep going when, if you ever do find commercial success, most people will think you charge too much.
For most artists, the career begins in their mothers’ basements… and ends there. It’s just a matter of how many years they spend toiling away before they finally give up.
For a select few, the path that begins in Dad’s garage eventually leads to a modest side-income playing music at bars, doing community theater, or hocking their self-published books in the least-visited corner of the local renaissance faire.
And for the “lucky” dozen or so out of every million, the peak is being plucked from obscurity by corporate overlords who believe they have the right marketing plan to get the fickle masses to give two shits about them for a few years.
All while the corporation in question milks the artist for everything they’re worth, of course—and keeps the rights to everything they create, so that Faceless Entity, Inc. can continue to profit in perpetuity.
Exposure. Lots and lots of precious exposure.
Without poets, without artists, men would soon weary of nature's monotony. The sublime idea men have of the universe would collapse with dizzying speed. The order which we find in nature, and which is only an effect of art, would at once vanish. Everything would break up in chaos. There would be no seasons, no civilization, no thought, no humanity; even life would give way, and the impotent void would reign everywhere.
—Guillaume Apollinaire, writer
The arts matter because I learn something about people and places I would have never known otherwise. The arts make my brain and my heart stretch to make room for newness. Sometimes, parts of me are displaced and replaced by wiser stuff. And that’s a fine thing.
—Victoria Hutter, National Endowment for the Arts
Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of fuel. Sentimental people call it inspiration, but what they really mean is fuel. I have always needed fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about 50 more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.
—Hunter S. Thompson, writer
Art is restoration: the idea is to repair the damages that are inflicted in life, to make something that is fragmented—which is what fear and anxiety do to a person—into something whole.
It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that society is huge and the individual is less than nothing. But the truth is individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.
—Neil Gaiman, author
Insignificant to most. Even those who find success are valued more for their celebrity than they are for their art.
In general and in theory, there are artists everywhere—in every demographic. In practice however, the vast majority of those who can make it their main thing are priveleged enough to have a spouse/partner/parent to support them. For this reason and a variety of others, far fewer persons from marginalized communities ever get the shots that straight, white, cisgendered dudes get. And that’s one of the greatest shames of this whole business.