Shut The Fuck Up And Create Your Fucking Art

(SERIOUSLY, WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU READING THIS? YOU SHOULD BE FUCKING CREATING.)

I’d like to show you a picture that I have been debating whether or not to spread around. It’s my weekly royalties graph from my Amazon books. Finally I just decided the hell with it, I’ll remove the figures and put it out there.

Anybody else see an alien when they look at this? No? Just me? I need help.

Now, I’ve removed the figures for obvious reasons (because it’s none of your fucking business, stalker). I can tell you right now that it’s not “quit-my-job” money. But more important than the AMOUNT per week is the fact that it’s going UP. It continues to rise and go up with every book I write, and every promo I run for my existing books.

The message I want you to take away from that is NOT “Garrett’s doing awesome.” The message I want you to take away from that is: “Garrett’s actually doing well at this? That’s impossible. I’ve read his books.”

My point is: YOU can do this. YOU can start down a long, hard road that will end up with you as a full-time artist, making a living from whatever you’re creating out there in the world.

What do you have to do to get there?

SHUT THE FUCK UP AND CREATE YOUR FUCKING ART.

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Now, if this doesn’t apply to you, that’s fine. You may have finished something already that’s out there and available to your audience.

Who I’m talking to is the novelists who have never finished a book, the screenwriters who have never finished a script, the directors who have never created a film.

Too many times, I hear friends of mine — fellow artists — who complain that they’re never able to finish a ____ (whatever they do). “I can never finish a drawing or a painting.” Or, “I can never finish a book.” Or, “It’s so hard to finish a film.”

Well, the viewpoint I would encourage you to take is that any time you spend saying that, is time that would be better spent actually DOING your art.

If you’re complaining to me (or to anyone) that you can’t finish something, you’re spending time complaining that you could be spending ACTUALLY FINISHING SOMETHING.

There are a few different common reasons I hear for not being able to complete a work. Some of them are:

I’M NOT SURE IT’S GOOD ENOUGH.

Maybe you HAVE finished a book. Or a short film, or whatever. Maybe you haven’t put it out there in the world because you’re afraid it’s “not good enough” and will be laughed off the worldwide stage.

Well, how do you think you’re going to get any better as an artist if you don’t put your stuff out there for the world to see? People complain about the comment and review regions of the Internet and how they’re terrible. Well, they are. BUT, they also allow you to open a dialogue with your audience (however immature that audience or the dialogue might be) and see what people like and what people don’t like.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: my first novel, Touch, is not the greatest literary work of the new millennium. I’m not going too far out on a limb by saying that I might not write the greatest literary work of the new millennium.

Similarly, the first short film I released last year, Prime Effect, is not the short film bolt from the blue that will change the face of cinema. And I might never direct a film that is, either.

But both of those are short, well-crafted pieces of work produced on-time and with a small budget that entertain people.

If you refuse to release anything that isn’t bulletproof and a fantastic, sweeping achievement in art that will wow all the critics, then I’m sorry to say that your ego is just insufferably huge. I’m also sorry to say that you will never create something that will please everyone, and that will be recognized by the entire artistic world as the greatest achievement in the history of anything.

If you won’t release anything unless it meets that lofty standard, then I have an idea for you: Take whatever you’ve got, whatever you have finished, and release it under a pseudonym. A pen name, if you’re an author; a screen name, if you’re a director. Market your script under an alias (Ross LaManna, writer of the famous Rush Hour series, submitted his script under a hilarious alias that I can’t remember at the moment. He was working for a film studio at the time and was too shy to let anyone know he’d actually written a script. When a producer read it, they asked their assistant, “Who the hell wrote this?” and the assistant connected the producer with LaManna. Some time later, Rush Hour was born).

I CAN NEVER FIND THE TIME

This one irks me quite a bit. You have people who complain “they can never find the time” to create their art.

Few people I know work SO MANY hours in a week that they couldn’t devote time to their art if they really wanted to. Take me, for example: Full-time job, married, two kids. You think I don’t have responsibilities? You think I don’t have obligations, even outside my 40-hour work week? And yet, I put in the time. I am consistently cranking out 5,000 words a day on my books. This week, I ADDED (not switched to) 5 script pages per day, in order to meet a deadline for a script competition that’s being held by an organization I belong to.

Maybe your extra time is taken up by things related to your art. Maybe you go to writing conferences. Maybe you attend seminars. Maybe you meet up with other friends, a workshop-type affair.

Well, if you haven’t produced anything, those conferences, seminars and workshops are much less useful to you. You might be getting valuable data at them, but you won’t have much real-world experience to COMPARE that data against. So lay off the extracurriculars for a week or two and finish something. Whatever it is. Finangle some friends into helping you make a short film. Write  series of short stories and publish them as a compendium on the Kindle. Do something. THEN go back to those workshops and seminars, fresh with some real world experience (AND, perhaps more importantly, with actual completed works that you can share with other artists and, possibly, agents and/or distributors who you may meet).

There’s a fantastic poem by Charles Bukowski which was turned into a comic at this site. The poem is called “Air and Light and Time and Space.” You should really check out the comic, but here are the words of the poem:

 

“you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,

something has always been in the

way

but now

I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this

place, a large studio, you should see the space and

the light.

for the first time in my life I’m going to have

a place and the time to

create.”

 

no baby, if you’re going to create

you’re going to create whether you work

16 hours a day in a coal mine

or

you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children

while you’re on

welfare,

you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown

away,

you’re going to create blind

crippled

demented,

you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your

back while

the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,

flood and fire.

 

baby, air and light and time and space

have nothing to do with it

and don’t create anything

except maybe a longer life to find

new excuses

for.”

 

(I don’t know if that spacing is per Bukowski’s original writing. I find it annoying, but it’s the way it was at this website, so it’s a faithful reproduction).

So the guy ditches his family, quits his job, and gets himself a new place to create in. His life up to that point has been an excuse about why he can’t create. His family takes too much time, his job takes too much time. You’ve probably heard similar stories, or are living one yourself.

It’s all bullshit.

If you don’t have a burning need to create, then why the heck are you creating whatever it is that you’re creating? And if you’ve got that burning need, you’ll do it regardless. You’ll always be working on SOMETHING. And all I’m saying is, FINISH IT. And move on to the next one.

I NEED TO HAVE (X) BEFORE I CAN CREATE

This one is most common among filmmakers. “I can’t just create a film. You need money, equipment, contacts. You can’t just decide to do it one day and get started the next.”

For a writer, it might be (although this is pretty pathetic) “I don’t have a computer.”

For a screenwriter, it might be “I don’t have Final Draft.”

SO.

WHAT.

The most valid of these is the filmmaker’s complaint, because you need a camera. There’s no getting around that. Film=camera.

But these days, you can make a goddamn film on your iPhone.

Is that an amazing film? No. The story is kind of silly. But the fucking thing is really well-shot, the sound is great, and oh yeah – THEY SHOT IT ON A FUCKING IPHONE. And they have over a hundred thousand hits, and an ad at the beginning, which mean THEY’RE MAKING MONEY ON IT.

And if you respond that you don’t have an iPhone, I say: You’re complaining again. Stop it.

SHUT THE FUCK UP AND CREATE YOUR FUCKING ART

What I’m getting at is that there are no excuses. In this day and age you — YOU — have the ability to:

  1. Create art with virtually no initial investment
  2. Distribute for no cost to you, and limitless potential for income (Amazon for writers, Amazon/YouTube for film, Amazon/YouTube/iTunes for musicians)
  3. Crowdsource feedback on your art to teach you to become a better artist

So the only complaint you have left is Time. And so I’ll ask you an honest question — if you’re not spending any available time you have creating your art, then what the fuck are you doing?

Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at garrettbrobinson.com.

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