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In the Unlikely Event of My Rabid Success

You have an obligation, and it is simply this:

Let your art be art. Don’t let your art be an excuse.

Don’t use it to justify your loneliness. Don’t use it to hide from your responsibilities. Don’t make it more important than people or survival. Don’t let its mythology destroy what makes it magic.

There are people who make their art their life. Some are very happy. You won’t be one of them. You tried. It didn’t work.

You’ve done your best work when your life was full of other things. If you’d made writing fiction your whole life, you never would have tried improv or sketch comedy or live storytelling, and denied yourself a vibrance in life that then infused your work.

You make your best work when the world tells you there isn’t enough time. You sneak it. You earn it. You make miracles out of minutes. You always did your best against the grain.

Do not fall for the siren cries of other promoting artists, the ones who pine for a life of just their muse. The lack of day job. The total ego of art. What a wonderland it must be! You’ve had the low-rent version of this conjob Shangri-La. It became a monster made of prisons, assumptions, and falsehood. It ate you, puked out your skin, and wore it as a mask.

Be a person who makes art. A person loves to make art. Who loves art. But if you sink your identity into an activity, your identity will crush you when your art does not change the world, make you rich, validate your loneliness.

Art is awesome. It can keep you sane, happy, and be a gift that keeps giving. But when it becomes an excuse, when it infects your identity, when you can’t be a good person because of your art, you have become a complete fucking shithook.

Jason S. Ridler

Jason RidlerJason S. Ridler is a writer, historian, and actor. He is the author of The Brimstone Files, and his latest historical work Mavericks of War was called a “visceral read that is also an important piece of scholarship” by Pulitzer-Prize winner Richard Rhodes. He is a Teaching Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and teaches creative writing at Google, Youtube, and for private clients.

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