If you want to act…

At work we’re allowed to surf the net, as long as we don’t try to get into a site where you need a log-in. I spend some time on Imdb – Internet movie database. I like to find out what actors played what characters in what movies I’ve watched.

Yes, I could read the credits, except that they often go by too fast and are too small. I’ve reached that age, you know, where I need a different pair of glasses for almost everything I do.

So I was reading some Imdb stuff and I found a quote from an actor, and I wish I’d remembered to write down who said it, because it strikes me as applicable to any art. It was a response to an interviewer who spoke of wanting to act.

“If you want to act,”the actor said, “forget it. But if you have to act, nobody you talk to is going to make a difference.”

When I was a girl, I knew I wanted to be an artist and a writer. I have to say that I wasn’t encouraged to think of these pursuits as professions, or even as serious ways of making money (notice I didn’t say “a living” – making money was considered unlikely enough without the requirement of making enough to live on). Even in the days when I was earning quite a bit of money by selling my engravings, it wasn’t unusual for people to call my work “a nice hobby” to my face.

It is an occupational hazard of being a writer that people think 1) everyone can do it and 2) they might just someday do it themselves. I hasten to add that not all people think this, but the ones who do invariably say, “Yeah, I’d like to write a book.”

I sometimes want to quote Leon Uris’s character in QBVII, the one who, hired to deliver a lecture on writing, started by asking his audience, “How many of you want to be writers?” and, when they all raised their hands, said, “Then why aren’t you home writing?”

If you want to write, or you’d like to write – or pot, or paint, or whatever your favourite art form is – maybe you’ll do it, and maybe you won’t. But if you have to, you will, and that “have to” is independent, self-reliant, and takes no notice of what other people think. If you have to write, you aren’t telling some published writer or other, “Yeah, I’d like to write a book”. You’re writing it. And nobody is going to talk you out of it.

Art is a hard path; you have to work for the skills, and for the recognition that what you do is work, and for the accomplishment of what you’ve set out to do. And often you have to work at something else at the same time in order to keep on eating. It’s ultimately a rewarding path, even without public recognition. It feeds the soul.

If you want to do it, forget it. But if you have to, nobody you talk to will make a difference.

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