Juandering Out Loud: Art For Art’s Sake

A collection of illustrations gather around an open notebook. These illustrations and the notes held within the journal are concepts the author has been developing for three years, as of the time of writing (Photo illustration by Juan G. Rodriguez).

Editor’s note: This article contains mention of suicide. Reader discretion is advised.

I’m a writer. It makes sense once you find out I have two graphite points in my left knee.

I don’t write because I desire greatness; achieving it is just too stressful. I don’t write because I desire wealth; no honest man has a million dollars in his pocket.

I just want to make good art that I can feel a twinge of pride in whenever I go back and do some reading and reminiscing.

Everything I make is born of an artistic capability, in some sort of way. The capacity for creativity is crucial if I’m to visualize and give any work of mine a distinct shape. No matter the circumstances, whether I am paid to or not, taking a concept and making it into something tangible that someone else can process will forever bring me immense gratification. 

I take ownership of the label of writer so as to not lose my sense of self. I do it to acknowledge the skill that I have devoted much of my life to sharpening and using. That’s why I sit here at my desk with absolute confidence in the words I write. I believe in my work; I know that it’s good. My skill with the pen is what it is because I made it so.

I’m content with myself. I know my worth and what it is that I have to offer. 

My writing here at the Albion Pleiad, I posit, is great work in its own regard. However, it’s nowhere close to all that I do.

For some time, I’ve been working on my own fictional story and setting. It’s a project that’s gone through so much to finally reach its current state. I am mentally preparing myself to finally start work on my first draft if you can believe it. I’m vibrating excitedly at the thought of pressing ink to page and having a physical manuscript to read and edit after three years of preparation. 

I want to let my characters live out their lives and stories. I want to be able to give them the space they need to grow and become the best possible version of themselves that they can be. 

In order to do that though, I need to have a place to live. I need to be able to afford said place. I need to be able to afford the utilities in said place. I need to be able to afford the food sold near said place. I myself have to live and grow if I want to give my characters and story a chance to do the same. 

It’s so easy for onlookers to see this situation and suggest the thought of writing as a way to make a living. They’re right to do so; I’m not a mathematical prodigy or a scientific mastermind like any of my other friends. Writing is the only marketable skill I have at my disposal.

So I applied for a job at the college multimedia publication in the summer of 2021. Almost two years later, I find myself enjoying the experience because I’m doing work I love while making use of the greatest skill at my disposal. Even better, I’m getting more opportunities to develop my writing further, all the while offering up my abilities in the name of service to this community. 

I happily consider this a success.

That’s not enough for some people though. My anxiety likes voicing their opinions way too often. Being an idiot, I listen to the same thing time after time.

People always expect more out of you when you show that you’re capable of doing so. That’s great! I’d be nowhere if all I settled for was mediocrity. Without certain people, I’d probably still be afraid of trying to get my work published in a college publication. 

The problem, I’ve noticed, arises when people start telling me what I should be striving for. People tell me that since I’m writing my own story, I should try publishing it and making some money off of it. I should profit off all my work, they insist. 

I agree with them, to a point. I don’t regret embracing professionally my nature as a writer. It’s one of the few things that bring me joy amidst this miserable state of existence. Writing professionally here at the Pleiad allows me to profit from my work while being able to write recreationally on the side. 

The problems begin to arise the moment my professional work stops being enough to support my recreational work.

I’m limited in career opportunities. It’s the price I pay for devoting my life to the craft of writing. I chose to be a creative in spite of the risks because this was the only purpose I could imagine myself having in my short time on this earth. 

Knowing this, what other option is there besides monetizing what’s left, the thing that brings me joy? I don’t do it because I want to make money off of that work, but because I must make a living somehow. As a creative, I’ve had to accept that I’ll only get so far before I have to start creating with the intention of generating profit if I want to live a comfortable life. 

In the pursuit of profit, my work isn’t going to get better. The only innovation the market breeds is how to best maximize profits for oneself. 

You know what’s the winning strategy, the moment I have to start monetizing my creative writing? 

Low-quality garbage dressed up in enough flowery language that makes you ignore how bland and meaningless the end product truly is.

The day I start writing like this, please check in to make sure that I’m not drafting my suicide letter. 

It’s this painful realization that drives me mad. As inflation rises and wages stagnate, the market gets to dictate whether I live or die. That’s the price paid for government deregulation. The market ends up becoming the government and I end up finding myself at the mercy of Milton Friedman’s wretched ghost if I want to lead a meaningful life. 

I’m dragged away from this misery by a quote courtesy of Kurt Vonnegut. 

“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable,” Vonnegut wrote in “A Man Without a Country.”

The way things are, I am content with working in journalism until my final moments. It has been a welcome change of pace from the typical fare of creative writing. If I am to maintain my sanity and the happiness I derive from creative writing, then I must find some other use for my skills, preferably one that allows me to earn something close to a living wage. My creative endeavors must remain sacred, untouched by the greedy and filthy hands of the free market.

To hell with it; I just want to write in peace. The day my number comes up on the roll, I assure you that I’ll be bleeding ink out onto the page. 

About Juan G. Rodriguez 43 Articles
Juan G. Rodriguez is a senior sharing his time between Dallas and East Texas. He is majoring in English and minoring in Political Science. As an individual with two pencil leads in his left knee, writing seems to be the only career that Juan is capable of. Contact Juan via jgr13@albion.edu.

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