What I Do

by Thomas Pace on November 25, 2013

“So, what do you do?”

It’s a common question; and one that, for years, I haven’t really had a good answer for.

For the last eight years I’ve spent most of my time taking care of my children.  Technically, that makes me a stay-at-home-dad but when asked the question, “What do you do?” stay-at-home dad was almost never my answer.  It just didn’t seem particularly accurate.

I mean, I stay at home with the kids, but I’m not really a stay-at-home dad.

I do other things too.

I write, but I’m not really a writer.

I play music, but I’m not really a musician.

I make movies, but I’m not exactly a filmmaker.

I draw and paint.  I sculpt.  I write poems.

“So, what do you do?”

A little over a year ago the answer was given to me.  And while it seems obvious now, I was initially rather dubious of the label.

I was a meeting the parents one of my elder son’s friends at a little league game and the mother said,  “Your son said that you’re an artist.”

“A what?”

It’s a difficult thing to call your self.  You have to take your self pretty seriously.

An artist?

It’s like admitting that you have an addiction.

Over the last few months I’ve been hard at working writing a feature length screenplay.  It’s a family drama that uses the Vietnam War as a background. Two weeks ago I finally managed to finish it.

It’s terrible.  Unreadable.  Embarrassing.

There are few things that can shake your belief in your self as an artist like working on something for months only to realize that it adds up to absolutely nothing.  And while I was reading that awful second draft there’s nothing more I would have liked to more than quit.  I wanted to put the script in the bottom of the desk drawer and deny any knowledge of its existence.

But I knew it was time for me to finally come clean and face facts.

My name is Thomas and I’m an artist.  I’ve been just making stuff up for twenty-five years.

Last week I was still reeling from my failed efforts on the feature.  Still wondering if I wasn’t fooling myself that I was really the artist I claimed to be.  Then, out of nowhere, I had and idea.

Nothing big, just an idea for a story with a little trick at the end.

Two hours later I had a very sharp one and a half page script for a short horror film that should be easy enough shoot come spring.

So, instead of packing it in after a sizable failure and denying myself as an artist, I ended up with a small, one and a half page success.

I’m an artist.

The difference between being an artist and an addict is when you admit you’re an artist, instead of making a commitment to NOT DO something, as and addict does; an artist commits him or her self to DO something.

In both cases, before you can do anything to help yourself, you have to first come to terms with what you are.

If you want to be an artist, you have to call yourself an artist.  For without accepting the reasonability of being an artist, it’s just too easy to shirk your responsibility as an artist.

Your responsibility to create art.

Even bad art.

It’s the best answer I got, so that’s what I tell them when they ask.

“So, what do you do?”

I’m even starting to believe it myself.

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