I don’t like to talk too much about myself, because I resent the stigma we Aspies have as being self-absorbed. Granted, I am mostly about myself, but there’s no sense dragging my innocent readers through that particular brand of sludge. But in this case, I’m going to have to torment you with a bit of a story – maybe you’ll learn something from it.
See, I’ve always been a very creative individual. You could even say that it’s one of my Aspie gifts, and to stifle or ignore it would be a disservice to everyone whom it might touch in a positive way. However, the way in which I once chose to express it was… sub-optimally successful, to put it in the nicest possible terms.
In real people terms, it was a screwed up waste of time, money and energy, and had very few benefits for anyone. Now, I can’t turn back the clock and pull a Sam Beckett, and I might be a little scared to do that in the first place – after all, where I currently am isn’t that bad. And contentment is a decent place to be for awhile.
But when I look back at how I’ve used my creativity, I regret the time and money I wasted on it. Back in high school, I discovered (and battered people with) the fact that I can write well. There is no arrogance in my tone whatsoever when I declare that I have an unusually high level of writing talent. And I wrote (other than just school work) just about every day in high school, starting my sophomore year.
But 3 years, a few short stories, roughly 300 poems and a screenplay later… I was fed up with it. Writing wasn’t getting me any praise (which is a dumb reason to do anything), and it wasn’t exciting me all that much. So I decided to go into visual art.
And while I did like that the visual arts allowed me to make things (which I’ve done since childhood, and am somewhat good at), I also liked the idea that I wouldn’t have to bother writing the endless number of reports necessary of most other majors. Granted, I did write a fair number, and I did demolish them, but I just didn’t like doing a lot of writing.
Something I’ve noticed about the Aspie lifestyle is that we tend to get into a particular interest, and stick with it for awhile. Of course, over time there’s a tendency to drift out of any given interest. Maybe it’s just how life moves, and maybe it’s just simple boredom, but it’s nigh undeniable. But we’re a stubborn lot, aren’t we?
From my freshman year of college until a few months ago, I worked as a freelance artist. I developed web sites (including a webcomic, and my now-defunct portfolio site), participated in over 50 exhibitions all over the country, and did projects for people when they desired something unique for their decor.
And I sucked. If you click on the link to my webcomic, you’ll see that it absolutely blows. My drawing quality was mediocre on its best day… but people actually complimented the writing. How about that, huh?
Then I discovered a site that lets me do freelance writing projects, and… well, suffice it to say that in four solid months of getting little projects to do, I’ve made about twice as much money as I did over nine years of hustling as hard as I could, all over the country in the visual arts.
And for a couple of years, I catalogued every penny I spent on the visual arts (for tax deductions)… and I refuse to show you those figures, because I do have the ability to be embarrassed. And it ought to be a law that no one may embarrass himself on his own blog.
For the writing, I’ve spent less than $2, for a microphone that works really well, and lets me do things so much more effectively. Yes, $2 – I can make that back on ANY job, and that’s it. Of course, I still have to spend on electricity, the internet, etc., but that’s splitting hairs. I’d already be spending on those things anyway, so I don’t count them.
Let’s just say that, while I could live on what I make from writing (at my current lifestyle), there is no possible way I could live on what I made from the arts. Though I actually won a scholarship and two national awards (and a multitude of sales and commissions), there is just no contest – writing wins.
Just don’t think that the decision to give up on the visual arts was an easy one for me. I love to make things – and I still do, when time and space permit it. I mean, the time between needful tasks, and the space to store my finished products – I’m not getting metaphysical on you.
Not to mention the fact that as an Aspie (and indeed, as a human being), it’s difficult to look objectively and say, “Yep, I was wrong.” For the longest time, I struggled with the question of whether or not I was an artist.
I can make a decent piece every so often, and I have a strong creative drive… but for all intents and purposes, I’m not an artist anymore. And that sentence kind of hurt to write – the same way it hurt to not renew my art site’s domain name and hosting.
And do not think for an instant that I’m in love with writing. It’s a pain. It takes up time which I could be spending doing fun, frivolous things, and I tend to become gut-wrenchingly terrified that what I’ve poured my efforts into may be considered absolute crap… and need to be redone. After I’ve already gotten the NEXT job. That scares the living hell out of me.
And while it is very nice to be able to sit at home and make money by doing something that comes reasonably easily to me, without having the issues of in-person social interaction – wait, that part rules. Every cloud has a silver lining – that’s not just a cliche.
So after all of that, there actually is a moral to be learned in this. It’s that at some point, when you’re spending and not earning, you have to cut your losses and move on with your life in another direction.
And you might not even be that big of a fan of what you have to do – but if it pays you, you can do it, and you’re good at it, go ahead. Embrace your special skills – as long as they’re legal and don’t hurt anybody who doesn’t consent to it.
And it’s not like I had to entirely give up on my dream. With the money I make from writing, I can buy art supplies aplenty. And I always have gifts to give… even if they’re a trifle idiosyncratic.
By the way, if you guys have any similar thoughts on changing professions (or just changing your mind) as an Aspie, spout off in the comments section below.