Hey guys! It's been a while since I started up a discussion here. But this is one I've had in mind for a long time!
The gist of it is this: if you're on dA, you probably draw or write at least a bit! But to what extent do the people you know outside of the internet care, encourage, or appreciate your work? Are you able to use your work to benefit those you know in "real life," or is it something that you feel is confined to cyberspace?
Here's my answer. Growing up, I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. Some of the first people who inspired me to draw were my uncle (who worked as a small-time freelance cartoonist occasionally) and my mom (who was quite good at simple cartoons, despite never practicing ever!). Video games and animated shows and movies were my world when I was little, and knowing people in my immediate reality who could bring such things to life taught me to believe it was possible for me to do the same.
However, while I drew like a maniac in my early years, nobody really cared. I didn't get much encouragement from my parents; in fact, the older I got, the more they seemed to consider my drawing a waste of time. I could impress schoolmates a bit; sometimes they would ask for me to draw things for them. But once I got into middle school, and being "smart" and having skill at drawing were no longer reasons for popularity, it became almost entirely a private activity for me. I would share my drawings with a couple forums I frequented at the time, and it was in seventh grade that I discovered and joined dA.
Now, my drawings at the time were pretty terrible, all things considered! But I was blind to see my inexperience, and had the extreme fortune to never run into anyone who made fun of my art. Having online communities to share with is what enabled me to keep going through all the years when no one in my "real life" seemed to care; that is, middle and high school.
Once I got into college, things changed significantly! Again, I was no great artist, but at my predominantly engineering school there weren't very many cartoonists, let alone people who would work for free for something they cared about. I found myself doing art for theatre productions, posters, the school paper (ok, I did get paid a pittance for this one), and even T-shirts throughout my time there. While looking back, I do see lots of things I could have drawn or designed better, people seemed to really enjoy what I did at the time. After so many years of feeling like my art was not important, and was just something I had to hide away on the internet because no one cared, this was a great encouragement to me.
It was especially important because I had long considered my "intelligence" more key to my character than my artistic drive. And by intelligence, I mean my ability to get good grades and be the top of my class, which I was both pressured and praised for immensely all throughout my public school life. The university I went to was fairly prestigious, so once I got there I no longer felt that my intelligence or my love of academia were special at all, nor something that was worth defining myself by. In fact, I felt like a small fish in a big pond, and my love of academia for academia's sake was being slowly eroded. If I didn't have art to hold onto, I would've felt like I didn't have much to offer to the world at all! For that reason, I'm extremely grateful that I never gave up on it.
Now, I'm still no great artist, but I continue to work hard to improve. Will I ever be able to make a living off of art? I don't know. But I do know that I'm able to use it to make people's lives better, even people I know in my immediate locale, and I will continue trying to do so in the communities I'm involved with.
So even if it seems no one cares about what you do, or that you can't put it to any good use... if you care about art, I strongly encourage you to keep with it! You never know how it could help you and others out some day.
Listening to: Pandora
Reading: Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
Watching: Samurai Flamenco
Playing: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations
Drinking: Sparkling Water