Once upon a time, Charity sent me a link to an article on The Onion that basically treats the story of Fox Books in You’ve Got Mail as a true story. I wrote back that I loved the article, and also, “I’m pretty jealous of the person who got to use their work day to write down all their favorite quotes from You’ve Got Mail.”
Sometimes the writers I follow online will post cool pictures of silly things, pop culture, weird history, or books that should be just for fun and explain that the cool things are research for their next project. It’s my job to read this, they write with glee. And I’m so happy for them as I hate them.
When I used to dream of visiting New York City, I felt I was waiting for someone to ask me to come. I needed to make it as a writer first or switch over to that acting career. And then my day job at the time just took me. They bought my plane ticket and my hotel room, and I was there. We drove onto its streets without having to know the secret word or anything. I walked the sidewalks, rode the subway, lived there for three glorious days. And I realized what an online friend had tried to tell me: You don’t need permission to go to New York City.
And finally, maybe, I hope, I have realized that is the beauty of art. You don’t need permission to do that either. No one has to pay you. If you want to make up a funny news article about a favorite movie using all the quotes you love, just do it. You can read or watch anything you want and call it research for your art.
Emily Dickinson trusted this. She wrote poetry that never reached the world until her death. Is it art before it finds an audience? It doesn’t matter. It won’t be art at all if no one makes it.
I turned 39 this month, and I’ve decided it’s going to be a very happy year of art-marking. I’m going to write about things I love and have fun doing it. “It’s my business to create.” That’s William Blake, brought to me by Holly Kennedy in the movie PS I Love You. I know, because I watched it for research.
Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”