The Benefit of Knowing Artists

“I felt a twinge of regret that I wasn’t a writer or painter, someone special enough to be invited to talk with Gertrude, to sit near her in front of the fire, as Ernest did now, and speak of important things. I loved to be around interesting and creative people, to be part of that swell,” –excerpt from The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

“Art Opening” by Vivian Chen via Flickr

My boyfriend pointed out to me recently that all my friends are famous. What he really meant was that several of the people I’ve grown up with have gone on to accomplish things in the public’s eye. I have a friend who works as an intern for the Seattle Symphony, I used to dance with a kid who had amazing pirhouettes; now he’s a New York based photographer who shoots Broadway stars, dancers, and occasionally, Abby Lee. My friend the jeweler just made a necklace for Lisa Kudrow. My boyfriend isn’t immune to the fame-brushing phenomenon; one of his friends is a World Fantasy, Nebula, and Hugo award winner. In short, there is no shortage of talented artists in our circle of acquaintances.

I’m not here to tell you that I think my friends and acquaintances are cooler than yours. Like Hemingway’s wife in McLain’s novel, it’s that I love “to be part of that swell.”

On a date night at my local Barnes and Noble I found myself doing something I’ve never done before–I looked for and found the books that were written by people I know, or have met.

I am awestruck by writers (and all artists for that matter). In the past, it was almost as if I believed that an author was a character along with the other characters inside a novel’s pages. The act of writing and being a writer was a fiction to me.

Strolling the aisles of Barnes and Noble I was surprised by how much I knew about the books that were on the shelves. I knew which ones Pop Culture Happy Hour and Time Magazine had recommended, and which ones were written by debut authors. I knew which books were in contention for awards, even when it won’t be [printed] on the cover until the next printing. Only half a decade ago the books I cared most about were being released at midnight and were written for teenagers. How and when did I become this person?

I became this person when I started writing (almost) every day and reading even when I wasn’t “required” to. I practiced being who I am at my core–a writer. I don’t have famous friends (or acquaintances). I know people who play cello and people who take thousands of photos. I know people who love what they do. That photographer probably never thought he’d be in an episode of “Dance Moms” and the jeweler probably never thought her piece would appear on Chelsea Lately. They are artists, and they have learned how to live every moment and action of the day through their art. I admire these people because they remind me, with their public accomplishments, to keep doing what I love–to keep living for my art.

And then maybe, someday, after doing this long enough, Pop Culture Happy Hour will talk about my book and tell their listeners it is what they should read next.

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