Sunday, April 2, 2017

Real Artists Have Day Jobs: (And Other Awesome Things They Don't Teach You in School) by Sara Benincasa

The first thing I remember seeing Sara Benincasa in was CollegeHumor's since-retired video game series, Bleep Bloop. She was the guest star when they did the Grey's Anatomy on Wii video game. The video came out while I was in college, and I remember being so excited because at the time, CollegeHumor didn't have as many women in their videos. I remember thinking, "Oh my God, a cool nerdy girl! Who likes video games! Who likes making fun of video games! Who doesn't take herself too seriously! Oh my God, this is so cool!"

The second thing I remember seeing Sara Benincasa in was Buzzfeed's video, What It's Like To Be A Woman Online. This is a powerful video where various women, some controversial and some not, but all with social media platforms with a fair amount of followers, all talk about their experiences with internet harassment - specifically from men. This was the video that made me actually go to Twitter & follow her, because yaaass.

It never clicked until later that she was the same Sara Benincasa that was also the author of the book GREAT, which I see floating around on Goodreads a lot but never actually read. Prior to this, I suppose I just assumed that there were just several Sara Benincasas running around, equally blessed in talent. Then one day it hit me - all these awesome women who just so happened to have the same name were actually the same person. Mind = blown. Or maybe I'm just slow on the uptake.


When I saw that her newest book, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS, was only $1.99 in the Kindle store, buying it was a no-brainer. I follow her on Twitter, remember, so I know that she's not just funny, she's also articulate as hell and her witticisms and pop-cultural references are on point. Plus, her coolness is at #lifegoals levels, so obviously I had to read this and see if she let any trade secrets about coolness slip.

REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS is a collection of autobiographical essays. If you're going into this book expecting to laugh, however, you are apt to be disappointed. Her essays are witty, but serious examinations of various topics, ranging in scope from "how to get rid of the toxic people in your life" to "the importance of embracing your inner-geek" to "go adopt a dog."

Since I already sound pretty stalkery from that review intro, I'm going to quickly summarize some of my favorite takeaway points from this book.

1. I love that she validates struggling artists and writers. I am a writer, and I have been told that you can't call yourself a "real" writer unless you are doing it full time. I love that she debunks that and says, no, you are an artist, even if the art you're producing doesn't have a price tag. You can have another job that you love in addition to writing, and still be a writer. Doing both doesn't make you a failure. Choosing another career path and designating your art to being a hobby doesn't make you a failure. Not having a degree in English or an MFA doesn't mean you're not worthy of time. You can be self-taught. You can be an amateur or a hobbyist. You can still be an artist. Or a writer.

Embrace your day job and your art. <3

2. I love that she really makes an effort to point out that dealing with mental illness isn't a straight path to instant healing. It's more like one of those shitty mazes you get on kids' menus at family eateries. There are dead ends, u-turns, and backtracks. All you can do is try to forgive yourself, practice self-care, and surround yourself with non-toxic people who support you, no matter what. Oh, and medication, treatment, and therapy, too, if that's what it takes to get the help you need. #noshame #youdoyou

3. I love the part of the book about learning to embrace your geekiness instead of trying to suppress it to be "cool." I was into geeky things well before they were cool, and while it sounds like I'm bandying about my hipster cred, this actually wasn't very fun for me. I got teased for a lot of my passions, and to this day, I still have to bite back that instinctive shame when I tell people, "Yes, I love anime. I enjoy reading manga. I enjoy reading fantasy books about dragons. Pokemon are awesome." Because back in my day, admitting to these things made you a "loser." She points out that rather than trying to fit in with the popular crowd, you'll be happier and have better relationships if you live authentically and instead of trying to please everyone, do you, and look for others who share your interests with the same enthusiasm you do. It's a great message. Embrace your "loser," and you become a "winner." Because F the haters, that's why.

4. There are several essays about privilege, intersectionality, and prejudice. I love that she describes what these things are, and how she had to work to overcome some of her own biases. I love that she emphasizes the need to stay silent sometimes and let people share their stories instead of hijacking the conversation to talk about yours. These are words that tend to send some people running or have others screaming that rallying cry, "SJW! SJW!" but it really is important to understand that a lot of people out there are hurting from some truly unjust biases that are ingrained within our society (and not always in an obvious way), and they deserve a platform to address these issues.

REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS is a pretty solid collection of essays. There is something in here for everyone, and whether you agree with Benincasa or not, her thoughts are bound to stir up dialogue - and really, isn't that the point of essays? And dialogue, for that matter? You might also find the essays incredibly helpful on a personal level, because the woman gives pretty good advice, too.

P.S. Watch the videos I linked to. I swear, even though I name drop the Woman Online video at every opportunity, I'm not an affiliate. I just really, really like that video and want people to watch it.

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars!

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