Used to Be an Artist

by James P Hassell


I only used to be an artist.

I was fearless in my ability to completely rip myself open just so someone could have just a little bit of meaning behind the shared and forced empathy of someone else.

I used to play matchmaker with verbs and nouns until their sweet love bore metaphors and similes.

But I quit painting my words so vividly.

Now, I’m far too concerned with keeping myself carefully stitched together. I’m the favorite doll from a childhood on its deathbed. Threadbare, but held together.

I am tired of dressing up mental illness as art.

Only so many of those similes can carry the weight of major depression disorder. A metaphor can only stretch so far until dysthymia and social anxiety snaps it like an overused rubber band.


No, I only used to be an artist. Now, I am an actor.


And maybe you want to argue that actors are artists but I will argue that art is true and acting is anything but.

So today I act.

Daily, I act.

When people ask how my day is going I tell them it’s good. Everything is good. Everything is fine.

I’m happy.

I go to therapy and I lie, which seems pointless but it keeps the prescriptions filled. Pop, pop, pop what seems like useless pills. But keep going on the stage to avoid the reality of a psychiatric hospital.


No, I only used to be an artist. Now, I bury my monster deep.

I live as an actor so well that I start to believe my script. I quit feeling real emotion. I quit feeling.

Anything. Nothing. My walls are all grey now.

I laugh and I smile on cue. Make the mark. This is what you want, right? No second takes.

But the sky of my soul is now empty. No, cloudy. No, vague. No….

No, without being able to feel I feel I have no soul.

I quit writing, I have nothing to say. I quit drawing, nothing comes without the pain to lead my hand across the page like a mother leading her child across the parking lot for the first visit to a toy store.

I quit saying “I love you.”

I quit loving.

I quit.


I only used to be an artist.

Do You Need An Outline?

Do you really need an outline? Is that even a question that can be generically answered to fit every writer out there? No, not really. But what I can do is explain the process that has worked for me.

So if the question is: do I need an outline? And for me, that answer is yes, but the outline has to be done in a pretty specific way. The formula for it has been tweaked and redefined through project after project until something has been refined enough to work each time.

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Judging A Book by Its Cover

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover…right?

Maybe you shouldn’t, but let’s face it, we all do. Especially in this century. Everything we encounter is polished, glossed, and designed that we have come to expect beauty, even in packaging. Think of Apple products and advertising. The iPhone 6 will stick to its tried and true stylings, packaging, and marketing. Not only is it part brand building but sleek visuals catch our eyes and plead for our attention.

Art and style have become an ingrained part of our lives. Advertising, movie trailers, electronics all focus on their art style and in turn we as consumers focus on these aspects.

Your book will be judged by its cover.

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Impact of Star Wars and the Expanded Universe

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
Those iconic words came onto a screen silently before a blast of fanfare shows the name Star Wars, before scrolling letters move across the screen.
Some might claim that they knew Star Wars would be great in 1977, but could they have imagined what it would continue to do?  Could they imagine six movies with three more on their way?  Could they imagine graphic novels and books that ranged for children in elementary school all the way through adults?
Star Wars was not the first space story.  Indeed, years before stories of Buck Rodgers and the crew from Lost in Space were being told.
What makes Star Wars great?

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