. . . says the New York Times, quoting a recent report from the National Endowment for the Arts that explains how artists such as (or, as the Times has it, “in the form of”) (I like that, in the form of. Today I’ll be in the form of Hello Kitty! Tomorrow, the form of Fiorello LaGuardia – OK, sorry.) Anyway the NEA says actors, writers, dancers, photographers, etc., contribute significantly to the American economy, accounting for 1.4 percent of the workforce, which doesn’t sound like much until you think of it as two million people, which really is a lot.

The NEA also “debunks,” says the Times, the mythic stereotype of the “troubled dreamer” and “charming deadbeat” skulking around the margins, waiting for Mr. and Mrs. Bourgeoisie to throw them a bone, or a commission or something.

If I could be serious about this for two seconds, I’d point out how valuable this kind of information actually is – the idea that working in the arts is an actual job, profession, career, which is what I tell kids all the time at school visits, to take their talent seriously from the very beginning, and not wait until you’re forty and banging your head on the kitchen counter, groaning I could have made movies! I wanted to write books! I love clay, why didn’t I become a potter?! You can still do it at forty, of course, but think of the time you’ll save by starting when you’re eighteen. Or eight. But taking the work seriously is the prerequisite to getting the work done at all.

But I will totally miss that charming deadbeat, and his scarf, and his clove cigarette, and the fourteen dollars he owes me, or I owe him.

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