Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

What happened to my brain?!

I had a curious revelation this weekend. It occurred between a four-hour session of processing ballet photos and the publication of WOOL 3. I realized, damnit, that I’ve become an artist.

And I don’t mean that in the sense of someone with talent, or someone who makes beautiful things, but just in the economic and most basic of ways. I was paid to take photographs and people (quite a few) are buying, reading, and raving about my stories. How in the hell did I allow this to happen? I’m the logical one, the left-brain kid, the guy who loves math class and reads nothing but non-fiction. I take a Rubik’s Cube with me on road trips. I have a mock Archaeopteryx hanging in my office. I’m taking astronomy classes for fun!

But in the wee hours, when no one’s looking, I don my Macbook and play the part of starving artist. And seriously, I might be having an existential crisis over this.

Of course, it wasn’t always this way. In high school, when my hair was long, while I was working at a Ben & Jerry’s and wearing tie-dye’s, playing Frisbee golf and listening to Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, and the late Beatles, I would just as likely go to art camp over the summer as math camp (of course, I did both).

As a freshman, I arrived at Piedmont High School the same year as Ms. Kensington (now Mrs. Price). Art 1 led to Art 2, and then Ms. Kensington had to invent Art 3 and Art 4 to shut us up and keep us happy. I drew a lot, collected some blue ribbons, sculpted a killer ashtray in the shape of a skull (with removable lower jaw and two missing teeth to hold your butts). I even applied for the North Carolina School of the Arts, sitting in an auditorium with hundreds of other hopefuls, our portfolios spread out on the parquet floor before us. (Rejected. Along with the school of Science and Math. Nobody wanted me!)

After high school, I turned to pursuits with career potential. Studied computers and repaired them a while (left brain), got my captain’s license and worked on yachts (more left brain that you would think, what with the navigation, map-reading, and engineering involved), and worked installing high-end home audio/video equipment (even more left-brain than my stint with Tandy, if you can imagine).

I learned, eventually, to look down on art as a profession. Art was something you did for fun. It was a time-waster, not a money-maker. I was too logical for that, too busy “learning” to consider “creating” as a viable venture.

And you know what? I still kinda believe this. Art should be for fun, not motivated by profit. But if you can make it fun for others, which my photography and stories seem to be doing (for whatever reason), then more power to us all!

Yes, something is happening to my brain. But it isn’t the right hemisphere that’s changing–it’s always been there, doing its thing. It’s just that the left half of me is finally coming around, finally grasping the logic of it all: Art is great. Creating is a joy and a wonderful relaxer. And if you practice, if you really love what you do, you might find other joyous celebrators out there who will want to revel in it with you, and maybe even purchase you a cup of coffee for your efforts.

2 replies to “What happened to my brain?!”

[…] Art 1 led to Art 2, and then Ms. Kensington had to invent Art 3 and Art 4 to shut us up and keep us happy. I drew a lot, collected some blue ribbons, sculpted a killer ashtray in the shape of a skull (with removable lower jaw and two missing teeth to hold your butts). I even applied for the North Carolina School of the Arts, sitting in an auditorium with hundreds of other hopefuls, our portfolios spread out on theparquetfloor before us. (Rejected. Along with the school of Science and Math. Nobody wanted me.). Read more on Ballet Photos […]

[…] What happened to my brain?! | Hugh C. Howey What happened to my brain? by Hugh C. Howey. I had a curious revelation this weekend. It occurred between a four-hour session of processing ballet photos and the publication of WOOL 3. I realized, damnit, that I've become an artist. […]

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