I am a dilettante, darlings, no doubt about it. But don’t you dare call me that as an insult. No, I’m taking the word back and re-branding it. I may not be a professional, but I am no wannabe, either.
See, dilettante is kind of the ‘N’ word for artistic types (the ‘N’ word being novice, of course — where did you think I was going with that? Did you think I was going to say neophyte?) as it is dismissive and insulting to those of us who delight in dabbling and experimentation, and brands us with a big scarlet letter that burns no less than the one dear Hester Prynne was forced to wear. Only the letter that we dilettantes are forced to wear screams Dabbler. As in, Not good enough. Of poor quality. The work of an admirer, as opposed to an artist. As if we have no respect for the craft. As if we seek validation by putting ourselves in the same category as someone more talented — and there are degrees of talent, no question. As if we don’t take what we’re doing seriously — as if we are not artists unless we are on television.
I do have respect for more talented artists, and I do have respect for the craft, and I take whatever I do very seriously, and I refuse to be put into the same category as someone who does wonderful Paint By Numbers renditions of Dogs Playing Poker or twelve year old girls (or forty year old women) writing poorly constructed Twilight fan fiction, nor indeed with those computer savvy kids who cannot play an instrument, but can layer pre-recorded samples in GarageBand and call that songwriting.
I may not ever see my name in lights — but I am an actress.
I may never sit on a panel alongside Joss Whedon and answer questions on how I brilliantly resurrected Firefly, but I’ll keep writing nonetheless — I am a writer.
Macaroni art aside, I’ll keep doodling, dabbling and someday learn to paint — I am an artist.
I am an occasional singer, I model intermittently, write poetry now and again, and who knows what else I may try my hand at.
But rest assured, darlings, that whatever I do, I will do my best — I will continue to hone my craft, and I will refine my raw materials down to the purest form, and sand off the rough edges, and shake off the dross and separate the wheat from the chaff, and only present the finished works when they are, indeed, finished — or, if not finished, then I will present them as a curiosity of sorts — portrait of a spectacular failure.
I am a dilettante, from the Italian dilettare (“to delight”), derived from the Latin delectare (“to delight”), and I will delight in my artistic dalliances, taking each new love like an adventure, and measure my success by the number of scars I acquire, and my failures only by the number of things I never tried but always wished I had. And I will wear the word dilettante like a badge of honour, as one who is willing to try, as one will is willing to fail, as one who demands excellence from themselves, as one who is willing to get in the game instead of sitting in the stands waiting to be entertained.
So don’t you dare call me dilettante — unless you mean it.